Why EU citizens are being turned away from North Herts polling stations

Ballot Box

Ballot Box - Credit: Archant

Confusion over voting registration has left a number of EU nationals in North Herts unable to vote in the European elections today.

Labour councillor Judi Billing flagged the issue affecting EU citizens in North Herts to the district council's chief executive, and asked him to look into the issue.

The Hitchin Bearton ward councillor took to Twitter and said: "NHDC have heard that many EU citizens have been unable to vote today because of an extra piece of bureaucracy, Form UC1, that I was unaware of until a few minutes ago and so apparently were many people in North Herts."

In response, NHDC's chief returning officer David Scholes said in a statement: "Following reports nationally of some EU Citizens being unable to vote in today's European Parliamentary Elections, we would like to clarify the position.

"EU Citizens registered to vote in the UK can choose to vote either in the UK or in the country where they are a citizen, but not in both.

"Those who wanted to vote in the UK had to complete and return a declaration to their electoral registration officer by May 7.

"NHDC wrote to all registered EU citizens and sent them a declaration form which they had to return by May 7. It is a legal requirement that EU citizens must complete the declaration form if they wanted to vote in the European parliamentary election in the UK.

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A spokesperson from the Electoral Commission said: "We understand the frustration of some citizens of other EU member states, resident in the UK, who have been finding they are unable to vote today when they wish to do so.

"This legal process could be made easier for citizens, and the commission made the case for doing so following the last EU elections in 2014.

"However, improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by government and Parliament.

"The very short notice from the government of the UK's participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process among citizens, and for citizens to complete the process.

"EU citizens' right to vote in the election in their home member state remains unaffected by the change in the UK's participation; in order to do so, they would need to be registered in that country in accordance with that country's process and timetable."

The result of the vote - which will see seven MEPs elected to represent the east of England region - is not expected until Sunday, after all EU member states have gone to the polls.

- Are you an EU national residing in the UK who has not been able to vote? Email your story to georgia.barrow@archant.co.uk.