More postal vote chaos disenfranchises UK expats again

Published:  12 Jun at 6 PM
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British expatriates across the world have again been denied the chance to have their say by voting in last Thursday’s snap General Election.

Thousands of Britons living overseas have lost their right to vote due to the chaos caused by international delivery logistics and tardy responses by local authorities. Many of those affected will have experienced the same lack of preparedness prior to the Brexit referendum in which they had a considerable stake.

Councils across the UK were left to fall behind schedule as regards the printing of postal ballots, leaving a good number of longstay older expats with no-one to nominate as a proxy totally without a vote. Both dual nationals and expats were affected, totalling a huge number still awaiting delivery of voting papers just a few days prior to the election, and many who did receive their ballot papers at the last minute were left stranded due to the high cost of emergency overnight courier services. The deadline for receiving overseas votes was set at 10p.m on the day of the election.

One dual national based in Poland but working for a UK-based business and paying UK social security and taxes told the media she was totally frustrated at the inefficiency of the entire operation. She added she’s been stripped of her right to vote simply because she is working overseas, and wondered how many others were cheated of the chance to vote for the same reason. A Worcestershire resident told how demand at her local printers had resulted in ballot papers being sent out after May 31, giving little or no time for their return.

Medway council’s delivery timetables were so short that a staggering number of overseas postal votes were received with just 48 hours to get them back to the UK. The council’s reply to questions about their schedule was to quote an email which simply advised voters who missed the proxy deadline about alternative voting possibilities. At the same time, a spokesperson for the council blamed printer capacity for the late sending of postal ballots.

Expats who also missed their chance to vote in the Brexit referendum will recognise the Medway scenario as typical of the denial of their rights a second time around. Britain’s Electoral Commission is now advising expats to avoid voting by post, without suggesting alternatives for those who no longer have any contacts in the UK to facilitate a proxy vote.
It’s also suggesting those with complaints should address them to their former local authority’s Returning Officer. Angry expats who’ve been disenfranchised for a second time might not be prepared to sit on a hot stove waiting for a reply!
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