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EU citizens in Cambridge unable to vote despite being registered


By Gemma Gardner


Many EU citizens in Cambridge were unable to vote in the European Parliament elections today (Thursday) despite being registered, because they did not complete an additional form.

European elections take place on May 23 (10609702)
European elections take place on May 23 (10609702)

Voters have taken to social media to say that the forms they had to sign before May 7 to declare they were choosing to vote in this country had either turned up too late or not turned up at all.

Cambridge City Council says it wrote to or emailed all 11,493 registered EU citizens in Cambridge on April 15, but admit that just 1,825 of them completed the additional form.

It is not clear how many of those who did not complete the additional form had intended to vote here.

The problem is being experienced by voters across the country, who are making their views known using the hashtag #deniedmyvote.

A statement from the city council said: “We know that, unfortunately, a number of EU citizens had difficulty voting in the EU elections today – a problem affecting individuals around the UK and not just in Cambridge. The Electoral Commission has issued a statement detailing the background to this UK-wide situation

“In Cambridge, we wrote to/emailed 11,493 registered EU citizens on 15 April to notify them about the separate registration process for the EU election, reminding them to complete the necessary registration form before 7 May.

“In the letter/ email we advised people of what they needed to do and why. As the Electoral Commission has stated, the short notice from the government of the UK’s participation in this election meant the time available to raise awareness of the process for EU citizens was limited

“This year, 1,825 out of 11,493 registered EU citizens completed the separate form to register to vote from Cambridge. Regrettably, not everyone registered by the deadline, which was set by the government, meaning they could not vote on 23 May

“Our customer services team has been available on 01223 457048 from 7am today to help people who had registered by the deadline and were experiencing difficulties. They have been able to resolve many of those enquiries speedily.”

The council pointed out that some EU citizens who did not complete the form will still have had a chance to vote.

City council chief executive Antoinette Jackson said: “Some of those who did not register will be voters who opted to vote in their home member state. Given the late notice of the UK’s participation in the elections it is likely that a number will have made an arrangement to vote in their member state much earlier.

“To put the number of registrations this year in context, for the 2014 EU elections, 2,177 of the 8,590 registered EU citizens completed the separate form to register to vote from Cambridge.”

A statement from the Electoral Commission added that the "very short notice" from the government of the UK's participation in these elections impacted on the time available to raise awareness of the process.

“We understand the frustration of some citizens of other EU member states, resident in the UK, who have been finding they are unable to vote today when they wish to do so.

“All eligible EU citizens have the right to vote in the EU elections in their home member state. If an EU citizen instead chooses to vote in the EU election in the UK, there is a process for them to complete to essentially transfer their right to vote, from their home member state to the UK. This is a requirement of EU law, which specifies that this has to be done 'sufficiently in advance of the poll'.

“This legal process could be made easier for citizens, and the commission made the case for doing so following the last EU elections in 2014. However, improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by government and parliament.

“The very short notice from the government of the UK's participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process amongst citizens, and for citizens to complete the process. EU citizens' right to vote in the election in their home member state remains unaffected by the change in the UK's participation; in order to do so, they would need to be registered in that country in accordance with that country's process and timetable.”

Have you been turned away from a polling station in Cambridge today? Get in touch by emailing gemma.gardner@iliffemedia.co.uk.

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