Letter: Voting rights in the European elections

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The Independent Online
Sir: Recent treaties have established that we are all European citizens. Among other things, this means that all of us have an equal right to vote in the European elections, wherever we happen to live in the European Union.

Until last week, the British government had failed to inform non-British European Union citizens who live here of their voting rights. This undermines the principle of equality, which is vital in any democratic election. All citizens have an equal right to vote, and all should be treated equally in the process of voter registration. The Government should not enter into treaties if it does not intend to keep its word.

The Home Office has known about the requirements of the Maastricht treaty for many months. But it has only just announced the procedure for registering these voters. It should have been done last October, at the time that the main register was compiled. This week's decision is not only very late, but very inadequately advertised.

Now, the Government has placed the responsibility for registering on to individual citizens, who have to apply to join the register. And the Government is refusing to take space in the newspapers to tell people of their rights and how to claim them.

Voters must be registered by 29 March. A draft register will be published on 8 April, after which two weeks will be allowed for appeals.

Yours sincerely,

KEN COATES

MEP for Nottingham (Lab)

Nottingham

7 March

The writer is chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament.

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