AEA comment on Elections Bill overseas electors and absent vote applications policy papers

Commenting on two new UK Government Election Bill policy papers Peter Stanyon, AEA Chief Executive, said:

“These two new policy papers are helpful outlines, but we renew our call for secondary legislation to be laid as soon as possible. There is much to bed in, and greater detail is crucial.

“Extending voting rights for British citizens overseas to anyone who has ever previously lived in the UK means Electoral Registration Officers face undetermined potential workloads. How many electors will apply for voter registration, when and in which local authorities is unknown.

“Overseas electors applying for postal vote ballots is also an issue. While improvements have been made within the UK, postal voting relies on varying international delivery services. Postal vote applications arriving close to deadlines risk electors being disenfranchised.

“In our Blueprint for a Modern Electoral Landscape, we recommend the electoral timetable be lengthened by five days to allow for an earlier absent voting deadline and distribution of postal votes. An earlier application deadline in Scotland for the May 2021 polls improved the process for electors and was more administratively efficient.

“The newly announced online absent vote application service for postal or proxy votes offers huge opportunities for both electors and administrators. However, we agree with Government that an increase in applications would create pressure on Returning Officers and print suppliers, and that new identity verification checks will increase workloads for Electoral Registration Officers where this cannot be done automatically.

“We and our members are feeding into the development of this new service, and working hard to help mitigate any adverse impacts, while continuing to deliver the best solution possible for electors.”

The two new Elections Bill policy papers are: