Why are EU citizens being 'denied' a vote in European elections, and what you can do if you're turned away at a polling station?

  1. What has been going on?
  2. Why has this happened?
  3. What can I do?
Jon Sharman
Thursday 23 May 2019 19:46 BST
Some EU citizens have been unable to vote
Some EU citizens have been unable to vote(REUTERS)

Hundreds of European citizens living in the UK have complained they were turned away when trying to cast their ballots in the European parliament election.

Campaigners warned of a “democratic disaster” amid claims of administrative errors and confusion at polling stations across the country.

  1. What has been going on?

    Some EU citizens who live in the UK have been turned away while trying to vote in the European parliament elections, campaigners say.

    Others reported on Twitter that they had managed to cast their ballots only after asking election officials to double-check that they had registered correctly.

  2. Why has this happened?

    EU nationals have the right to vote in European parliament elections in the countries of which they are citizens.

    If they want to vote while living in another EU country they must transfer their vote as well as registering in the normal way, the Electoral Commission (EC) has said.

    European law requires this measure, and UK law says the forms involved – which should be sent out automatically by councils – must be returned 12 working days before polls open.

    The EC said that many people in the UK may not have known about it in time.

    "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 released on Thursday.

    It added: "This legal process could be made easier for citizens, and the Commission made the case for doing so following the last EU elections in 2014.

    "However, improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by government and parliament."

    But some prospective voters said they had been turned away despite having filled in their forms correctly and on time.

  3. What can I do?

    If you have been turned away – but had completed the process to transfer your vote on time and registered in the normal way – then you may still be able to vote, according to Electoral Commission guidance.

    A document produced to help polling station workers says: "If the electoral registration officer discovers that a correctly completed application form has been received and the person was only omitted from the register as a result of a clerical error, the electoral registration officer will correct this error up until 9pm on polling day and make provision for the person to be able to vote up until the close of poll at 10pm.

    "The error may be discovered by the electoral registration officer either before or on polling day or by a voter or a proxy in the polling station."

    That means, the Electoral Commission confirmed to The Independent, that "if an EU citizen has submitted their declaration form on time but a ‘clerical error’ has occurred, they can contact their electoral registration officer before 9pm".

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