Government urged to extend voter registration deadline for European elections

Flags waving as as protesters take part in an anti-Brexit rally. Photograph: Matt Crossick/ EMPICS E

Flags waving as as protesters take part in an anti-Brexit rally. Photograph: Matt Crossick/ EMPICS Entertainment. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

Government inaction is endangering people's right to vote, campaigners have claimed, as they called for an extension to the date for registering to vote.

More than three million EU citizens living in the UK are eligible to vote in the European elections - but hundreds of thousands are still unregistered.

EU nationals, who have previously been given four months to complete the registration process, were only been given two weeks' notice, with a deadline of May 7.

The New Europeans campaign group has written to cabinet secretary David Lidington to ask for a deadline extension.

Secretary General Roger Casale said the government had failed to make adequate preparations 'despite it being fairly obvious since at least December' an election might be needed.

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He said: 'Local authorities should have sent these forms to EU citizens on the electoral register at the beginning of this year.

'We have evidence that many have only sent the forms out in the last few days and often only by second class post and some councils have not yet sent the forms out at all.

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'Failure to take all reasonable steps to ensure that EU citizens can participate in the EU elections would represent a serious dereliction of duty on the part of the Government.

'We are therefore calling on you to take immediate steps now to mitigate this risk.'

Casale said he believed the very short timescale may be in violation of EU law which obliges governments to give voters adequate time to carry out their documentation.

He wants Lidington to send polling cards to all EU citizens on the register, not just to those who have already registered, and provide copies of the forms at polling stations so documents can be completed at the same time as votes are cast.

He added: 'In 2014, nearly one million EU citizens were denied the vote in the European parliamentary elections.

'Changes to the registration system were promised at the time but have not been forthcoming. We are therefore facing a similar level of exclusion.

'We realise that extending the deadline till polling day would involve a lot of effort - but ensuring a legitimate right to vote, by very large numbers of people, must legally, in our view, take precedence.'

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