Why I can’t vote next week

With the General Election in the UK only a week away, you may be forgiven for asking how someone who does not live in the country is able to vote.  The answer is that, like me, they probably are not able to.

Ballot boxTo vote in the UK your name has to be on the electoral roll, and to be on that you have to fulfil certain conditions.  One of these used to be an address in the UK and the normal method of registration is still via a form that is delivered to all households between September and November each year.

But even if you registered on a UK address and then spent most of your time out of the country there was a distinct downside to being on the electoral role: jury service.  Since the members of a court jury are selected at random from the electoral roll, being on it you run the risk of being summoned for jury service and having to travel back to the UK at short notice – something a German employer may not understand.

Now, however, times have started to change and much like other countries UK citizens are being allowed to vote even if they live overseas – at least in the General Election.

To do so, you need to register as a voter and have your registration counter-signed by another British citizen living abroad.  You will also need to chose between a proxy or postal vote – and apply for these far enough in advance of the election (not easy with this election being called so close to the actual voting day).

And yet these new rules will not help me, as there is one important limit – you must not have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years – exactly the amount of time that I have now lived in Germany.

So although I will following the results of the General Election next week and parts of the campaign have even made the news in Germany, I shall not be able to vote.


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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.


  1. Ditto here. I feel rather disenfranchised


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