The UK Government has come under heavy criticism from the Electoral Commission for failing to ensure adequate levels of democracy including the exclusion of up to 1.7 million EU citizens from the European elections.
A detailed investigation by the Electoral Commission, completed this week, accuses the government of:
- failing to act on Electoral Commission recommendations following the 2014 EU elections when hundreds of thousands of EU citizens were denied the vote,
- frustrating the ability of people who were eligible to vote in the European elections in 2019 from being able to do so,
- failing to implement reforms to the registration process for European elections for EU citizens living in the UK who wished to vote in the UK,
- delaying confirmation of the EU elections to the point where Electoral Registration Officers were not able to send out the necessary forms to EU citizens in time,
- denying British overseas voters who were eligible to vote a reasonably practical way of doing so.
The Electoral Commission findings reveal that government policy led to four out of every five continental EU citizens in the UK (1.7 million) not submitting an additional declaration in time to be allowed to vote at the European Parliament elections in 2019.
A major civil rights organisation, New Europeans, thinks it likely that the government’s actions affected the outcome of the elections.
Commenting on its findings, the Electoral Commission said:
“The experience of EU citizens at the May 2019 European Parliamentary elections in the UK illustrates the impact of making significant decisions about elections without thinking through all the possible contingencies and making sure the interests of voters are always put first.
By not taking steps to proactively identify alternative solutions soon after the 2014 election, and then simply assuming there was no chance of European elections happening again, the UK Government missed the opportunity to legislate for improvements to the process for future elections.”
The report has been welcomed by New Europeans, which has campaigned since 2013 for the rights of EU citizens.
Speaking in London following publication of the report, Roger Casale, the CEO of New Europeans said:
“The report is a vindication of our #DeniedMyVote campaign and in particular our estimate that over one million EU citizens and Britons abroad may have been excluded from the EU election – an election which saw the Brexit Party emerge with the largest number of seats of any UK party in the European Parliament.”
“EU citizens in the UK have been the victims of institutional racism. The mass exclusion of EU citizens from the European elections was not a matter of chance but rather the deliberate outcome of the Government’s failure to remedy known flaws in the system.”
"By not remedying those known flaws, the government deliberately presided over a situation in which literally millions of eligible voters were discriminated against in such an appalling way that 1.7 million of them were not allowed to vote, despite being registered UK electors.”
“We continue to call for a full public inquiry to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again and we will also continue to raise the matter with the appropriate committees in the European Parliament in anticipation of the European Commission’s forthcoming report on the conduct of the European elections in the UK and other member states of the EU.”
New Europeans first raised the alarm about the possibility that hundreds of thousands of eligible voters would be excluded from the European elections.
Following the election, the organisation sent a dossier of evidence to the European Parliament, pointing to a “systematic attempt by the UK government to exclude EU citizens and Britons abroad .