"This has made me feel unwelcome – that my life is going to change, that I might become a second class citizen," one would-be voter told Left Foot Forward.
A template complaint letter to the Electoral Commission has been downloaded thousands of times, after many EU citizens were denied a vote in Thursday’s European Elections.
The hashtag #DeniedMyVote was trending on Twitter, as hundreds of EU citizens in the UK who were unable to vote due to an administrative barrier expressed their anger.
Now a template complaint letter addressed to the Electoral Commission has been downloaded more than 4,000 times, the 3million campaign – which represents EU citizens living in the UK – told Left Foot Forward.
The problem stemmed from EU citizens having to submit an additional paper form to their local council – on top of registering online – to pledge not to vote in their native European country.
One person turned away was Jean-Marc Zwickert, a 52-year-old Green voter and charity shop manager, who is originally from France but has lived in the UK since 1987.
Having voted in many EU elections without any problem, he was denied his right to vote when he visited his local polling station – despite having a letter confirming that he had registered online and successfully been added to the electoral roll. At the polling station he was told he needed to complete an additional registration as he was an EU national.
Mr Zwickert has voted in previous local and European elections, and received a letter confirming he was on the electoral register earlier this month. He says that at no point had this form been mentioned to him before today that he needed to complete an extra form to vote in the European elections.
He spoke to Left Foot Forward from his home in Lambeth: “At the polling station [when he was turned away] they said ‘you’ll vote in the French election’. I have nothing to do with France now – I was really annoyed. It doesn’t make sense to me.
“I’ve paid my tax here for many years. I’m part of this society. I’ve lived in this country longer than I’ve lived in France,” he added.
Asked who was to blame, Mr Zwickert said it was the government. “I’m going to complain. This has made me feel unwelcome – that my life is going to change, that I might become a second class citizen. I am lucky – I have a partner who’s English. But we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“And we don’t know what’s going to happen with a new Tory Prime Minister, or if [Nigel] Farage secures a lot of votes in the European elections,” he said.
A spokesperson for the 3million campaign said:
“It is sad to see so many EU citizens denied their democratic right to vote in what could be their last nationwide vote before they get relegated to only voting on bin collections and potholes.
#DeniedMyVote outcry showed how much EU citizens want to take part in the democratic process.
“We need to have a serious conversation about who can vote in this country. Leaving long-term UK residents out of the fundamental process of voting will hinder integration.”
The Electoral Commission said it would be reviewing the treatment of EU citizens in the election. The Guardian received over 500 complaints from people who had been denied their vote.
Claude Moraes, Labour MEP for London and Chair of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs Committee has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling for an inquiry.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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