Expats: help us test a new service


EDIT: In response to the comments we have received we thought it would be helpful to explain up-front that we will be extending our testing so people will be able to take part wherever they live around the world when our work is more developed.


We need your help to test one of our services.

One goal of the Individual Electoral Registration project is to allow people to register online at GOV.UK. We hope that the new service will make it easier for overseas voters in particular to register and exercise their voting rights.

We are now looking for expats to try out a prototype of the new service, to see how well it works for them and to see how we can improve it.

Testing days

Our testing partner is recruiting participants for testing days in the Oxford area on Thursday 31 October and in London on Tuesday 17 December. The testing sessions take up to 45 minutes.

If you are a British citizen who normally lives overseas, and you are visiting the UK on either of those dates we would love to have you come and try out the new service.

Please contact Sarah Tynan to book a place on the Oxford testing day, and contact Kelley Frizelle to book a place on the London testing day.


  1. Mrs. Anita Rieu-Sicart

    Dear Mr. Waterworth, I have just read the article in the DAILY TELEGRAPH, regarding text scheme for Expat Voters, about to be launched with tests in Oxford & London in December. Although I welcome any effort to try and improve the present Electoral Voting System which largely up until now totally discouraged Expat Voters from attempting to use the arcane system presently in place, I am at a lost to understand how you can expect to find enough, or indeed any prospective Expat Voters either in Oxford or London at the time specified, and the way you seem to be trying to be contacting them seems extremely roundabout.
    Why not ask Expat Voters in various regions of France, and Spain, Cyprus to test out the system. We are now virtually all online, connected, communicating via blogs websites. Flyers, Newsletters. I myself publish a monthly magazine for expats in the Var VAR VILLAGE VOICE, I can get possibly several hundred Expat Voters to test out the system, , so could the Algarve news and the Cypriot Online Newsletter, we are all connected, but not living or visiting Oxford or London!
    I can send you a list of around 50 or more expat websites, publications, expat contacts if you wish, who would be delighted to collaborate.
    I and a number of other people in France and Spain have been fighting for the right for Expats to vote for the past few years.
    Anita Rieu-Sicart

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  2. Mrs Shirley Ann Morgan

    I would prefer to be able to vote by "SECURE" email as htis would save money, time and postal delays for all concerned. My registered voting constituency is Essex Based - Douglas Carswell is my MP

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  3. Jane Webb

    Having worked very hard for the Conservatives in Edgbaston, Birmingham for a number years - spanning three general elections (even returning from France to do so), I feel very let down by the political system I worked so hard to support. It is appalling that because I choose to live within Europe, not the USA or Austalia but within the Union, I have no right to vote in my mother country which is itself part of the Union. This should be a fundamental right granted to every European. The whole point of The European Union is to allow Europeans to reside in whichever European Country they might choose without becoming disenfranchised. This enormouse injustice should be addressed not just by the British Government but also in The European Parliament as a matter of extreme urgency.

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  4. John Waterworth

    Hi Anita, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

    The testing days in Oxford and London are just a first step to get feedback on our prototype. Once we have a more developed version of the registration pages for overseas voters we will run a larger scale remote test. Expats will be able to take part in that test wherever they live around the world.

    When are ready for that test I will be very interested in your list of expat contacts.



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      Why waste time and effort by holding recruiting days in the UK which do not reflect the interest in the problem. It is obvious from the interest of tax payers living abroad who take part in the on-line petitions to Government that e-mail enquiries & responses would work and are very viable.

      You just have to set up the web site, make it public, and stand back ready to watch the deluge of applicants to test your system.

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  5. Clive Evans

    John, Ex-pats don't only live in the EC, there are 550,000 ex-pat pensioners in many countries who do not get their rightful pension - they would love to vote, even more they would love to vote for life! contact for passing on invites ot ex-pat pensioners
    also ex-pat websites e.g.

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  6. Clive Walley

    Mr Waterford:

    Please be kind enough to forward some traveling costs to me to enable me to travel from Spain to Oxford or London and back. I'm sure if I was an MP there would be no problem in getting reimbursed for these costs plus luxury hotel fees, etc.

    The arrogance of this government and in particular today's Conservative party (who I have supported over the past 50 odd years) knows no bounds.

