EM Ireland: Just the Facts – Voting methods for voters living in the UK in the referendum on EU membership
On Thursday 23 June, the UK will hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union. In this Just the Facts, which is part of a series European Movement Ireland is producing on the forthcoming referendum, we look at the methods of voting for eligible voters in the UK, now that the deadlines for registering have been set.
Who living in the UK can vote?
The following groups of people are eligible to vote in the UK referendum on its membership of the EU on Thursday 23 June:
- British citizens over the age of 18 resident in the UK;
- Commonwealth (including Cypriot and Maltese) citizens over the age of 18 resident in the UK (certain restrictions apply, the UK Home Office can offer clarification);
- Irish citizens over the age of 18 resident in the UK;
- Commonwealth and Irish citizens who are registered to vote in European Parliament elections in Gibraltar.
How do people living in the UK register to vote?
Eligible voters living in England, Scotland or Wales can register online to vote in the referendum at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. In order to vote in person at a polling station, registration must be done by midnight on Tuesday 7 June. Eligible voters living in Northern Irish can register to vote in the referendum in person at a polling station by sending a completed registration form to their local Area Electoral Office by Tuesday 7 June.
Anyone who registered to vote in the elections which took place across the UK on 5 May is automatically registered to vote in the forthcoming referendum and does not need to re-register. If someone is unsure of their registration, they can contact their local Electoral Registration Office who will be able to let them know if they are on the electoral list or not.
How do people living in the UK vote?
Voting in person takes place at polling stations, which will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 23 June. Registered voters will be sent a poll card just before then telling them where their local polling station is. If someone hasn’t received a poll card but think they should have, they can contact their local Electoral Registration Office.
There are two additional methods of voting in the UK besides attending a polling station in person on referendum day. People living in the UK can also register to vote by post or by proxy.
Voting by post
In order for eligible voters living in England, Scotland and Wales to register to vote by post, they must send a completed application form to their local Electoral Registration Office by 5pm on Tuesday 7 June, or by 5pm on Monday 6 June for people not already registered to vote. They do not need to provide a reason to vote by post.
Once voter registration is closed and all ballot papers are printed, ballot papers will be posted out to registered voters. The local Electoral Registration Offices can inform when this will be. Completed ballot papers must arrive back to the local Electoral Registration Offices by 10pm on Thursday 23 June. If a voter has a postal vote but it is too late to post the ballot paper back, they can hand it in to their local Electoral Registration Office or to their local polling station by 10pm on referendum day.
A different system applies for eligible voters in Northern Ireland. In this case, they must complete an application form specifying the reason why they cannot vote in person at a polling station and return it to their local Area Electoral Office by 5pm on Friday 3 June.
Postal votes will be issued from Friday 10 June, and the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland advises that if voters will not be at home between 10-23 June, they should appoint a proxy. Unlike voters in England, Scotland and Wales, if voters apply to vote by post and their application is approved, they will not be able to vote at a polling station on referendum day unless they cancel their postal vote by 5pm on Friday 3 June.
Voting by proxy
A proxy vote means that someone can vote on another person’s behalf, either at a polling station or by post. Proxy voters cannot vote on behalf of more than two people unless they are close relatives. In England, Scotland and Wales, proxy voters must be registered to vote in the referendum themselves. In Northern Ireland, proxy voters do not have to be listed on the electoral register.
In order for registered voters living in England, Scotland and Wales to vote by proxy, they must send a completed application form to their local Electoral Registration Office. There are different forms depending on the reason that they are applying for a proxy vote. Two deadlines apply:
- It must arrive by 5pm on Wednesday 8 June when changing or cancelling an existing proxy vote;
- It must arrive by 5pm on Wednesday 15 June when applying for a new proxy vote.
A different system applies for eligible voters in Northern Ireland. In this case, they must complete an application form specifying the reason why they cannot vote in person at a polling station on referendum day and return it to their local Area Electoral Office by 5pm on Friday 3 June.
In both cases, if a voter has appointed a proxy vote but then happens to be able to vote in person at their local polling station on Thursday 23 June, they can do so as long as the proxy has not already voted on their behalf.
It is possible to apply for an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on referendum day if the emergency means that a voter cannot go in person to their local polling station, or if an occupation, service or employment means that it is not possible to go in person to the polling station and the voter only becomes aware of that fact after the deadline to register to vote by post or by proxy has already passed.
This Just the Facts article is also available as an email information service from European Movement Ireland to our members. For more information on becoming a member of European Movement Ireland, contact our offices or visit our Membership webpages.