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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Postal and proxy voting

Not everyone will be able to get to their polling station on election day, 7 June.

Others want to vote, but simply do not want the trouble of going out to do so.

These groups are catered for by absentee ballots - either postal or proxy voting, provided they get their application in by Wednesday 30 May.

The rules governing postal votes have been steadily relaxed over the years.

Postal votes on demand

Decades ago, many applications for such votes required the supporting signature of a GP, registered nurse or magistrate.

To be allowed a postal vote, people had to fall into certain categories, such as being a member of the armed services overseas, working away from home or long-term sick.

However, the Representation of the People Act 2000 effectively allowed postal votes on demand.

Any elector can request a postal vote for either a particular or an indefinite period, or for a particular election only.

Applications are made to local electoral returning officers and postal votes can now be handed in at any polling station in the constituency on election day.


Any elector can request a postal vote

The act also requires postal votes to be sent overseas if requested by an elector who happens to be abroad during the election.

In the past four general elections, the number of postal votes has varied between 620,000 and nearly 800,000, representing between 2.0% and 2.4% of the votes cast.

Proxy voting little used

Proxy voting is when an elector nominates someone else to vote on his or her behalf.

The number of people doing so, however, is far fewer than those voting by post.

One specific category of people entitled to proxy votes is expatriates.


Expatriates are entitled to vote by proxy
Since 1989, any British citizen who left in the last 20 years is allowed a proxy, to be cast in the constituency in which they were last registered.

Those expatriates who have become 18 after leaving the UK are also entitled to a proxy vote - in the constituency where they used to live, or where their parent or guardian was last registered.

As a result of the 1989 legislation the estimated number of Britons living abroad who were eligible to register their vote rose to 2 million.

Few have bothered to do so - the number declining from 34,000 in 1991 to under 11,000 in 2000.

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