(BAFF comment below). Politics.co.uk reports that the government will make special provisions for soldiers in Afghanistan who want to vote in the local elections and referendum on May 5th:

The Electoral Commission will create special voter registration forms for troops, it was announced today.

Members of the armed forces about to depart for Afghanistan, as well as those already in the country, will be given the opportunity to vote by post or by proxy.

The Ministry of Defence encourages soldiers to register to vote by proxy before they leave the UK, while those wishing to cast a postal vote will have their form sent to them via the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) and existing supply routes.

Before last year's general election there were fears that soldiers' votes would not reach the UK in time.

A combination of the BFPO, Royal Mail and local authorities will ensure the votes reach returning officers this May.

Mark Harper, the minister for political and constitutional reform, said it was important service personnel have the opportunity to vote.

"The brave men and women in Afghanistan are fighting to defend democracy, so it seems only right that we make it as easy as possible for them to take part in the referendum on the voting system and their own elections at home," he said.

"I am pleased to be part of a joint effort by the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, the BFPO, Rushmoor Borough Council (which will provide a central point for co-ordinating the initiative) and the Electoral Commission working together to ensure our armed forces have their say in how the country is run."

BAFF comment

Our understanding is that the special arrangements made during the 2010 General Election to get postal votes back from Afghanistan achieved some success, in spite of the volcanic ash problem's effect on air services. Other service voters, particularly those in Germany, reported the wearily familiar problems with trying to vote by post.

As before, our advice to service voters outwith mainlaind UK is to consider using a proxy vote if you possibly can.

We also recognise that a proxy vote is not a reasonable option for many voters. We encourage those to vote by post rather than not make the attempt.