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EU Citizens denied the right to vote

May 24, 2019 11:13 AM
By Larry Ngan

European elections 23 May 2019 (Reuters)The EU election 2019 may signal an upsurge of support for Liberal Democrats, but it is not a good day for our democracy when #deniedmyvote suddenly emerged everywhere in the UK during the Election Day.

Professor Tanja Bueltmann (@cliodaspora) first started this hashtag in order to find out how widespread was the situation where EU citizens were turned away from polling centres and denied their right to vote.

Even to her surprise, in her own words, 'I did not see coming the thousands of tweets and stories. The scale is huge. Today was so much worse than I expected.'

Here are some examples:

@marcellafinazzi went to the polling station with her orange poll card on the Election Day, but she was turned away because she was identified as an Italian citizen, though the polling card clearly said she was registered to vote for South West Region in England.

@leedseurope mentioned a case where a Polish woman 'was told SIX times she could not vote, but was insistent and eventually they found her on the roll and she has now voted'.

@renatadegroot was turned away because she was an EU citizen, she 'called the council & it's because they didn't send me a form in time. They told me to take it up with the post office'

@estkatlin received a letter from the local council and it said 'You don't need to do anything else' and being denied from voting when she turned up in the polling station.

Some local councils admitted the mistake, corrected the registered list and allowed the EU citizens affected to vote after 9 pm, but it left them an impression as if they were 2nd class citizens.

It was clear that EU citizens humiliated during the process and for a democratic country such as UK. Although the Electoral Commission issued a statement on this issue by claiming 'the legal process could be made easier for citizens…. However, improvements… are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by Government and parliament', but in this case it was clearly the incompetence of the local authorities and the Electoral Commission to do their job properly. It is intolerable even if it had happened because of the shortfall of the local council service.

Chinese communities in the UK are always a minority and it is alarming to us. We came to this country because it is a democratic country, our rights including the right to vote are supposed to be protected from humiliation and being treated like second class citizens, so we can contribute to our society and country by keeping our heads high.

The #deniedmyvote raised some doubts on the credibility of our electoral system. We no longer trust the Electoral Commission to guarantee our rights to vote, even if we had registered on the electoral roll. It will take time for the local authorities and the Electoral Commission to restore their authority on protecting our rights of vote.