As many as 2,000 non-UK EU citizens in Lambeth could have been denied their right to vote at Thursday’s polls, it has emerged. Stories flooded in across the country on 23rd May as EU citizens reported they were turned away from polling stations in the UK’s European elections.
Non-UK EU citizens living in the UK are obliged to fill in an extra form, the UC1 form to be allowed to vote in the UK. Some EU citizens in Lambeth reported missing the deadline to register because they received the form from Lambeth Council after the 7th May deadline had already passed.
However, even EU citizens who managed to return their forms in time were turned away at polling stations. Streatham Parliamentary Candidate Helen Thompson spoke to the Press Association and the Local Government Chronicle about the difficulties that Lambeth's EU citizens faced in registering to vote in these elections.
A French national who went to vote at the polling station at The Cut near Waterloo station at 18:30 on 23rd May, found that his name was in red and crossed out from the list.
“I was told I could not vote. I had actually contacted the Council last week to make sure they had received all my papers in time, and they had told me that all was in order. Yesterday, upon reading in the news that some European citizens had been barred from voting, I called again to confirm that I was able to vote, but this time they said they had not received my form in time.”
Polling station officials at The Cut told him that 12 others had the same problem that day before he arrived.
“If the same trend is repeated across Lambeth’s 133 polling districts, almost 2,000 EU citizens living in Lambeth could have been denied their right to vote in the 2019 European Elections,” Helen Thompson said.
Liberal Democrats call for comprehensive inquiry
The Lambeth Liberal Democrats received approximately 60 verbal and written reports of EU citizens struggling to vote in the borough. Problems included Lambeth’s customer contact centre giving out unclear or false information on registration status, failure to inform EU citizens of the need to fill out the UC1 form, failure to process forms that were sent back on time, and postal votes arriving late.
EU citizens have been “struggling to vote due to the unnecessary bureaucracy of the process as well as significant levels of human error from Lambeth Council staff,” Lambeth Liberal Democrats wrote in a letter to Lambeth Council leader Councillor Jack Hopkins, in which they call for a thorough inquiry into the Council’s handling of EU voter registration for this election.
“We recognise that the two-stage voter registration process was not in Lambeth Council’s control. However, many of the issues faced by Lambeth’s EU citizens were down to errors made by Lambeth Council staff, and we ask you to take responsibility for investigating the scale of the problem in our borough.”
The Liberal Democrats want to know how many non-UK EU citizens’ names were crossed out on the Lambeth electoral register, as well as how many complaints Lambeth Council received regarding the registration of EU citizens to vote in this election.
Another crucial question is whether council staff received the right training to assist EU citizens, and the Lib Dems have asked for a full review of all recorded calls and emails between EU citizens and Lambeth council staff to identify errors and false information.
Disenfranchisement of EU citizens could impact election results
“EU citizens were not allowed to vote in the 2016 referendum. Many saw the European elections as their chance to show their support for the UK remaining in the EU by voting for pro-Remain parties like the Liberal Democrats,” Ms Thompson said.
“If thousands of EU citizens were wrongly denied their right to vote, that could have a significant impact on the results in this crucial election, underestimating Lambeth’s support for remaining in the EU.
“The Liberal Democrats believe that EU citizens living in the UK make a huge positive contribution to our society, communities and economy, and we believe they should have an equal voice in all UK elections.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a nationwide inquiry into the DeniedMyVote scandal.