Oxford MP calls for inquiry into voter suppression of EU citizens

Moran wrote: “We find it deeply concerning that the Government appears to have taken no action to stop such serious disenfranchisement from occurring."

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Layla Moran

The Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran, has called for an urgent inquiry into claims that EU citizens were disenfranchised in the European Parliamentary elections last month.

EU citizens in the UK, including some in Oxfordshire, were reportedly denied a vote in May’s election despite being entitled to one under EU law. The mistake was linked to administrative errors made by local councils.

A number of EU nationals reported that they arrived at polling booths to find their names had been crossed out with officials confirming they were not entitled to vote. Others complained that the elections had been announced at short notice, giving them insufficient time to register to vote.

Problems were also encountered by UK voters living abroad, with reported cases of ballot papers being distributed a few hours before the poll.

A letter written by Moran was sent to the chair of the Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Secretary on Friday. Receiving cross-party support, the call gained the backing of 68 MPs from six parties. The letter outlined two issues: the UK government’s requirement that EU citizens must complete additional paperwork in order to vote, and the issues faced by UK voters who live abroad.

Moran wrote: “We find it deeply concerning that the Government appears to have taken no action to stop such serious disenfranchisement from occurring.

“Had the Government confirmed that we would be taking part in these elections sooner, rather than on the same day as the deadline for the return of the UC1 form, we could have largely avoided this situation.

“It is clear that the Government did not want to take part in these elections. However, the Government’s responsibility to every eligible voter, to enfranchise as many citizens as possible, must come above party political concerns.”

The letter comes five years after the Electoral Commission recommended reform following similar complications in 2014’s European election. Since the letter, a petition for an inquiry into the disenfranchisement of citizens has reached over 11,000 signatures, and an urgent question was raised in the House of Commons last week on the matter.

Moran, a Liberal Democrat who assumed office in June 2017, set out recommended lines of enquiry into the situation. These include the impact of the Government’s late confirmation of the election and an investigation into how many citizens were denied their vote on polling day, despite completing all procedures before the deadline.

Nicolas Hatton, founder of ‘the3million’, an advocacy group for EU citizens in the UK, and Jane Golding, founder of British in Europe, have between them raised over £40,000 for the ‘#DeniedMyVote is unlawful’ CrowdJustice fund. The fundraising constitutes part of a potential legal challenge to the #DeniedMyVote scandal, and they have called for people to come forward with examples of having been denied their vote, with the possibility of bringing forward legal action.

Hatton and Golding said: “Our team of expert public law practitioners and researchers will go through the testimonials and assess the best legal options to successfully challenge the Government.”

‘The3million’, whose name refers to the number of EU citizens living in the country, also wrote an open letter to all those standing for the Conservative Party leadership, outlining their hopes for the protection of rights.

They wrote: “British in Europe and ‘the3million’ represent over five million people who still have no guarantee that their futures are secure after nearly three years.

“You can make sure that there will never be a Windrush-style scandal for EU citizens by supporting our ‘registration, not application’ proposal for a new immigration status after Brexit. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it would also send a strong signal to EU27 countries as they consider the systems they put in place for UK citizens in their countries.”

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