Posted on Jun 06, 2019
By Roger Casale, founder and secretary general of New Europeans.
As soon as voting began on 23 May in the European elections in the UK, it became clear that EU citizens were being turned away at polling stations.
This was happening because hundreds of thousands of EU citizens had not completed the supplementary form UC1 that was required (in addition to entering their names on the electoral register) to be able to vote in EU elections in the UK.
The reasons for this failure were many and varied but the consequences were the same - voter disenfranchisement and on a massive scale.
Some EU citizens never received the form, others received it too late or sent it back but the form was lost by their local Council.
Whatever the reason, no form meant no vote, and no vote meant no voice in one of the most important elections Europe has seen this century.
Many Britons living abroad who had registered to vote in the UK were similarly disenfranchised because they did not receive their postal vote forms in time.
As Founder and CEO of New Europeans none of this came as a surprise to me.
New Europeans had investigated when a similar scandal occurred at the European Parliamentary elections in 2014, and obtained promises from the Electoral Commission that the system would be reformed.
We raised the alarm in the middle of April 2019 and pointed out that this problem with the UC1 form which had led to mass disenfranchisement at the European elections in 2014 would lead to the same problems again in 2019.
We called on the government to make the UC1 forms available at all polling stations and to send poling cards to all EU citizens, not just those who had completed and returned the UC1 form.
Despite our best efforts, our worst fears were realised.
It is possible that up to 2 million EU citizens and many tens of thousands of Britons living abroad may have been denied a vote.
A public inquiry is necessary to examine why the government failed to act despite warnings from New Europeans and from the MPs that we mobilised to suport our calls for government to take remedial action.
The Government must also explain why it failed to put timely and adequate measures in place so that EU citizens could take part in the European elections from January 2019 at the latest when it became clear that such elections were a distinct possibility.
Democracy is a special gift, and to restrict the franchise in this way, to create barriers to participation and to leave those barriers in place even when it became clear that they could not be overcome in time to allow EU citizen to vote in the European elections is unforgivable.
An inquiry could and should find out what went wrong, hold those responsible to account and draw lessons for the future so this never happens again.
Roger Casale is a former Labour MP in the UK
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