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Service Voting (Afghanistan)

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

The Government have put in place an initiative to support the participation of members of the armed forces serving in Afghanistan who wish to vote in the referendum and elections on 5 May.

Following a dedicated registration push for those facing the most difficult of circumstances while serving in Afghanistan, service personnel will be able to use either a proxy or postal vote to take part in the polls.

Special forms produced by the Electoral Commission have been provided to relevant units, both for those going out to Afghanistan and those already there, to fill out to register to vote, and to choose how they wish to vote. The Ministry of Defence is undertaking targeted activity to encourage soldiers to register to vote before they leave the UK and each person arriving in Afghanistan will be briefed on the initiative.

Troops who fill out the forms and request a postal vote will be sent ballot forms via the British Forces Post Office (BFPO), utilising existing supply routes.

Once completed by the service voters, the ballot papers will be returned to the UK and distributed to returning officers using a network of BFPO, Royal Mail and local authority support put in place for the initiative.

Alongside this, counting officers and returning officers have been asked to prioritise the production of all postal ballot packs that are to be sent overseas. Those heading for BFPO addresses will be treated as a priority by BFPO to facilitate service personnel participation in the polls more widely.

This initiative builds on that put in place for the general election in 2010. It is right that we make it as easy as possible for our service personnel on operations in Afghanistan to take part in the referendum and elections on 5 May.