    First, you employ dodgy statistics and data to pursue an argument for the elimination of our winter fuel allowance and skirt around the ECHR ruling. Then you have the gall to launch your "Tests" in two English cities and expect expats to journey there at their own expense to determine whether or not you can make it more practical for UK citizens living on the continent of Europe to vote in UK elections.

    Clearly, you are all hoping for failure so that you can declare "Because of lack of interest and co-operation from expats the tests have been cancelled".

    How much lower is the Conservative party prepared to sink in its efforts to disenfranchise and deprive the elderly?

    Be brave, be adventurous, be honest and carry your tests out in mainland Europe where the people whose interest you purport to be looking after live, lest your intentions in all this be seen as yet another dodgy scheme by a discredited party to never be trusted by pensioners again.

    Do you lot over there really have any idea of the size of the Hornet’s Nest you have created over here or are you still practicing the art of becoming opposition MP's again?

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  7. S.Smith

    The comments I have so far seen are exactly as the ex-pats in the Netherlands feel.
    Let down, dumped by their homeland because we live in another country. Yet, we cost them virtually nothing at all and then treated worse than criminals in the UK.
    I would also add, that the ex-pats are probably the BEST advert for Britain as a whole.

    The 15 year rule is one of the most odious and obnoxious law ever to be passed and enacted against any of the British citizens throughout the world.

    We have no rights at all WHY?

    With respect to all concerned with this project and the idea behind it.

    But it does in my mind seem absolutely ludicrous to expect ex-pats to have to travel to London or any other venue within the UK in the first place. Just to test out something that could be tested directly from the ex-pats to a receiving point within the UK.
    For instance the E-petition system works as far as I know perfectly and you cannot vote twice on it. So why cannot that systems format be used. Or is my logical thinking missing the point?

    I would be perfectly willing to assist with testing of any system you wish to try out from my home to any point in the UK.

    Kind regards


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  8. John Waterworth

    Hi Clive, Clive and S.Smith, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

    The testing days in Oxford and London are just a first step to get feedback on our prototype. Once we have a more developed version of the registration pages for overseas voters we will run a larger scale remote test. Expats will be able to take part in that test wherever they live around the world.


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  9. John H Sutherland

    Typical governmental thinking. Can you please tell me how many British ex pats live in either of these cities.

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    • Pete Herlihy

      By definition, none. This request is quite explicitly for ex-pats visiting these areas, in order that we can get some very early, inexpensive feedback of a service redesign that should make it significantly easier for those abroad to register to vote. Further testing and discussion with many all over the world will follow.

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  10. Ronald turner

    On the one hand, it seems a good idea to make voting easier for expats but on the other hand it has to be seen as a complete waste of time, given that after 15 years we are cast aside by our mother country, except of course for the collection of taxes.
    As a lifelong Conservative, I wish this project well, because given the strength of feeling as to how we have been treated recently, the swelling the voting register might be all it needs to get rid of them next time.

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  11. Graham Neal

    How ridiculous, At the very least you should use one European major city, but in any case, what all us expats demand is an approximation to the French system of MP's dedicated to expat British voters. Graham

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  12. Roland Gilett

    I too believe that test work should include Ex Pats who live in the EU and who regularly keep in touch with the UK by internet means for all sorts of reasons. I would willingly take part in such a trial. Roland.
    Malaga Province Spain

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  13. Marguerite Newell

    Dear Mr Waterworth,

    Having testing days in England for overseas voters is something I would expect from a government who seems hell bent on disenfranchising its citizens who work and live overseas. My husband and I will loose our right to vote in several years time and I am beginning to feel like a third class citizen with less rights than a dog. I am still proud to be British but it's hard to maintain that when the UK government does all it can to try and disown its expat citizens. It is not enough to say that these two days are the first step in trialling this voting system and it will then be rolled out to overseas locations for more testing, why waste money holding them in England when your target users don't live there. I too am very suspicious that it is a sop to shut us up and then it will be canned for "lack of support" if not enough people take part in the testing days.

    In actual fact putting in an electronic voting system is not that complicated, but when successive governments have allowed a new computer system for the NHS to run up costs of 10billion pounds and then cancel it, wasting money on inappropriate testing days is only to be expected.

