Labour slams Government for European elections ‘chaos’ as EU citizens turned away from polling stations

Posted On: 
23rd May 2019

Labour has blamed the government for causing “chaos” after EU citizens complained that they were being turned away from polling stations.

Complaints have been flooding in from EU citizens unable to vote
Credit: 
PA

Hundreds of European nationals living in the UK have taken to Twitter to say they have been denied the opportunity to vote in today’s European Parliament elections due to administrative errors.

Those living away from their home nation are required to sign additional forms indicating their intention to cast their votes in the UK, but swathes of voters said they did not receive the papers.

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Others claimed they were blocked from voting despite filling out the forms ahead of the deadline and even though they had apparently confirmed with their councils that they were correctly registered.

Labour slammed the government for the blunder, accusing them of causing "havoc" for EU citizens.

Filmmaker Birgit Muller, who has been living in the UK since 1997, told PoliticsHome she was turned away from the polling station despite having previously voted in EU elections while living in the UK.

“I was aware that there was a form that I had to fill in in order to decide whether to vote in the UK or in Germany,” she said.

“I had voted previously in the European elections in the UK, so when I received another form this time, I thought I had to register again, which I did online before the 7th May deadline.

“I received an email on the 8th May telling me that I am already registered, and I didn't have to do anything else.”

She added: “Today I was told I should have received and filled out a UC1 form, which I wasn’t aware of, and to my knowledge I never received.

“I rang the electoral register from the polling station and was told it is likely the form got lost in the post.”

"HAVOC"

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement Cat Smith said: “We repeatedly warned the Government that European citizens living in the UK would be denied their right to vote because of its incompetent approach to Brexit."

“From day one, the Tories have buried their heads in the sand about these elections, even at the eleventh hour when it was clear that the government’s botched Brexit deal would not pass. This has caused havoc for electoral administrators tasked with delivering a national poll with extremely short notice.”

She added: “The government is solely to blame for this chaos.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said they were aware of reports but added the Government was not responsible for "administration of the polls".

"I do recognise that there is frustration," they said. "I am sure the Electoral Commission will take any reports seriously."

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission said proposals they had made to simplify the process had been rejected by the Government.

“This legal process could be made easier for citizens, and the Commission made the case for doing do following the last EU elections in 2014,” a spokesperson said.

“However, improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by Government and Parliament.”

"AFFRONT TO DEMOCRACY"

Immigration barrister Agata Patyna, who has been a UK resident since 2005, said she was also turned away from her local polling station despite registering before the deadline.

“Turned away from polling station this morning,” she tweeted. “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.”

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse added: “It looks like the Government knew this was going to happen and didn’t act.

“This is an affront to democracy, EU citizens’ rights, and is a complete and utter disgrace.”