As ever, the Journal is an excellent read, including an interview with General Jackson.
However, it's a 40-page illustrated pdf document, not much use for anyone trying to read Rachael Troughton's article on a welfare computer, so I hope the AFF will have no objection to my posting extracts from the article later on.
We do believe that with all the information and assistance available (on the web, in the DCI, from Electoral Registration Officers and from your Regimental/Station Admin Office) most unregistered Armed Forces members and partners should find it straightforward to register now.
- either as "ordinary voters" or as "service voters"; also choosing whether to vote at the polling station, by post or by proxy.
We don't believe that either the registration system or the voting arrangements allow sufficiently for the real-life circumstances of the Armed Forces, especially with current commitments. That is why campaigners are calling for sensible improvements to the system, as well as maximum effort on making the present arrangements work.
In theory, the requirement since 2001 to re-register annually is the same for service personnel as for any civilian voters. Re-registration for ordinary voters is a straightforward matter of signing and returning a simple form which is sent out annually. In practice, if the form is not returned in due time, ordinary voters are thought much more likely than service voters to have their names kept on the electoral register. Also, some Councils offer freefone and on-line re-registration - which is not available to registered "service voters".
Please do not infer from this post that there is a legal option of NOT registering to vote. "You are required by law to register to vote, even if you do not intend to vote."
One of the reasons often stated for not registering is the thought that "my name and address being on the electoral register could compromise my personal security".
Realistically, for most individuals this should be far less of a concern than it could have been in years gone by.
It is also important to understand that there are now two versions of the electoral register:
Colchester Borough Council said:
Q: Can anyone see my name and address on the electoral register?
A: New laws have been brought in to restrict the ways in which the electoral roll can be used. From now on you can choose not to have your name shown on the register that is sold to the public and to mailing firms.
The full register, with everyone's names on, is only available for election purposes (including use by candidates and political parties), for law enforcement and also for use by credit referencing agencies (so they can confirm you live where you say you do).
Anyone can inspect a copy of the full register at the Town Hall under supervision, but they would have to know your address to be able to find your name. It would be very difficult for them to find your address by just knowing your name.
It is against the law for anyone to use the full electoral register for any purpose not provided for within the Representation of the People Acts. The register that is available for sale from 1 December 2003 will only contain the names of people who have agreed to be on the 'edited' version of the register.
To have your name removed from the version of the register that is available for general sale, you simply need to tick the 'opt-out' box on the annual canvass form, or on the Voter Registration form used for 'rolling registration'.
Note that the opt-out from the "edited register" is available both to:
"service voters" (including partners);
and Armed Forces members/partners who register as "ordinary voters".
In appropriate cases, some Electoral Registration Officers are willing to accept "anonymous" registration. (Various ways of electors' names being disguised or hidden within the "full register".) If the concern about registering is security-related, I would definitely take military advice first.
The credit-referencing "advantage" of registration will help you best if your credit application is from the same address as the one on the electoral register. For mail order etc, if no credit is involved, you probably need to be on the edited register before the mail order company can helpfully flash up your details.
Some may be concerned that registration could make it easier for creditors, ex-partners etc to catch up with them. In principle this should not be a problem if you opt out from the "edited register". In any case, if they know you are in the Forces, they have other ways of getting in touch!
As with all such information posted in good faith, none of this is "advice". Serving personnel who have security-related questions should obviously consult within the system as appropriate, and make their own decisions accordingly.
Link to a post in the separate 'discussion' thread, stressing the urgency of registering to vote, in view of speculation about a General Election thought most likely in May but possibly as soon as early March:
Includes some RAF-specific info:
Personnel Service Flight (PSF) should maintain a list of EROs and addresses.
Some unit PSF staff may hold a stock of relevant forms.
Otherwise, the information supplied by RAFCOM is relevant to all, including this on your choice of voting methods:
Your ERO will advise on circumstances and relevant forms to complete. However, depending upon how registered, basic rules are:
Service Voters in the UK. May vote in person, by post or by proxy. If you register as a postal voter you will automatically receive ballot papers for all elections.
Service Voters Overseas. If outside the UK at the time of election, you can vote only through a proxy nominated by yourself who lives in the UK. Service personnel (and their spouses if accompanying them overseas) are advised before you go to appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf.
Civilian Electors in the UK. Normally vote in person, although it is possible to vote by post or proxy in certain circumstances.
Civilian Electors Overseas. Can vote by post or through a proxy living in the UK.
Comment: Good for RAFCOM! Any reason why the Army hasn't done the same? (RN/RM Families Support has some info for partners.) Out of interest, anyone seen anything in Brigade/Garrison families information/welcome literature?
