"I cannot emphasise enough the importance of dealing with your postal ballot papers as soon as you get them, following the instructions and getting them back in the post or despatched under local arrangements as quickly as you possibly can." BAFF's Douglas Young, a member of the consultative Service Voting Working Group* established by the Ministry of Justice, updated the unofficial Army Rumour Service website on 21 Apr 2010 about the impact of the volcano ash situation upon voting arrangements for British military voters overseas:
With the flights situation now improving, the authorities seem to be hopeful that the planned postal voting timetable can be achieved for those in main bases in Afghanistan.
We understand that, one way or another, all registration forms which were submitted by service voters either before deployment or in theatre were duly forwarded to electoral registration officers across the UK before the registration deadline of 5pm UK time yesterday. Some ingenuity was employed to deal with forms received close to the deadline; many others had already been completed prior to deployment.
Some of those registering from Afghanistan have opted for a postal vote. It sounds as if more have gone for a postal vote than the tiny number who attempted a postal vote from Afghanistan in 2005, almost certainly unsuccessfully. The majority have gone for a proxy vote.
In addition to the special handling arrangements for postal ballots to and from Afghanistan, I also understand that both Royal Mail and BFPO have done everything in their power to ensure that postal ballots, with their special marking on the envelope, are not delayed in transit anywhere.
It is suggested therefore that most postal voters in Germany will probably be better to use BFPO rather than the Bundespost for returning ballot papers to UK. Most voters will be familiar with local posting times and schedules and should decide accordingly.
Service voters aren't going to get any better arrangements than these for this General Election. Against that background, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of dealing with your postal ballot papers as soon as you get them, following the instructions and getting them back in the post or despatched under local arrangements as quickly as you possibly can.
Then we can continue dealing with arrangements for service voting in future elections. The special voting arrangements from Afghanistan this time are a one-off temporary effort, not the future solution.
* The Service Voting Working Group was established in October 2010 by Michael Wills MP, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice 2007-2010 and comprises representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence, the Electoral Commission, the respective Chief Executives of the Naval Families Federation, Army Families Federation and RAF Families Federation and, since January 2010, the Chairman of the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF).