A Hackney student unable to vote in the recent European elections has told how she complained to the Electoral Commission, while Lewisham council is reporting up to 50 complaints from EU citizens turned away from its polling stations.
Louise Lonnblad, who is Swedish, was unable to vote at a polling station on Dalston Lane. She discovered her name had been crossed off the register and Lonnblad was told she was not eligible to vote.
She told Eastlondonlines: “Me and my housemate were upset and confused. They had no idea what the problem could be. There was no offer to call someone who might know or any advice at all.”
There were similar scenes at other polling stations in south London.
Vicky Foxcroft, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, told Eastlondonlines: “Dozens of voters across Lewisham Deptford have been in contact with me after having been denied a vote in the recent EU elections. The issues they have raised include misplacing of forms, unclear messages about how to register and postal votes not being delivered on time- all of which are completely unacceptable.”
Kevin Bonavia, Labour Councillor for Blackheath and Lewisham Cabinet Member for Democracy, Refugees & Accountability told Eastlondonlines: “Because of the current Brexit shambles the Government only confirmed the elections were going ahead just weeks beforehand with the deadline for returning the UC1 being set for May 7.”
Bonavia estimates that Lewisham Council has received around 50 complaints from EU citizens claiming they were denied voting at polling stations.
“Going forward, I think the law needs to be reformed as per the recommendations of the Electoral Commission – an extra question could be added to the general voter registration application form that asks if the resident has another EU nationality whether they wish to vote in the UK for European elections.”
He continued: “This could all be academic if Brexit happens of course, but fingers crossed it won’t!”
As the UK’s involvement in the European elections was confirmed late, many EU citizens were not informed they had to fill in a form – UC1 or EC6 – agreeing they would vote only in the UK and not their home country.
The form states that it has to be returned to the voter’s electoral registration office 12 days before the poll.
The3million, an organisation that was established following the 2016 EU referendum to protect EU citizens in the UK, said: “On the day of the vote, over 100,000 people used the hashtag #DeniedMyVote on social media, showing the strength of feeling about this mass failure by the Electoral Commission, the British Government and local councils.
The organisation has made a formal complaint to the Electoral Commission.