As well known, voting in UK elections has always been available to citizens of the Republic of Ireland. (Eire)
This also applies to all resident in UK who are citizens of any Commonwealth country.
If you are in touch with members of the Armed Forces who are citizens of the ROI;
or Fiji, or any other Commonwealth country; please do what you can to ensure they do not miss out by default on their legal right to vote.
All who are serving our country deserve the opportunity to vote, if they wish. None of them should feel constrained from voting because they are not British citizens, have arrived fairly recently, or happen to have kept a family home back in their country of origin. Residence is a matter for the electoral registration officer, but we believe that a genuine address in a UK barracks should be sufficient, even if the individual is currently deployed on operations.
Please report any problems - Fijian personnel in Germany-based units?
Nepalese citizens unfortunately not included.
This from the excellent About My Vote website (link already posted):
Who can register?
You can register to vote if you are a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen and if you are 16 or over. You cannot vote until your 18th birthday. Citizens of EU countries, other than the UK, Republic of Ireland, Cyprus or Malta, cannot vote in UK Parliamentary elections, and must fill in a separate form to vote in the UK's European Parliamentary elections.
So far, these notes have concentrated more on electoral registration, rather than the choice of actual voting methods at the election:
â¢ In person at the polling station
â¢ By postal vote, or
â¢ By nominating a proxy to vote on your behalf.
This from the Electoral Commission's advice for Service personnel and partners: (link previously posted)
You can apply to vote by post or proxy. Postal votes are sent out approximately one week before polling day, so if you are not likely to be able to receive and return a postal vote in that time, it would be better to appoint a proxy ... Electors registered either way [service voters or ordinary voters] may apply to vote by post or proxy.
Only one of these choices is available to you at any one election; but you can always change your preference by application to the Council's Electoral Registration Officer.
Some forces personnel and partners have reported problems with postal voting in previous elections. Others object to being 'expected' to appoint a proxy. More on this to follow soon. We welcome feedback from any forces personnel or partners about postal or proxy voting problems/concerns.
Please do not be put off registering to vote NOW.
If a proxy or postal vote is appropriate for you, you should apply at the same time as you register to vote.
We and others continue to advocate improvements to the present arrangements.
At time of writing, we haven't found anything new on Electoral Commission website. (link previously posted).
1. "Leaflets with further information will be sent to all units in early February." Good. Some observers will read this as a pointer to the date of the General Election (5th May?). Either way, registration remains an urgent issue.
2. Just hope the leaflet packages dont get bumped off flights, like the newspapers! Seriously, look out for the leaflets.
3. If serving or a 'partner', ask to see the new DCI.
4. The welcome new DCI reinforces the 'ARRSE' message: register NOW.
NOW CONFIRMED BY MoD THAT ELECTORAL REGISTRATION FORMS GO DIRECT TO THE COUNCIL
As we thought! The civilian legislation is clear on this point, but it was possible that MOD genuinely were still instructing personnel to submit registration forms through the Service. Their out-of-date web pages to that effect have now been removed.
MOD have also removed previous 'advice' that Service voters only have to register one-time which remains in force throughout their service. We knew that bit had to be wrong, but a forces member or spouse who found the out-of-date web page might not have known that.
Thanks, MOD, for sorting this out. Our note below is now CANCELLED, but we'll leave it up for a while in case anyone is wondering what we were on about.
Although you only have to send in a form to the Council's Electoral Registration Officer in order to have your name added to the Electoral Register, there may still be a requirement to take action within your Unit, so that the system can keep track of your personal "voter status".
At the time of writing, the information available on official websites has been contradictory on this point. MOD are now updating their website. Info from different Council websites remains contradictory: most Councils, as well as the Electoral Commission, say that all registration forms should go direct to the Council.
We suggest you urgently check the recent DCI(JS) 01/05, and the MOD leaflets due out in "early February".
We've tracked down a bit more information on MOD-related websites, some OK, some of it contradictory, years out of date and hopelessly misleading.
With the new MOD leaflets about to come out, and MOD hopefully reviewing the website information [they now have - see revised links], we wont post any new links except for this "Factsheet: Voting overseas" from Army Families Federation, Cyprus. A short pdf document, well worth a read for anyone who still has questions, and it explains several points which are not usually covered -
For example, residence qualifications when moving from UK, annual re-registration paperwork, service dependants other than spouses. (We think their references to certain MOD forms, and to FTRS, are not now correct.) Also this about postal voting:
Be warned!! Legally your ERO can only issue postal votes after 5pm on the eleventh day before polling day so there is a strong chance that a postal vote will not have time to reach you overseas and be returned to the ERO by polling day.
