A campaign group standing up for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK is exploring legal action over the EU poll after a crowdfunding campaign to fund it achieved its initial goal within four hours.
The3million say that more than 4,500 people have downloaded their form from its website to give evidence of their alleged disenfranchisement.
Together with British in Europe, a group of British citizens living in the EU27 countries, The3million have sponsored a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to take legal action against the governent, which achieved its £20,000 goal within four hours of going live.
The3million group told its supporters on Friday that 1,571 people have so far donated £40,095 to fund the “assessment and preparation phase of the legal challenge”, with both groups saying they are “overwhelmed” to have such support. The3million group also told LGC that nearly 900 people have contacted them since the poll to give evidence for its legal challenge.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, told LGC she felt the EU election has been “totally disastrous” and “a democratic stain on our politics”. “The government should have done more to make sure that none of the 3.6m EU citizens in the UK were left out of the democratic process.
“We are exploring group legal action because British and EU citizens received postal ballots too late. The bureaucratic negligence has not been malicious, it’s been an administrational cock up, but the attitude [of the government] needs changing.”
EU citizens in the UK who wanted to vote in the UK’s European Parliamentary elections on 23rd May had to fill out a supplementary UC1 registration form, and the3million group claims that some EU citizens only received the form after the deadline for it to be submitted.
On the day of the EU poll, the hashtag #DeniedMyVote was trending with stories of Europeans claiming to have been turned away from polling stations.
Meanwhile Lambeth Liberal Democrats are calling for an inquiry into Lambeth LBC’s handling of the elections, following claims that EU citizens received crucial voter registration forms after the deadline to apply had already passed. The deadline to submit the UC1 form was 7 May, but Lambeth Council’s letters to many EU citizens in the borough landed on doormats on 8 May, according to Helen Thompson, the Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate for Streatham Constituency.
“Many people sent the form back and thought they were registered and did not need to take action,” she said. “My partner was told in a phone call by the council that he was registered to vote, when in fact he later found out that he was not.
“One EU citizen told us he turned up on polling day to find his name had been crossed out so he could not vote, and was told he was the thirteenth person that had happened to that day.”
Ms Thompson says that her local party has so far received 60 reports, both written by email and stated verbally on polling day, of EU citizens in Lambeth who were subsequently turned away on polling day. Based on this figure, she believes that the figure for the whole of London would be 2,000. “We have written to the leader of Lambeth Council, asking for the number of names that were crossed out in Lambeth, and he told us he has passed it on to the council’s chief executive. We would like to get an apology, or at least recognition, from the council that something went wrong.”
A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “Confirmation from government that this poll would be going ahead was delayed. But once confirmation was received we took comprehensive steps - including a letter before Easter, email updates, advertising and reminder letters.
“Following the poll a small number of issues have been raised by residents, and these will be individually examined.”
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said the issue of EU citizen registration at the 2019 European Parliamentary elections would be addressed in “our statutory post-poll reporting”.
*This story was updated on 4 June to include the latest information on activity of The3million campaign.