Thousands of EU citizens have been turned away from polling stations and prevented from voting in the European elections.
Voting in the elections began at 7am on Thursday morning but it wasn’t long before voters from other EU member states living in the UK began to say they had been stopped from casting their vote.
Many tweeted to voice their anger, and the hashtag ‘DeniedMyVote’ began trending before 10am.
An EU citizens' rights group the3million has branded the government and the Electoral Commission as “incompetent” and said the scale of the problem was “outrageous”.
Agata Patnya, an immigration and human rights barrister, was one of the first to tweet about the issue, saying she had specifically phoned her local council to check she could vote only to be turned away.
She tweeted: “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.
“I registered before the deadline. Have been here since 2005. Voted many times before. This is my member state.”
Hi @MollyMEP! Just went to vote this morning with my orange poll card and I was told I cannot vote because I figure as Italian citizen not British Italian. I really don’t understand. Can you help me please? @EdWhitelaw @plymouthcc #plymouth pic.twitter.com/o5coDgFvhR
— Marcella Finazzi (@MarcellaFinazzi) May 23, 2019
The main problem appears to be a second form that EU citizens had to fill out which was poorly announced, and most people said that there were not even aware this was a requirement.
A rule prevents people from voting twice, one in their host EU state and another in the country where they’re from, and this form was the Electoral Commission’s interpretation of that rule.
Stories have also emerged of administrative errors, a lack of correct forms being sent out to voters and late registration due to the council not processing the forms on time, causing people to become unable to cast their ballot.
Lukas Hardt commented saying: “I can't vote today because Glasgow City Council say they never received my registration form as an EU national. I posted it well in time, from a letter box in Glasgow. When I called them to enquire, it was too late. So disappointing! EUelections2019 #DeniedMyVote.”
If you are an EU citizen and you are denied your vote today because of the declaration form / deadline, please share your story — tweet / reply to this thread and use #DeniedMyVote. This is important so we can document this mass disenfranchisement. #EUelections2019
— Prof Tanja Bueltmann (@cliodiaspora) May 22, 2019
Professor Tanja Bueltmann, a migration historian at the University of Northumbia, created the hashtag last night in preparation for the EU election.
She told Yahoo News UK: “I’m shocked. I thought there would be a number of stories, but not to this extent.
“The local council knew about the second form, but the Electoral Commission didn’t communicate clearly about how it should be carried out, which meant that some councils informed all EU citizens in their area, and others didn’t.
Read more from Yahoo News UK:
“This may have happened because they didn’t have enough staff or time, but they should have made sure everyone knew about it.
“Theresa May was aware of this problem, she was even directly asked in the PMQs, and completely failed to make arrangements, like allowing EU citizens to fill out the form on the day.
“There have also been stories emerging of people who had filled in all the correct forms, did everything well before the deadline, and still they are being turned away.”
I dismay at the posts under #deniedmyvote - we cannot let fellow citizens’ rights be taken away by an incompetent government.
If you’re an EU27 citizen USE YOUR VOTE and if you’re denied it don’t let it rest.
— Seb Dance MEP 🌹🇪🇺 (@SebDance) May 23, 2019
CEO of the3million Nicolas Hatton said: “Today, we are seeing thousands of EU citizens turned away from the polling booths.
“It is outrageous that the incompetence and unwillingness of the government and the Electoral Commission have denied these people a vote.
“the3million is calling for a full investigation of this democratic disaster that has disenfranchised many of the European citizens most affected by the outcome of these elections.
“In the meantime, we urge all EU citizens who were denied their vote to complain on social media using #DeniedMyVote, and write to their MP and the Electoral Commission to express their outrage.”
This is not a new incident, as a similar matter happened at the last European election in 2014, though on a smaller scale, and the problem had been noted by the Electoral Commission.
This has also corresponded with UK citizens in EU member states being denied their votes as their voting cards arrived too late.