    I totally agree with Clive Walley about the Hornet's Nest of discontent that this government has created within the British expat population and it would be wise not to under estimate it.

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  14. John Waterworth

    Hi John H, Ronald, Graham and Roland, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    The testing days in Oxford and London are just a first step to get feedback on our prototype. Once we have a more developed version of the registration pages for overseas voters we will run a larger scale remote test. Expats will be able to take part in that test wherever they live around the world.


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    • Graham Neal

      Yes but are us 15 year disenfranchised British likely to be included?

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    • Jane Williamson

      Just how many ex-pats do you think will be available to test out your system on specified days in either Oxford or London? I think you will have such a small number that it will not be representative of ex-pats throughout the EU.

      All this makes us feel that this is another sop in our direction to keep us quiet for a bit longer.
      Please use the ex-pat blogs , e.g. SFN or English language newspapers to contact us and you will then have enough feedback to be valuable.
      I think you can feel the strength of feeling on your initial testing days is a total waste of time.

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    • David

      I welcome all efforts that might allow ex-pats to vote, even if this particular effort does seem bound attract a very biased subset of ex-pats; i.e., those few that happen to be in Oxford. By definition, ex-pats are not in the UK! How will this help the post-15 year disenfranchised British ex-pat voters? Please Mr. Waterworth, make your next comment different from the last three.

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  15. Mike Kearney

    I would be very happy to come to the UK to take part in your tests, if that would make me eligible for an additional 15 years of enfranchisement. But as the UK is about to relegate me to the status of a non-person............. Need I say more?

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  16. Beryl

    Having paid my dues into the UK system all my working life, it really brasses me off that because I chose to retire to a warmer climate, I am to be deprived of having any say in moves the current government chooses to make with regard to matters which still affect me as a UK passport holder. On-line voting in British elections should be ours for our lifetime - no one should have to fight for the right.

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  17. Anne Reardon-Smith,Chairman, Conservatives Abroad,Tenerife

    What an absurd thing to do - why don't they ask the ex-pats who are members of Conservatives Abroad their opinión? This of course, is too logical a thing to do!

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    • D. M.

      Already the personal data on the electoral roll is resold to spam and credit checking companies and any other big brother operation wanting to know who you are and where you live.

      Can you please assure us that any personal data given in the proposed system will not be open to such abuse?.

      Actually I propose the only information that should be required to register to vote is already existing government-issued identification such as NI number or passport number.

      I would much prefer, having escaped the persistent UK based spammers, that my address is not recorded in any database. I have a perfectly good email address if you need to contact me that can be configured to filter out unwanted spam.

      I for one will not be voting if I am forced to give out personal data to people who cannot be trusted with it.

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  18. Brendan

    I wish you well with the testing John and admire your quiet repetition of the facts in the face of the blustering ex-pats obviously too busy to read the thred and unaware of what it takes to test a system!

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    • John H Sutherland

      At least this blustering ex pat can spell the word "THREAD"

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  19. Roger Boaden

    Anything which takes us closer to ensuring that British expats can never be disenfranchised has to be welcomed, and I hope it is merely one step closer to having the chance to elect our own MP to Westminster, after all French expats living in Britain have elected Axelle Lemaire to represent them.

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  20. John Higginson

    What is all this about? Actually going physically to a town in the UK to help with the 'prototype'? Have you not heard of emails? I thought civilisation had moved on from this obscurantism. And I'd like to know how increasing 'trust in the electoral system' can be achieved when ex-pats don't have a vote after 15 years. Please help - I'm suffocating behind this smokescreen.

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  21. Lesley Taylor

    As a new expat who will be in London between 27 November and 1st December, if you are able to change the dates, I will happily involve myself in this trial, Sadly I leave London late 1st December and do not return until end of the month for two days before flying overseas again. Is it possible for the London date to be changed?

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  22. Carol Fraser

    I believe a true democracy would give all it's subjects and citizens the right to vote, to have proper representation and to enjoy a good level of protection from its government. This without any timelines or provisos. We expats are being discriminated against by the "so called mother of democracy". It makes me want to spit!

