Saturday, 24 May 2014

My EU vote disenfranchisement

My friends have been very good the past few weeks, putting up with my endless rattling on about the elections and the media. I'll admit I have fallen fowl to the trap of providing UKIP with an unwarranted platform, and contributing, in however small a form, to the spread of its image. No publicity is bad publicity, it seems, for the UK Independence Party. As a European citizen, this worries me. I'd had rathered the media focused more on the Greens, for example, who have both an MP and MEPs. Regardless, I was looking forward to making use of my vote.

I received a voter registration form and a separate EU registration form.

My council's website only lists one form, this states that it is the only necessary form, and their website makes no mention of any other form:

http://www.colchester.gov.uk/article/3062/Important-information-about-your-personal-details

I returned the European electoral registration form and confirmed the information on my general form.

When I received my polling card only the local elections were listed, so I telephoned to confirm that I would be able to vote in the European election. I was told that this would be the case. ​ ​ ​

On May 22 I was turned away at the polls as I had a G next to my name. I was told that I was not entitled to vote in the European election. I produced my Portuguese national ID card and they called someone at the council election office, who told them that I hadn't returned my form in November. ​I am not registered to vote in Portugal.

I have registered at my consulate and in my country as being resident abroad and as voting here.

This is a particularly important election which has a direct impact on my life, and it is proportional representation, so unlike in other elections my vote actually stands a chance to mean something. Even if it did not, this would be no justification for my forced disenfranchisement.

I have no choice now but to take this up with the relevant parties, and sit by and wait for the election results on Sunday.

Edit 26/5/14: I have taken this up with Colchester election office and my returning officer. No reply as yet, but of course it is a bank holiday.

Edit 27/5/14: My reply from the Colchester Borough Council elections office:

Dear Magarida,

Thank you for your message. I was very sorry to read about the problem that you experienced on polling day.

I can only apologise if you received the wrong advice from our customer contact centre. It should have been clear to whoever you spoke with that there was a “G” marker against your name on the Register of Electors, which meant that you were only entitled to vote in the local government elections and not the European Parliamentary elections.

With regard to your observation about ensuring equal treatment for citizens of other Member States of the EU, the second form that we sent you is essentially a declaration that the voter wishes to register to vote at the European Parliamentary election in the United Kingdom and that they will not use any residual right to vote that they may have in their home country. There is also a space on the form for the constituency in the applicant’s home country where they were registered to vote in their home country and we are obliged to exchange this information with the home countries with a view to ensuring that the person cannot vote more than once at the election. Since we receive information from other Member States, as well as send it, I assume that the rights to vote are exactly the same for British citizens living in other Member States. In any event, these requirements have been set by the national government.

I do understand your frustration. However, I am not convinced that there was any advantage in placing the second form on the Council’s website. This is because a personally addressed form had already been sent to everyone who had registered as an elector and who had indicated that they were citizens of any other Member State of the European Union. A personally addressed form and explanatory letter was considered to be a much better way of communicating the requirement for citizens of other Member States to complete the second form if they wished to vote here in the European Parliamentary election. As we did not receive a second form from you, you were not registered to vote here in the European Parliamentary election.

You say that you returned that form but, as I say, we have no record of it being received. Under the circumstances, all I can do is apologise again for the difficulties that you faced and for the disappointment that you must have felt in not being able to vote on Thursday.



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