Voter disenfranchisement in the UK must not be swept under the table - we can’t let democracy slip away from us.
On the 23rd May, the date of the 2019 EU elections, tens of thousands of EU citizens who had registered to vote were turned away from polling stations all across the UK and told:
They could see their names right there on the register – but those names were crossed out in red pen, with an unexplained letter ‘G’ next to their name. No amount of reasoning or phone calls to election officials helped – they were told they could not vote and most could not even be given an explanation as to why.
Democracy is under attack, and we must take a stand. It is vital that the3million seeks justice for the EU citizens in the UK who we speak for. With your support, we plan to take legal action to firmly establish that what happened was unlawful.
This kind of mass disenfranchisement and discrimination cannot be allowed to happen (yet again) in a country like the UK. The Government has refused to even hold an inquiry, effectively blaming EU law for the mess. This is wrong. Please give what you can to support us in our judicial review, which seeks declarations for breaches of rights under EU law, the European Convention of Human Rights and UK domestic anti-discrimination law.
Citizens who were denied their vote had made their home in the UK, many for decades. They had no say in the country’s decision in 2016 to leave the EU – and the 2019 EU elections were their first chance to have any form of democratic voice at the national level.
These citizens were already worried they could face problems. There had been similar disenfranchisement in the 2014 European elections – due to a complicated two-step registration process that some (but not all!) EU citizens have to go through. A month before the elections, MPs warned in the House of Commons of the chaos to come. MPs wrote letters to local authorities, urging them to do what they could to mitigate the disaster caused by the Government’s complete denial of the inevitability of holding the elections. the3million ran an intense awareness campaign, and urged the Electoral Commission to do more.
These citizens had done everything asked of them to make sure they could vote: researching voting rules, re-registering onto the electoral roll just to make sure, often even hand-delivering forms to their local council to make sure postal delays would not stand in their way.
And yet – their names were crossed out on the registers.
About our case
Having done all we could before the 2019 EU parliamentary elections, the day itself saw our worst fears confirmed. Both EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in Europe were affected. Jointly, the3million and British in Europe took action:
We raised £40k within 24 hours and we had to stop fundraising because we felt it would be unethical to take people’s money until we were certain we had a viable case.
About half of this ‘Phase 1’ money was spent by the legal team (including experienced solicitors and barristers) working at heavily discounted rates. A quarter was used so that some volunteers from both the3million and British in Europe could take time off from their day jobs to analyse over a thousand responses coming back from the surveys. The result of all this work was that there is a good case against the Government for both groups, but for British in Europe this would be more difficult to win as they would need to bring a claim against a number of separate public authorities.
The final balance of the funds raised in Phase 1 has been split between the two organisations. In the case of the3million, it has been put towards this Phase 2 of the legal challenge. In the case of British in Europe, it will go towards producing a short “Do it yourself” guide to the small claims court.
For Phase 2, the3million wants to issue a claim for Judicial Review. We want a declaration that the Government introduced and maintained an inadequate system that led directly to large-scale illegality and unfairness. We need to raise this money now to be protected against the Government’s legal costs if the case is rejected or, if we get permission for a full hearing, we eventually lose the case. Our entire legal team is working at heavily discounted rates.
Once we get permission for a full hearing, we will then need to go into ‘Phase 3’ of our fundraising effort. By that stage we hope the High Court will grant a cost-capping order so that we will know how much we have to raise for the full proceedings.