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Armed forces personnel can choose one of three ways to register to vote.

  • Service personnel based in the UK and who are unlikely to change their address or be posted overseas can register to vote in the normal way.
  • Those based overseas, or expecting to be posted abroad in the next year, can register as a service voter.
  • Personnel based overseas can choose to register as overseas voters.

Applications to register to vote can be made via the website. Those wanting to register as service voters can use the website.

The UK Regular Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey indicates the proportion of armed forces personnel that are registered as a service voter is about one fifth. Only about 1% of service voters are registered as overseas voters.

Those registered as service voters must renew their service declaration every five years. Electoral registration officers must send reminders. Ordinary voter registration is renewed annually during the annual canvass process, although most voters do not need to do anything unless their circumstances have changed.

Armed forces personnel registered as ordinary or service voters may vote in all election for which they are eligible. Overseas voters may only vote in UK Parliament elections.

When voting armed forces personnel can choose to vote in person if they are in the UK and able to get to their allocated polling station in the area they are registered.

Otherwise, they may apply for an absent vote and either vote by post or appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. Voters registered in Northern Ireland cannot have a ballot paper sent outside the UK. If they are out of the UK they must appoint a proxy.

Some voters returning postal ballots from overseas have experienced problems in returning their ballot paper in the time available. The Electoral Commission has advised in the past that those based overseas may want to consider a proxy vote.

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