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The Prime Minister, who has repeatedly denied that she would call an election before the next scheduled poll in 2020, said: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”
She will require the support of two-thirds of MPs to go to the country, with a vote scheduled in the Commons on Wednesday.
In the wake of the shock announcement, many will be now scrambling to check they are eligible to vote in election likely to be dominated by Brexit.
The Electoral Commission, the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK, has, in the past, noted that more than 6 million people who are eligible are not registered to vote.
It also estimates that three in 10 young people between 18-24 are not registered. With the Government only holding a small majority at the moment, your vote is crucial – perhaps in this election more than ever.
Can I vote?
To vote in a General Election you must: be 18 or over on the day of the election (although you can register when you’re 16), be a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen, be resident at an address in the UK — or a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years.
Not sure if you’re already registered? The you’ll need to check the electoral register by contacting your local authority (you can find details here). Millions are believed to have dropped off the register since the government made changes to the system — so always check to make absolutely sure.
How to register
It’s simple to register and you can do so here. You need your National Insurance number, and your passport if you’re a British citizen living abroad. If you need to update details — your name, address or other details, or change your voting preferences (i.e. to vote in person or by post), then you can do so using the same form. After that, your name and address will appear on the electoral register. You download, print and post the forms here, if that’s your preference.
How long does it take?
There are 11 questions (including where you live, your name, national insurance number etc), and it takes about five minutes.
How do I vote?
In the UK, there are three different ways you can vote: in person at a polling station, by post or by proxy (where someone votes on your behalf).
What if I live abroad?
You can register as an overseas voter for up to 15 years after you left the country, if you are a British citizen and you have been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years (or if you were too young to register when you left).
If you are serving in the Armed Forces abroad there is a special form you can fill out here.
When is the deadline?
The deadline to register for the last general election was 12 working days before people went to the polls. The election has not been officially called (and June 8 is only a provisional date), although it likely to be confirmed by Parliament on Wednesday. Assuming it will go ahead this way, you must register by midnight on 22 May. If you want a postal vote, it will be 23 May. By proxy, you will likely have until 31 May.