Voter difficulties caused by delays implementing electoral changes, finds new report on May elections


A report into the May 2019 elections, published today by the Electoral Commission, has highlighted that government delays in taking forward established recommendations for electoral reform led to difficulties experienced by those who wanted to vote. 

The report identifies two key issues that had a detrimental impact on voters: the difficulties experienced by some EU citizens living in the UK who wanted to vote in the European Parliamentary elections in the UK; and the difficulties experienced by overseas British voters who were unable to return postal votes in time to be counted. 

The report also shows that overall levels of voter confidence in the running of these elections was lower than at other recent polls. Public opinion research carried out for the Commission showed that confidence that the European Parliamentary elections were well-run had fallen by more than ten percentage points since the elections last took place in 2014, and confidence in the running of the local elections was down by 12 percentage points on last year. 

Quote from the Commission's Chief Executive

The Electoral Commission’s Chief Executive, Bob Posner, said:  

“It is unacceptable that some EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living abroad experienced difficulties that prevented them from voting at the European Parliamentary elections. 

“The May elections illustrate that delays in government action, which are needed to properly update our electoral laws, now pose significant risks to voter trust and confidence.

“For some time the Commission and other electoral experts have been recommending changes that, if implemented by government, would have ensured that anyone who wanted to and was eligible to vote was readily able to do so. It is deeply regrettable that these recommendations have not yet been acted upon.”

Further recommendations

The Electoral Commission, the UK’s Law Commissions and several Parliamentary reports have recommended broad reform of the UK’s outdated and complex electoral law. Since 2016, the Commission has urged the UK’s governments to take these recommendations forward before further risks are realised which could have significant consequences for voters, campaigners and electoral administrators. 

The report highlights that the difficulties experienced by both voters and electoral administrators were further exacerbated by the Government’s late confirmation that the European Parliamentary elections would go ahead, and credits electoral staff for delivering elections in the face of substantial challenges. 

Electoral Commission report on the May 2019 elections

Detailed information about the voting registration process for EU citizens resident in the UK for the 2019 European Parliamentary elections can be found in a specific inquiry report, also published today, which informed the main statutory report. 


For further information

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or

Notes to editors

The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:

  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, 
  • aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

The Electoral Commission has a statutory responsibility to report on European Parliamentary elections.