Expat votes go uncounted in UK election

Voters in Cayman affected by postal vote delays

Hundreds of British expats around the world, including some in the Cayman Islands, were unable to vote in the U.K. general election last week because their ballot papers did not arrive in time. 

Voters from as far afield as Australia, Singapore, the U.S. and Brazil have complained that they were left disenfranchised because of postal holdups and delays in sending out ballot packs. 

Britons living overseas, who were registered on the U.K. electoral roll within the last 15 years are eligible to vote. More than 100,000 expats applied for postal ballots before the cutoff date of April 20. 

Christine Cooke, who has lived in the Cayman Islands for 10 years, said she had gone to great effort to meet the deadline to register but had not received her papers in time for Thursday’s poll.  

“I am very disappointed at not receiving my postal vote, having jumped through hoops to get registered in time,” she said. 

Ms. Cooke said her husband’s papers arrived on Saturday and had been returned via air mail, but had only a slim chance of reaching their constituency of Wyre Forest, in Shropshire, in time. 

In the run-up to the election, authorities in the U.K. had a publicity campaign encouraging expats to vote, while the Conservative party, in particular, attempted to court overseas voters.  

Prime Minister David Cameron sent out a personal message to expats last December telling them their vote could be the difference between a Conservative government and a Labour one, in what was expected to be the closest election in decades. 

In the end, the Conservatives defied the polls to win comfortably on Thursday, and Ms. Cooke acknowledged that her vote, in a Conservative safe seat, would not have made a difference to the overall result. 

But she believes it is a matter of principle that expats who make the effort to participate in the democratic process should have their voices heard. 

“I am surprised that there was that encouragement for us to get out and vote and no thought to how to make it happen effectively,” she said. 

“If they want expats to vote, they need to get the postal ballots out earlier.” 

Paul Timothy Reynolds, assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church, said he had registered to vote in March but had not received his postal vote papers. 

He said he was disappointed but does not believe his vote would have been crucial in his New Bedfordshire constituency, another stronghold for the Conservatives. 

Mr. Reynolds said post from the U.K. could take as long as six weeks to reach the Cayman Islands, based on his experience, making postal voting a difficult process for Brits living in the territory. 

According to the U.K. Elections website, overseas postal ballots were not sent out until the deadline to become a candidate passed on April 9. 

Officials in each of the 650 constituencies are responsible for sending out postal votes in their areas. 

A spokesman for the U.K. Electoral Commission said, “The guidance to electoral administrators is clear that postal votes sent to overseas electors should be prioritised to allow the maximum time for them to be returned. We are aware that some overseas voters have raised concerns that they have not received their postal ballot packs. The Electoral Commission will look carefully at the evidence they have received on this when they consider what issues to raise in their statutory election report, which will be laid in the UK Parliament in the summer.” 

The governor’s office in the Cayman Islands said it was unable to comment. 


  1. Why is the governor’s office unable to comment?

    As the representative of the UK government and UK people in the Cayman Islands I would think that this is something that would be taken very seriously. The idea that UK voters living in the Cayman Islands were left disenfranchised because of postal holdups and delays in sending out ballot packs should be a top priority for the governor’s office.

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