Expat Voters Furious About Missing Chance To Cast Their Ballot

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

British expats hoping to vote in tomorrow’s General Election will be unable to as ballot papers have not been sent out in time.

Despite senior politicians, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson, urging Brits abroad to use their vote, reports from across the globe show that ballot papers did not arrive in time to be posted back before polling day, the Telegraph reports.

According to Brian Cave, who runs a blog focusing on expat voting rights, there are cases of this happening not only in mainland Europe but in Brazil and the United States.

The 82-year-old, who has lived in France for 17 years,  said those entitled to vote have been left “damn cheesed off” and says he has received 17 complaints so far from as far afield as Germany and Rio de Janiero for voters registered in constituencies across the UK.

“There is prima facie evidence accumulating that large numbers of citizens abroad have not received any ballot papers for the election,” he said.  “They are disenfranchised. The electoral registration officers in various constituencies have not sent out the papers in time so that they can be returned in good time before May 7.”

He said the situation amounted to “gross incompetence” and said that if the number of people who complained they were unable to vote because of this error exceeded the victory margin in a constituency, “the election should be declared void and rerun.”

Mr Cave added: “I’m pretty sure the majority of these complaints are from people who have gone through the process properly and in good time.”

Some people have voiced their complaints online, with one forum user Mike Kearney writing on Monday 4th May, “I made sure I was registered for postal voting, but am still waiting for the voting form to arrive … if I am lucky, I could get this around noon tomorrow, leaving me just three hours to get to the post office in time for the afternoon collection and a chance that it could arrive before voting closes. Not good enough, I think.”

Lesley Wisson said: “I telephoned my old constituency, Wealden, on April 29 only to be told it was the fault of Royal Mail. It is not good enough that they blame the courier – the ballot papers should have been sent out with plenty of time to arrive and be returned. I am livid about it all.”

And John Taylor wrote: “I phoned Fenland district council last Thursday to say my papers had not arrived only to be told that the forms had only just been posted. I said they had more confidence in the postal services of france & UK, than I have. ( especially with 2 bank holidays). As of today 5th Mai 2015, still not arrived. Incompetent or an attack on expat voters?”

Others were less concerned about their ballot papers not arriving, with one saying:” I must admit I could have tried harder to get my ballot paper, but since John Redwood, Conservative Wokingham has being our local MP for 28 years and will be again for another 5 years, my vote has little significance, a bit like his political career….”

About 4.5 million Britons living abroad are eligible to vote in tomorrow’s election and during the campaign, the Prime Minister told those who met the requirements to exercise that democratic right. Speaking directly to the many millions who choose to spend their retirement in a warmer country, he said they could hold they key to a Conservative Party victory.

Following a publicity campaign by the Electoral Commission, 113, 742 people applied to vote either by postal vote or my proxy. As with any postal votes in the UK, all forms must arrive before 2200hrs on polling day in order to count.

The Telegraph’s US correspondent, who is registered to vote in Limehouse and Poplar, said his ballot papers only arrived on Monday and will not arrive in time for the close of polls.

Given that we applied well ahead of the deadline, it is not exactly impressive. I suspect thousands of people are being denied the right to have their say because of the failure to get the papers out in time. Perhaps the Electoral Commission could give an explanation for this democratic deficit,” he said.

The Electoral Commission admitted they were aware of the problem, but said that the earliest postal votes can be dispatched is after the registration deadline which this year was April 20th at 1600hrs.

“Our guidance to electoral administrators is clear that postal votes sent to overseas electors should be prioritised to allow the maximum time for them to be returned,” a spokesman said.

“We are aware that some overseas voters have raised concerns that they are yet to receive their postal ballot packs and we will look carefully at the evidence shared with us on this when we consider what issues to raise in our statutory election report, which will be laid in the UK parliament in the summer.”