Many Councils send out postal ballot paperwork at the first moment they are legally allowed to. But the last date for them to send the papers out is much later - from recollection, 4 working days before voting day. Chances of your postal vote counting in the election
If you are posted overseas, the alternative to postal voting is to appoint a 'proxy' to vote on your behalf. If you have a relative/friend/colleague who is in the UK, if you can rely on them and if you can contact them with your final voting decison, that is your best option. The proxy doesn't need to be in the constituency but if they are outside it, they will need to apply for a postal vote in good time, and you will need to let them know your voting decison earlier.
We understand you can change between postal and proxy voting at any time, basically before the election is announced. Act quickly if your circumstances have changed. UPDATE: Recent or imminent deployment? This comment applies both to Regulars, and to mobilised TA & Reservists. Anyone deploying now is 'rather unlikely' to get to the polling station for elections any time soon.
We've heard many other reports of postal votes arriving too late. Any more problems with postal or proxy voting in previous elections - post in our "discussion" thread or email -
We live in a democracy, and all adults over 18 have the right to choose their government and future policies. Yet, how many of us Army families use our vote? Many areas of society feel politicians play no part in their every day life, but those of us married or serving in the Armed Forces do not have this excuse. It is government policy, or their response to a crisis (anywhere in the world), that will send our soldiers to fire fighting, peace-keeping duties or to war.
For those of us overseas, this means a proxy vote via the Service Vote, or a postal vote arranged at your UK address. Each has its own drawbacks. A postal vote must be registered as if you were in the UK, but with arangements in place to redirect your papers to your overseas address. However, last time I tried this, I received my papers after the election. I have tried having a Service Vote with a proxy. But it is not a real vote: someone else has the power to put the X in the box, and in reality that means that the vote is not yours to control. Not for us the careful reading of the manifesto, and the chance to make a difference. Not for us a secret ballot. For many of us, it means that our Proxy will have the chance to vote twice for their own preferred candidate. Hardly democracy in action.
At the last General election I was in Germany with my husband, and I was angry that we had been disenfranchised. I find it odd that those who physically uphold the peace and the right to political democracy do not have those rights extended to both themselves and their families by their own country, to physically put a paper into a box. It is not as if the Army had only just arrived in Germany!
However, as a group we are not good at registering to vote. On European Parliament/local Councils election day in UK earlier this year, one large garrison in England had a stream of would-be voters that had to be turned away, because they did not have registration forms. No registration form, no vote. What a wasted opportunity.
2005 will, in all probability, be an election year and you will not have a vote unless you fill out the forms and register as a voter, whichever system you choose. We are different from the civilian population in that our families move often, sometimes at short notice, and occasionally several times in one year. So make sure your vote is not lost â it should be on your things to do list when moving.
AFF is aware that many Army families find the registration process difficult, and many tell us that, despite registering, for one reason or another they still could not vote. Have you always had to vote by proxy? Does your postal vote always arrive after the big day? Are you without a proxy vote because your family have served and lived outside the UK for several years? Do you think that it is right that you should always have to trust someone else to put your X where you want it?
Let us know! AFF needs your feedback to provide evidence so that we can take this subject forward.
Because we believe it's really important, something from our separate 'discussion' thread reproduced in full.
Includes more about the disadvantages of postal voting from overseas:
Just to emphasise how really urgent is the need to register
Personnel/spouses not on the current register are already too late to get their names added in time for any election in early March.
And they have less than FIVE weeks left [as at 5 Feb] to get their applications in the hands of the Council in time to vote in any 5 May election. If they choose to vote by proxy (generally recommended option for those overseas) and their proxy is not able to vote in person, the proxy needs to submit a postal voting application in time also.
Without going too far into the detail of the timetable prescribed by legislation, this from a Council website:
Please note that in 2005, there are local government elections scheduled for Thursday 5 May and it is widely expected that the next general election will also be on that day, although that will not be certain unless or until the Prime Minister makes an announcement. For any elections on 5 May, applications for registration will not be effective unless they are received by no later than Friday 11 March 2005.
2. For those who have already applied to vote by post, the postal ballot form cannot be issued by the 'returning officer' before 5pm on the eleventh day before polling day. Postal voting is therefore NOT generally considered a safe option for voters overseas. Without any need for legislation, MOD could look quickly into the feasibility of (voluntary) accelerated postal arrangements for votes by overseas personnel/adult dependants/employees, but this would be for them to advise, failing which I agree with warnings elsewhere about postal voting.
If you are serving or the partner of a serviceman or woman, or if you have service or family connections with them, you might like to help us with one or more of our (perfectly appropriate) questions which can be found at this link.
4. Any problems with ... your residence qualification? Comment from a HIVE: "What is most annoying to overseas servicemen and their families is where it says "You must register with an address where you have lived in the past or where you would live if you were not posted overseas". So after 11 years of marriage, do I still count Mummy's address as home? Or, can I covet my friends castle?"
