Thousands of Europeans who live in Brighton and Hove face being turned away from polling stations when they turn out to vote in the European elections.
The situation is a repeat of a problem that was highlighted at the last European elections in 2014 and could affect as many as 14,000 voters in Brighton and Hove alone.
Citizens of European Union (EU) countries other than Britain face an extra bureaucratic hurdle aimed at discouraging people from voting in more than one country.
They are required to fill in a form UC1 saying that they want to vote in Britain rather than their home country.
Few councils expected to have to send out the forms this year, with Brexit – Britain’s departure from the EU – originally scheduled for Friday 29 March.
But delays to Brexit mean that Britain will elect a new set of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Thursday 23 May.
As a result European voters must fill in and return a UC1 form by 5pm on Tuesday 7 May.
There are concerns that councils have been slow to send out the forms which European voters have to fill in afresh for each European election, leaving too little time.
Liberal Democrat Paul Chandler, the party’s agent and a candidate in the local elections in Brighton and Hove on Thursday (2 May), said: “Not a lot of people realise that the nearly 14,000 EU residents of Brighton and Hove have an extra hurdle to jump if they want to vote in the forthcoming election for the European Parliament on Thursday 23 May.
“Despite the fact that, among other things, they work in our hospitals, teach in our schools, serve in our restaurants and pay their taxes, they must complete and return a form UC1 or they will be turned away at the polling booth.
“Even if they think they have a vote because they have a polling card for the local elections on Thursday 2 May, they still have to return this form that will be sent to them by the council and return it by 5pm on Tuesday 7 May, if they want to vote again on Thursday 23 May.”
Mr Chandler said last week that the electoral services team was “poised to send notification of this to all the EU voters in the city”.
He added: “We can only assume they are waiting for the final decision from the government to go ahead with the election.
“The UC1 form will be posted first class next Wednesday (1 May), giving EU voters only five days to get their forms filled in and returned.
“It is still possible that the EU election could be cancelled with yet more money wasted.”
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “EU citizens living in Brighton and Hove need to complete an extra form.
“If you’re a citizen of a European Union country (other than the UK, Republic of Ireland, Malta and Cyprus), you can choose to either vote in the UK or in your home country. You can’t vote twice.
“To vote in the UK, you need to
- be registered to vote
- complete a form stating you wish to vote in the UK and not in your home country
“Forms have been sent to all currently registered EU citizens that live in the city.
“You must complete and return these forms in the prepaid envelope or by email by (Tuesday) 7 May 2019.”
Roz Scott is a freelance journalist and copywriter. Read more of her work at www.rozscott.com.
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