Could UK govt be sued for denying EU nationals a vote?

NGOs and campaign groups supporting UK and EU citizens who were denied a vote in the vote on Thursday, are raising money to make a bid to sue the government.

Campaigners like the3million group, are consulting with key barristers Anneli Howard and Dinah Rose to explore options which they say will raise serious questions about discrimination, ‘and clearly rule that it was unlawful.’

Howard explained that there are a number of breaches of EU treaties, key in this case being Article 20 which stipulates that EU citizens in the UK and vice versa have, ‘the right to vote … under the same conditions as nationals of that state [of residence].’

Should the campaign manage to obtain the £100,000 (€113456) needed, they can carry out legal proceedings on their behalf, ‘to seek compensation for unequal treatment, emotional distress and out-of-pocket expenses.’

Turned away

The news of the legal bid comes only two days after EU nationals were turned away from UK polling stations. Overseas, UK nationals complained that their voting papers had not turned up in time or simply didn’t appear in time to vote.

In turn, the government has faced calls to investigate these incidents in which saw EU nationals having their names struck off the electoral register by local councils. Those affected said they were facing censorship and especially given that this would be the only vote they could actually participate in.

The Labour MP David Lammy referred to the move has been an insult to injury given the changes which EU nationals will face in the wake of Brexit’s changes.

Forms and clerical errors

A large number of complaints were received by the campaign group the3million with the main issue being that EU citizens were required to fill in what was called a UC1 or EC6 form which stated that the voter would be casting their vote in the UK and not their country of origin. Part of the blame for this situation is leveled at the late decision for the UK to participate in the elections given Brexit.

While there were reports that these nationals were being told that they should vote back home, the crux of the problem seems to stem from the local councils themselves.

It is reported that councils had failed to tell EU citizen voters that they would need to complete a second form or that these were not supplied on time or the completed forms were not registered by the council in good time.

Among the 1,000 cases of complaints reported by the Guardian, there were also a number of UK nationals living in countries like New Zealand and Canada.

A right denied

John Halford of the the3million group explained that there must be accountability and consequences attached to Thursday.

‘The right to vote is the foundation for all citizenship rights … Last Thursday saw a large-scale, systematic, openly discriminatory denial of that right. The case we plan to bring will show that this is not something the law will tolerate and that there must be accountability and consequences.’

The head of the Electoral Commission Bos Posner acknowledged that the electoral processes had fallen short but blamed the situation on how the government had decided to participate in the elections too late, given that the belief was that the UK would be leaving the EU before the elections.

While admitting problems with electoral law, he did add that last year the commission had proposed the idea of overseas voters actually being allowed to vote at embassies.

‘We have argued for some time that the failure of governments and parliament to properly maintain and update electoral law, and to address the pressures on local authorities, has built up significant risks for well-run elections… It is time that these warnings are properly heard and acted upon.’