This from a local authority (Canterbury City Council):
The advantage of registering as a service voter is that you can appoint a proxy without having to get your application signed by your employer. Also, the reminder to renew your registration is sent to your service address rather than the address at which you are registered and may be absent from for some time.
Our original advice now confirmed -electoral registration forms go direct to the Council, NOT through the unit, although units will provide information and assistance as necessary.
Some units may be prepared to distribute blank forms (a good idea, especially for deployed units), but for most people they are easily available by download from the links we have already provided.
When we saw the incorrect information on MOD web pages and at least one Council webpage, without changing our original advice we had no responsible option but to mention that the chain of command might just still expect the form to go through the military system.
MOD have now sorted this out, and an updated page (which says much the same as we said all along) is now prominent on their website.
As this thread on the 'ARRSE' website is mainly intended for serving personnel and their partners, we'd like to mention the "HEROES OF DEMOCRACY" nominations newly opened in our separate EXERCISING YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE discussion.
From new webpage in Serving Soldier section of public MOD website:
Want a Vote? Register Now
Don't Miss May elections deadline of March 11
Service personnel have until March 11 to register if they want to vote in local elections due to be held in May. The same date would apply if a general election was called for that month.
A Defence Council Instruction (JS DCI 01/05 "Electoral Registration") was issued at the end of last month setting out eligibility guidelines and registration options. Information leaflets will also be distributed to all units.
Servicemen and women and spouses may register as Service voters by completing a yearly declaration form, which has to be returned to the relevant local council electoral registration office. their qualifying address is the one in the UK they would be living at if they were not in the Armed Forces.
Since 2001, they have also had the option of registering in the same way as civilian voters if they live at a private or other qualifying address or in Service families or single-living accommodation.
Those posted abroad who do not wish to register as Service voters may do so as "overseas electors", but may vote only in UK and European Parliamentary elections. They do not qualify to vote in British local elections.
Service personnel and spouses abroad or away from their UK residence during an election may also elect to vote by post or proxy.
Units have been instructed to give personnel and dependants "every reasonable assistance" to register, and to draw the procedures to the attention of all new entrants to the Services.
Although relevant forms are available from electoral registration offices (of which units should have lists), units may also hold their own stocks.
MOD's links to information about local electoral registration offices omitted - currently, one link is broken and the other list is unreliable.
Better to visit aboutmyvote.co.uk if you can't get the info locally.
Someone has asked the reasonable question: "Do arrse have an agreed/suggested text for adjts/arrse users etc to post a notice in Unit Routine and Standing Orders..."
We wouldn't of course dream of telling any unit what to put in their own Orders!!! No doubt something has come down through the chain of command of the three Services. Including DCI(JS) 01/05.
For what it's worth, we think the webpage in the recently updated MOD "Serving Soldier" section - see preceding 'post' in this thread - is a good guide to what people need to know at this time -
â¢ Obviously, making sure everyone knows where the DCI can be seen locally, and "every reasonable assistance" obtained. Also if, as mentioned by MOD, copies of the forms are held locally. Units needn't all print off hundreds of copies - nearly all forms are available in electronic form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk , for printing off as necessary.
â¢ Within UK garrisons or units currently deployed from UK garrisons, it might be a good idea to add contacts for the local Electoral Registration Officer - but without giving the wrong impression that everyone has to register locally.
â¢ We suggest also including a reminder to all married personnel to make sure their spouses or dependants of voting age are briefed. ("Dependants of voting age" - includes adult sons/daughters who don't have the same registration options as married partners, but some of them could also be missing out on their vote?)
â¢ Even those who are already registered should consider whether they need to arrange a proxy or postal vote, or change to proxy voting. Particularly those who have recently moved or deployed, or are about to. Including TA and reservists, FTRS. (Unit should be prepared to provide Reserve forces members with (civilian) proxy voting forms, to be signed off by military employer.)
Hope some of these suggestions are helpful. We'd welcome any feedback. We're now taking "Heroes of Democracy" nominations!
Again 'not teaching any grannies to suck eggs': our members' (appropriate) contacts so far within units, in more than one service, suggests a good level of management awareness:
But we dont think publishing a notice is enough. There are of course the leaflets coming out, and we think this also deserves word of mouth support at subunit as well as unit level. No-one is being told to register (although it can be a criminal offence not to), but it's perfectly proper to encourage. We believe a similar appropriately-proactive approach will need to be taken throughout the voting period.
Dont, of course, overlook Commonwealth and ROI nationals, who are entitled to register and vote in UK parliamentary elections. firstname.lastname@example.org