Closed petition Public inquiry into disenfranchisement of EU27 citizens and UK citizens abroad

There is evidence that citizens from EU27 countries and UK citizens living abroad were prevented from voting in the European Parliament elections in May 2019, because their voting forms / registration forms arrived too late or were not processed. #deniedmyvote

More details

EU citizens in the UK who wanted to vote in the EU elections, had to fill in the UC1 form and return it by 7 May. However, even a week before 7 May, many had not yet received this form. Others returned the form in time, but councils did not process them before the deadline. Many UK citizens living abroad were sent voting forms too late by UK authorities. There is evidence that voters were disenfranchised as a result. We therefore call for a public, independent inquiry into why the relevant information was not provided in a timely manner and on the remedies that should be provided in this situation.

This petition closed early because of a General Election Find out more on the Petitions Committee website

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Government responded

This response was given on 13 June 2019

The Government took all the legal steps necessary and put in place all the legislative and funding elements to enable Returning Officers to carry out their statutory duties for the 23 May polls.

The Government took all the legal steps necessary to prepare for the European Parliamentary elections and put in place all the legislative and funding elements to enable Returning Officers to make their preparations required for the polls on 23 May.

The Government worked with Returning Officers and the Electoral Commission and other agencies such as the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) to support the smooth running of the polls.

Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) are under a statutory duty to take the necessary steps to encourage participation by electors in the electoral process in the area in which they act . For the recent European Parliamentary elections that included making sure EU citizens resident in the UK and registered to vote in local elections were made aware they needed to complete a voter registration and declaration form (commonly referred to as a UC1 or EC6 form) in order to enable them to vote. The Electoral Commission supported EROs in the discharge of this function and encouraged them to take additional steps to raise awareness of this requirement locally, through social media channels and other means. The UC1 form was accessible to download on the Electoral Commission’s, local authorities’ and the Your Vote Matters websites.

The UC1 form implements a requirement under EU law. EU Council Directive 93/109/EC requires all Member States to send the details of any EU citizens’ declarations to the state they are a citizen of “sufficiently in advance of polling day” to ensure an EU citizen does not vote twice in the same European Parliamentary election. This is not a new requirement and has been in place for previous European Parliamentary elections. Similar provisions apply to UK citizens living in other EU Member States.

On 5 April the Electoral Commission published guidance for Local Returning Officers and EROs on the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. In this, the Electoral Commission reminded EROs to consider how to prepare and issue UC1 forms to EU citizens entered on the electoral register. It also encouraged EROs to agree plans and timings for postal vote despatch, including plans on how to prioritise the despatch of overseas votes. Overseas voters include UK citizens living in the EU.

The Government recognises the importance of overseas electors. We have taken action to ensure sufficient time for postal ballot papers to be sent out and returned by overseas voters in time to be counted on polling day. For example, the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 removed the restriction on sending out postal votes before the deadline for changes to absent voting requirements for all polls, including European Parliamentary elections. These changes meant postal votes could be sent out up to 8 working days earlier than before.

UK agencies, including the Electoral Commission, always advise postal votes for overseas electors need to go out as soon as possible. That said, the Returning Officer for the electoral area has responsibility for arranging, with their suppliers, the timetable for postal votes to be printed and to be dispatched.

In addition, the register to vote website was updated in 2016 to encourage overseas voters living in more remote parts of the world, or anywhere where the local postal service may be less reliable, to consider appointing a proxy in the UK to cast their vote on their behalf.

In line with their statutory duty, the Electoral Commission will be publishing a report into the administration of the polls later this year, which the Government will consider in due course. Therefore, the Government does not believe a public inquiry is required on this subject.

Cabinet Office.