EU citizens who are not eligible to vote in this month’s referendum have been sent polling cards and postal votes due to a software error, the Electoral Commission has admitted.
The Commission admitted it did not yet know how many votes had been issued in error, and to add further embarrassment to the situation also said Britons living abroad who are eligible to vote had received incorrect information on how to return their postal votes.
According to the legislation passed in the run-up to the referendum, only British citizens should be able to vote in the Brexit referendum, the same franchise as for parliamentary elections. EU citizens living in Britain also appear on the electoral register, however, as they are permitted to vote in local elections.
The Times reports that Electoral Commission chief Jenny Watson admitted yesterday that a software glitch meant some EU citizens had been given a vote in error, but she promised they would all be cancelled in time for the referendum.
“We are aware that a small number of non-eligible EU citizens had mistakenly received poll cards and, in some instances, postal votes for the EU referendum,” she wrote.
“We are working to confirm the exact number of electors who have been affected by an issue with elections software and will be able to confirm numbers tomorrow afternoon.”
“The software provider has resolved the issue, which means that, if any postal votes have been issued to these electors, they will be cancelled and none of these electors will be shown as eligible on the electoral registers to be used at polling stations on June 23,” she added.
The Commission also admitted that eligible British voters living in some “European locations” had been wrongly told that a Freepost service for their postal ballots would not be accepted.
The Royal Mail is “working closely with postal operators to ensure acceptance of postal votes” the Commission added.
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “It is absolutely vital that the public can trust the electoral process, so there are urgent questions for the Commission here.
“We need to know how many people were affected, how long have they known for, and what assurances can they give us that they will sort this out?
“Of particular concern is the issue of postal votes, many of which will already have been returned. What measures do they intend to take to ensure that any ballots cast by ineligible voters are not counted?”
This episode is the latest controversy for the electoral body. Breitbart London reported in April that over half of the members on it governing council have European Union (EU) conflicts of interests.
Many of them had to be excused from the meeting over the designation of the official ‘Leave’ campaign, including the chair, Jenny Watson, as her partner is a board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a pan-European body dedicated to discussing EU foreign policy.