Call for UK Government to accept responsibility after some EU citizens denied a vote
Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell is urging the UK Government to take responsibility for failures which saw some EU citizens denied a vote in the recent European elections.
Mr Russell wrote to Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington on 24 May calling for an investigation into why some EU citizens in the UK were left with insufficient time to complete required paperwork, while others were turned away at polling stations.
Mr Lidington has now replied, insisting the UK Government “took all the necessary steps to prepare for the European elections” and pointing out that it was up to local electoral registration officers to ensure everyone eligible to vote had an opportunity to do so.
However, Mr Russell said the Minister was failing to address the seriousness of the issue.
He said: “This is an abdication of responsibility by the UK Government, which has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that electoral law is fit for purpose. To attempt to shift the blame onto local officials when it ignored warnings from both myself and the Electoral Commission of the looming debacle is unacceptable.
“The UK Government should apologise to all those people denied their democratic right to vote and order a full inquiry into what went wrong.
“In Scotland we want EU citizens to feel welcome and valued. Denying them a vote in elections which could have a crucial bearing on their future is not the way to go about it.”
The European Elections took place on 23 May. EU citizens had to notify their local council they intended to vote in the UK, not their home country, by completing a UC1 form.
The UK Government did not give permission for public money to be used for preparations, including awareness campaigns, until 1 April and only confirmed the election would go ahead on 7 May, the deadline for UC1 forms to be submitted.
Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell initially wrote to Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington on 3 April expressing concern about the lack of time being afforded to EU citizens to complete UC1 forms. On 24 May, following the election, he wrote a further letter calling for an inquiry into the issue.
The Electoral Commission issued a statement on 23 May about the inability of some EU citizens to vote in the European elections.
EU citizens denied their right to vote can complain to the Electoral Commission by contacting them on: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 0333 103 1928. The 3million campaign is also collecting evidence which can be submitted via a secure form.