EU citizens living in the UK have been denied the chance to vote in the European Parliament elections, with the Electoral Commission blaming “short notice” of the UK’s participation in the polls.
Thousands complained on social media under the hashtag #Deniedmyvote, citing apparent administrative errors by local councils.
Extremely disappointed to be turned away at my polling station today. My name was on the list, but crossed out. Registered online, but never received a second form that was apparently needed. #EUelections2019 #deniedmyvote @the3million @AnnelieseDodds— Egle (@egglescake) May 23, 2019
Egle is originally from Lithuania but has lived in the UK since 2010 and was told she could not vote at her polling station in Oxford.
“My name was on the list, as I have been on the electoral register for years, but crossed out,” the 32-year-old, who did not want to reveal her second name, told the Press Association.
Egle then called the council’s electoral services and was told she had not returned a form which she said she “never received in the first place”, having registered online in April and then not hearing anything since.
“I won’t be able to vote,” she said. “They said it was my responsibility to make sure I could vote.
“[I felt] that my voice doesn’t count, like it didn’t in the Brexit referendum. At least I know I’m not alone.”
Egle’s story matches many more, such as immigration and human rights barrister Agata Patyna.
Turned away from polling station this morning. Told I should vote in my EU member state. Called local council yesterday, they confirmed I could vote. Called again today. Apparently council had no time to send out forms to all EU residents. Nothing they can do now #DeniedMyVote— Agata Patyna (@APatyna) May 23, 2019
“Told I should vote in my EU member state,” she tweeted. “Called local council yesterday, they confirmed I could vote. Called again today.
“Apparently council had no time to send out forms to all EU residents. Nothing they can do now.”
The Electoral Commission said they “understand the frustration” the situation has caused and attributed the problem to the “very short notice” on the UK’s participation in the European elections.
We’re aware that some EU citizens, resident in the UK, have been unable to vote today and understand the frustration this has caused. Here’s our statement: https://t.co/jziu14L9Nf pic.twitter.com/7ukg7arASJ— Electoral Commission (@ElectoralCommUK) May 23, 2019
EU citizens must transfer their vote from their member state to the UK in a process which must be done 12 working days in advance of the poll, a process the Electoral Commission said “could be made easier”.
“The very short notice from the Government of the UK’s participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process amongst citizens, and for citizens to complete the process,” it said in a statement.
Claudia Falcone, 27, had sent her additional EU Parliament voter registration form after discovering it on social media and rang the council to confirm she was on the register, but was also initially denied her vote.
“When I went to vote, the two clerks showed me that my name was on their list, but with ‘not allowed’ written next to it,” the PhD student from Germany now living in Bangor, Wales, said.
Ms Falcone insisted the “very polite” clerks check again and “in the end” they found a second list for EU citizens she said the clerks “didn’t even know about”.
“The problem wasn’t the clerks, or the form itself, but the fact that so many EU citizens were not informed about having to fill in this form through official channels,” she said.
“I had read about EU citizens being denied their vote before I went to the polling station, so I was mentally prepared to put up a fight – but I shouldn’t have to argue for my right to vote.
“This EU Parliament election is one of the few ways I can actually have a say as a foreigner in this country, so voting in this election is a really big deal for me and other EU citizens.”
Just spoken to a constituent at a polling station who is from Poland, been here for years but wasn’t allowed to vote...even though he’s on register. It is outrageous. #DeniedmyVote https://t.co/9gyLlcUMnM— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 23, 2019
British and European politicians said they were concerned about the reports.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “Just spoken to a constituent at a polling station who is from Poland, been here for years but wasn’t allowed to vote…even though he’s on register. It is outrageous.”
European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said: “Worrying reports of EU citizens in UK being denied the right to vote & told to vote ‘at home’. The scale of this apparent problem needs to be investigated. ”
According to @ElectoralCommUK's "Handbook for polling station staff", clerical errors in processing applications to vote can be corrected up to 9pm this evening and your name entered or reinstated on the register. You have until 10pm to vote.https://t.co/LY4cSTAkE2 #DeniedMyVote pic.twitter.com/W8btOMAClf— Europarl UK (@EPinUK) May 23, 2019
Citing the Electoral Commission’s guidance for polling station staff, the European Parliament said errors could be corrected up to 9pm on Thursday, so that names can be entered or reinstated on the register in time to vote before polls close at 10pm.
- Press Association