A picture is emerging of a nationwide scandal where EU citizens in the UK have been denied their democratic and legal right to vote in the EU elections because of inexplainable administrative errors by local councils.
Dozens of EU nationals have posted on twitter and contacted UK media outlets, including the pro-EU Guardian, that they have turned up at polling booths up and down the country and suddenly found they are ineligible to vote, UK media report.
Some told the Guardian that they were told they should go and vote in their own country while one person was advised to contact their embassy.
Many said they that the forms they were told to fill out to register to vote in the UK, either turned up late or did not turn up at all, once they had requested them.
Fobbed off and Misinformed
Kat Sellner and Moritz Valero, both German nationals, said they were initially told by Tower Hamlets Council at the end of April that they had to fill in EC6 and UC1 forms to request to vote in the UK and not Germany.
On the 2nd May, they then went to Tower Hamlet’s Council offices in person with the filled-out forms but were told that that “would be put in a box with the other letters”. They didn’t receive a receipt from Tower Hamlets.
When, three days ago, Valera phoned the council and asked if they were eligible to vote, she was told they “only received the form on the 16th May” – two weeks after they had, in fact, handed them into the council and a week after the deadline for registering to vote. Sellner also phoned up to complain and was also fobbed off.
In an extraordinary bit of backpedalling, Tower Hamlets phoned the couple back six hours later and said they had checked their CCTV footage from the 2nd May and could confirm that they were telling the truth and that they would, in fact, be able to vote.
Other EU nationals have complained that they were not even told they needed to fill in a sperate form after they had already registered to vote in local elections.
“I went to the polling station today and was turned away and informed about some mysterious form that no one was able to tell me more about,” Kinga Burger, from Poland, told the Guardian.
Another Polish national, Piotr Klaskala, went to his local polling station and could see his correct name and address on the list in front of officials and then noticed it was crossed out, suggesting that he had registered to vote successfully but was being barred from voting.
Complaints Fall on Deaf Ears
The 3 Million Campaign Group made a formal complaint to the UK Electoral Commission on the 22nd May, that EU citizens were being disenfranchised of their right to vote but were told that the commission had no legal authority to force councils to send out the correct forms and correct administrative errors. All they could do was to make recommendations to the government to simplify the system for next time, but next time it will be too late.
Some MEPs have warned about this possibility and SNP MP Joanna Cherry, along with Change UK MP Mike Grapes and Labour MP Catherine West, have raised the issue repeatedly in parliament. Cherry even asked for the forms to be put in polling stations for the vote on Thursday, but her request was dismissed and ignored raising questions if these mistakes were just administrative errors or something more sinister at play.
It has since emerged that the UK government is as risk of getting sued over what amounted to multiple breaches of EU treaties.