By: NATASHA SMITH
AS MORE expatriates are settling in Portugal every year, some believe they must give up their rights to vote in their home country because they have moved, but this is not true.
Voting from abroad has never been so simple and there are many websites dedicated to informing people about the process.
To qualify to vote from abroad in UK elections, you must be British and over the age of 18. If potential voters left the UK before the age of 18, they can register at a parent or guardian’s address. All potential voters must have lived in the UK within the last 15 years.
British expatriates who choose to exercise their right to vote in the UK from abroad are automatically disenfranchised after 15 years using this system, unlike most European countries which do not impose any such time restrictions on voting from abroad.
For German citizens living in Portugal, although there is no specific website with this information, voters can either send a letter to the embassy in Lisbon or to their local council in Germany expressing their wish to vote from abroad. If you are registered as a German resident with the embassy, they will be able to send you information about registering the voting papers.
The next German national election is scheduled to take place in September 2009 and citizens wishing to vote are advised to contact the embassy or their local council in German in June 2009 to allow enough time for the papers to be processed. For more information about voting abroad in Germany elections, please contact the embassy in Lisbon.
Once expatriates are officially residents in Portugal, they will still not be eligible to vote in Portuguese national elections although they are able to vote in local elections and European elections, but they must elect a Portuguese representative to the European Union and they will not be able to elect one from their home country.
For other European nationals living in Portugal, your respective embassy is there to advise you about issues such as how to vote in national elections in your home country from abroad.
Embassies in Portugal:
Australian Embassy: 213 101 500
British Embassy: 213 924 000
Canadian Embassy: 213 164 600
Dutch embassy: 213 914 900
German Embassy: 218 810 210
Irish Embassy: 213 929 440
United States Embassy: 217 273 300
South African Embassy: 213 192 200
FOR BRITISH citizens, please visit www.dontleaveyourvoteathome.com to download the voter registration form to fill in and sign.
This form must also be signed by another person who can vouch for you and who is also a British citizen. Follow the link which tells you how to return the form to your Electoral Registration Office.
You will be directed to another page, which asks you to type in the postcode for the current or last address in the UK. If you do not remember this, you can select the Electoral Registration Office in your nearest local council. This will take you to a page with information about elections, which apply to you and your area.
On the left, click on how to vote then click by post, where the address to send your form to will be displayed.
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