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  23. Adrian Milne

    Since when was Oxford outside the UK making its residents ex pats. I don't follow the logic of testing a service that will instantly give a false reading.

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  24. John Mclean

    Mr Waterworth, please stop posting you standrd reply and actually answer the questions being posted in response to this rediculous idea

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  25. Tom

    The testers are running a prototype, and will *then* run a larger-scale remote test. That - I assume - means we will all have the opportunity to test the system and provide feedback. As I'm sure many of us know, inviting feedback from thousands of people during the first stage of alpha testing just delays things from ever happening.

    That being said it would have been helpful if the comment John made on the 24th were part of the original text (i.e., it was more explicit that a large scale remote test would be conducted) - that way I think a lot of people would not have jumped to the conclusion (that I admit I did at first) that the test was being conducted in a very narrow way.

    Is there some way of being notified as to when this larger-scale test will go live or should be just be regularly checking the website

    Good luck to everyone involved - what a great project!

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  26. Noel and Dee Simpson

    It would be immensely helpful if the testing could be done in Paris. Most regions of France (we're in the deep south west) are connected by high speed rail, making testing much more accessible and practical from many points of view. We'd be more than happy to participate as we're very keen to see the democratic voting process (from the country of the 'mother of parliaments' ) genuinely accessible to all expats. We beg you to please keep us in touch via email as we're not educated to use Facebook or Twitter. Thank you. Noel and Dee Simpson

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  27. Mike Groves

    Mike Groves, Cyprus Pensioners Focus Group (CPFG).
    At long last there is an interest in some 5 million UK pensioners (DWP figures) living outside of UK.
    Any system that improves our ability to vote ANYWHERE is welcome. Currently after 15 years we are disenfranchised by UK. The states we live in and pay more tax to do not enfranchise us. There is a great fear that HMIC will use such systems to apply IHT using this system as "evidence" we still have ties with UK. That we have contributed to our status by service to and taxes to UK is hardly mentioned.
    Until there is a system we can trust, that is geuinely interested in those who are BRITISH, any such system will fail to reach the 97% who view such schemes as badly reserached and with no heart or soul. Purely an academic exercise...?

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  28. Timothy Cooper

    I apologise in advance for following the example of many previous respondents in replying slightly off-topic. Like them, I am disenfranchised. I am not allowed to vote in national elections in my country of residence, as I am not a subject, and despite being a British subject I am not allowed to vote in my home country because I have lived abroad for more than fifteen years, serving my home country as an official in a body set up by a Treaty which it signed. This is blatantly unfair and undemocratic. As I reside in a European Union country, I can (and do) vote in European Parliament elections and municipal elections in my country of residence, but as a UK passport holder I should be allowed to vote in UK national elections. Ending this injustice is far more important than testing an electronic voting system for British expatriates who have been abroad for less than 15 years. Nevertheless, I am full of admiration for the GOV.UK initiative. You are doing a great job making government services more easily accessible to the public, whichever side of the digital divide they are on. Keep up the good work! But please also pass on the message that disenfranchised expatriates demand justice!

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  29. Jeff Cronkshaw

    I would love to help and support this initiative as a British Expat of 6 years in Singapore.

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    • John H Sutherland

      Living in Belgium I also would like to take part

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  30. John Waterworth

    Thanks again to everyone who has commented.

    We have updated the post to make it clearer that this is the first step in our testing process and that expats around the world will be able to contribute to later stages.

    I cannot discuss the comments about policy and legislation here, but I will pass on your comments to the people working on government policy in this area.

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  31. Roger

    Not that this will make any difference, however after talking to many expats, NONE had their votes registered in the 2015 election! Worse we have the Europe Election coming up, yet about 2,000,000 people in France alone will be deprived the vote. Yet if the UK comes out of the EU many will be retirees, on low or non existant income, and probably not 100% fit. If the UK were to be stupid enough to depart the EU will the state be able to create in a very short time the housing and infrastructure needed for these pensioners.
    Yet we have no say in our future. This according to the EU and for that matter the UN is to be looked at as erm, NOT ON.
    If we all get the vote and the votes are to be counted then look at the numbers involved, Europe, Australia, USA and Canada alone.
    Come on UK comply with international law and give us and accept our votes.

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