To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there will be sufficient time between the nomination of candidates and polling day for members of the Armed Forces serving abroad to return their ballots before polling closes in respect of (a) European elections, (b) local elections, and (c) general elections. [HL3892]
Returning officers are responsible for sending out postal ballot packs to service personnel after the close of nominations when the identities of candidates are known and the ballot papers can be printed. In practice, this works out to be 11 working days before polling day for European, local and general elections. I understand that in accordance with the Electoral Commission's guidance on the issuing of postal votes, returning officers prioritise the issuing of postal ballot packs to service personnel and overseas voters.
We are aware that there can be potential difficulties in relation to returning officers being able to send postal ballot packs to service personnel and receive them back within this timescale and keep the position under review. In particular there could be difficulties getting post to those who maybe away from base or those who move location at short notice.
The Ministry of Defence is also working closely with the Electoral Commission to ensure that service personnel have all the information they need so that, if they want to vote, they can. This includes advising service personnel that they can vote by proxy if they have any concerns about the practicability of voting by post.