Inquiry report: the voting registration process for EU citizens resident in the UK for the 2019 European Parliamentary elections held in the UK

Overview

Some citizens of other EU member states living in the UK, who had wanted to vote in the 2019 European Parliamentary elections in the UK, experienced difficulties in ensuring they were registered to vote. Ultimately, this meant that some people who were entitled to vote and wanted to vote in the European Parliamentary elections in the UK were unable to do so.

We looked at the registration process for EU citizens resident in the UK in relation to European Parliamentary elections, and what happened in practice before polling day in May 2019 to enable EU citizens to register to vote and vote in the UK. We also gathered evidence on the impact on EU citizens and their ability to register and vote in the European Parliamentary elections in the UK.

It sets out in detail:

  • the process for registering to vote for citizens of other EU Member States
  • the background to the policy and the legislation
  • what the Electoral Commission, the UK Government and Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) did to promote awareness of the registration process for EU citizens
  • data about the registration of EU citizens 

What we found

In summary, the feedback and comments we received from EU citizens, their families and elected representatives highlighted three main areas of concern:

  • they had not been aware of the need to complete an additional declaration as well as an application to register to vote.
  • they had not been able to submit a declaration in time before the deadline set in law.
  • they thought they had submitted a declaration in time, but were still not included on the electoral register and were not able to vote.

It is not possible to conclusively verify how many were affected. This is because there are no comprehensive data sources available to us or any other body that would tell us how many voters wanted to register and were unable to do so, or tell us how many attended a polling station on 23 May but were not able to be issued with a ballot paper.

Data provided by Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) after the elections shows that in the weeks leading up to the deadline more than 400,000 EU citizens submitted a declaration that was received and processed, which meant that they were therefore able to vote in the UK at the 2019 European Parliamentary elections.

In total, around 450,000 were registered to vote in these European Parliament elections as a result of returning a declaration (UC1 form). This represents just over a fifth of citizens of other EU Member States who had been included in the May 2019 local government register.

Approximately four in five EU citizens (1.7 million) who had previously registered to vote did not submit an additional declaration in time to be registered to vote at the European Parliamentary elections in the UK.

Some of these people may have wanted to vote in the UK but were not able to submit the declaration in time before the deadline, although we have no data that allows us to assess how many were in this position.

Equally, it is not possible to assess how many of these people opted to vote in the EU Member State where they held citizenship, or actively decided not to vote in the elections at all.

EU citizens who were not aware of the declaration requirement

EU citizens who were not aware of the declaration requirement

The most frequently cited concern was that some citizens of other EU Member States were not aware that they needed to complete an additional declaration in order to be included in the register of European Parliamentary electors.

This accounted for over half of the queries that we received from EU citizens and most of those we received from a family member on their behalf. It included people who:

  • had successfully completed an application to register to vote (as a local government elector), but did not realise that a further declaration was needed to be able to vote in the European Parliamentary elections in the UK
  • said that the acknowledgement that confirmed they were registered to vote as a local government elector did not tell them that a further declaration was needed, and therefore assumed that this meant they were also registered to vote in European Parliamentary elections in the UK
  • had received a declaration form from their ERO, but didn’t understand that they needed to complete it to be able to vote in the European Parliamentary elections in the UK

EU citizens who had not submitted a declaration in time

EU citizens who had not submitted a declaration in time

A smaller number of queries were from citizens of other EU Member States who had understood that they would need to complete a separate declaration in order to be included in the register of European Parliamentary electors, but were unable to submit it before the deadline on 7 May 2019. This included people who:

  • said that they had not received a declaration form from their ERO but found out about the requirement from another source; had downloaded, completed and submitted the form by post, but found it had not been received by the ERO before the deadline
  • said that they had not received a declaration form from their ERO but found out about it from contacting their ERO regarding other issues but too late to be able to submit the declaration
  • had received a declaration form from their ERO, but had not had enough time to complete and submit it by post to the ERO before the deadline

EU citizens who submitted a declaration in time but were still unable to vote

EU citizens who submitted a declaration in time but were still unable to vote

Around a sixth of queries, almost all received directly from citizens of other EU Member States, highlighted that they had been able to complete and submit a declaration before the deadline on 7 May 2019, but found they were still unable to vote. This included people who:

  • had completed and submitted the declaration form by email or by using an online service, but said that the ERO would not accept a submission in that way
  • believed that they had completed and submitted the declaration form by post before the deadline, but said that the ERO claimed they had not received the form by the deadline
  • believed that they had completed and submitted the declaration form by post before the deadline, but said that they were not included in the register of European Parliamentary electors on polling day because of a clerical error by the ERO.
Last updated: 8 October 2019
Next review: 29 September 2020