Campaigners fear that European citizens living in the UK could end up without a vote in the European elections because they say promises to simplify the registration process were not fulfilled.
The alarm has been raised by citizens’ rights group New Europeans, which campaigned for change after the 2014 elections, when more than half a million EU citizens were prevented from voting in the European elections.
It led to promises from the Electoral Commission to simplify the registration process.
In evidence to the Political and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, the Electoral Commission had said it would:
‘Continue to work with the UK government, Electoral Registration Officers and organisations representing citizens of other EU member states in the UK to identify what can be done to simplify the system and remove unnecessary administrative barriers to participation so that this problem does not affect electors at the next European Parliament elections in 2019.’
It said it would consider ‘whether legislation could be changed so that, in future, citizens of other EU member states do not need to complete more than one electoral registration form to be able to vote at European Parliament elections in the UK.’
But campaigners from the New Europeans says that the registration process has ‘become even more complicated’.
The group say that citizens are still required to fill in two forms, with one printed online and the other requiring to be downloaded, printed and returned by post by May 7th.
Roger Casale from the group said: ‘Despite assurances by the Electoral Commission that it would simplify the procedure to register to vote in the European elections in the UK, its clear that many EU27 citizens face being turned away again at polling stations on 23 May 2019 just as they were in 2014.
‘EU27 citizens have the right to representation in the European Parliament.They look to the European institutions to protect their rights especially at this time given the hostile environment that has been created towards migrants in the UK and the uncertainty and anxieties caused by Brexit.
‘However, eligibility of EU 27 citizens to vote in the Europeans elections fell to 327,833 in 2014 from the previous level of 1,043,629 in 2009 and this year there is a real danger that participation rates will drop further.
‘It is not too late to mobilise the participation of EU27 citizens in European elections in the UK but we call on MPs, political parties, MEP candidates, councils, and all civil society actors to work together to achieve this.’
‘We must make sure the message goes out through all possible channels that in addition to being registered on line with the electoral register of their local authority, EU27 citizens must also download, complete, and sign the European Parliament voter registration form and return it to the local authority by the 7 May.’
‘If EU 27 citizens do not complete these two steps they will be denied a vote in the European elections in the UK.’
The campaigners are now writing to all 380 Electoral Registration Officers in the UK urging them to confirm that they have written to EU27 citizens who are on the electoral register to inform them of the requirement to complete the additional European Parliament voter registration form.
An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: ‘EU citizens registered to vote in the UK can choose to vote either in the UK or in their home country, but not in both. Those who want to vote in the UK must complete and return a declaration form to their Electoral Registration Officer before the 7 May registration deadline. The form can be downloaded from our website at yourvotematters.co.uk.’
The spokesperson said that changes to voter registration would need to be made in law and, as the government had repeatedly stated that European Parliamentary elections in 2019 would not take place in the UK, it had not developed its recommendations.
They added that there would be a publicity drive to encourage all of those eligible to vote to register by 7th May.