Are Bradford Metropolitan District Council (and others) Denying the Vote to their EU Residents?

We had an "interesting" experience while going to vote this time (2014-05-22) at our local polling station in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

My wife (who is very much able to speak for herself but who doesn't blog or tweet) is German, but has lived and worked and been on the electoral roll in Bradford since 1985. She is not allowed to vote in UK national elections but, like all UK EU residents, is allowed to vote (and has always voted) in local and in European elections.

On this occasion, my daughter, my wife, and I turned up at our local polling station with the cards they send you through the post. My daughter and I were handed voting slips for the EU election and for the local election. My wife was handed only a voting slip for the local election and told that she couldn't vote in the EU election. Even when we protested - and pointed out that she was an EU citizen and therefore allowed to vote in EU elections - they stuck to their guns. "There's a 'G' against her name" they insisted. "Yes, that stands for 'German'. Germany is in the EU, and EU citizens are entitled to vote in European Elections." we patiently explained. "Yes but our rules say that 'Gs' aren't allowed to vote in EU elections" they responded; "We don't write the rules, we just have to follow them." they added helpfully.[*]

So my wife was denied the opportunity to select from a list of raving neo-Nazis and Poujadists about a foot long and a handful of (relatively) sensible contenders for the role of our MEP.

I suspect cock-up rather than conspiracy here but, nonetheless, Bradford Metropolitan District Council appear to be breaking the law and I do not intend to let the matter rest.


Having raised this matter on twitter, it seems that my wife is by no means the only EU citizen to have been refused an EU vote by their local authority. Part of the problem seems to be that EU citizens now (I'm not aware when this changed) have to complete additional paperwork to be granted a vote in EU elections. This obviously creates additional opportunities for local authorities to fail to supply the required paperwork or to lose it when they receive it back from the voter. Many people on twitter are reporting that they specifically filled in these additional forms - we filled in and returned (or competed online) everything that they sent us - but were still denied a vote.

Since the entitlement to vote is exactly the same for EU citizens voting in local or European elections, I am at a loss to imagine what purpose the creation of two parallel systems serves. I do not imagine that local authorities insist, for example, that their EU residents fill in extra forms before they become eligible for council tax. I expect that EU citizens fill in the same council tax forms as everyone else.

What makes this even worse, is that there is now no simple way for an EU voter to find out whether he or she is eligible to vote in a European election. In the past he/she could simply look up his/her name on the electoral register. Under the new regime, mere inclusion in the electoral register is no guarantee of eligibility to vote.

The only information I can find about the situation on the Bradford Metropolitan District Council site is:

Citizens of EU countries (other than the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta) cannot vote in UK Parliamentary elections and must fill in a separate form to vote in European Parliamentary elections.

Where anyone can get hold of this "separate form" is not discussed further.

The twin-track system for registering EU voters clearly discriminates, in a systematic fashion, against a section of the electorate who are least likely to vote for xenophobic parties (who seem to be in the ascendancy at the moment) and thus may have a significant effect on the outcome of the current election - depending, of course, on the scale of this problem (which I have no way of knowing).

I find this totally unacceptable.


I rang the Electoral Services Unit of Bradford Metropolitan District Council this morning and was told (twice) that “she’d have to go and vote in Germany to vote in the EU elections”. When I (twice) pointed out that this is untrue I was told that "someone from the back office” would ring me back to discuss it further. I'm still waiting for the call.


Since our conversations at the vote, we have learned that "G" does not stand for "German" after all.

Every time we've been to vote for the past thirty years, they've taken my wife's polling card, ignored what it said on the front about who she could vote for, established her nationality - apparently (though seemingly not) from the code against her name, and declared that yes she was allowed to vote in the local or EU election but not in the national election - hence (and also because of the coincidence of "G" for "German" and the fact that they send us a sheet with our names on it every year and "German" against my wife's name) our mistaken assumption.

Since then we've discovered that a French friend is "K", and Julia Ruppel ‏(@SpeakUpEu on twitter) has informed me that "G" simply means "not allowed to vote in EU elections".

What is to be done?

Since the vote, some online research and conversations, and since these articles appeared in the national press:

EU citizens stopped from voting in UK after confusion over registration forms
'Go and vote in your own country': Evidence of non-British EU citizens turned away at the polls despite being on electoral roll
And even a story about us in the Local Paper: Bradford teacher told: ‘Go to Germany if you want to vote’

..... I've become a lot clearer about what the real problems are here and how they need to be fixed. These problems fall into two categories:

1 The system is nuts

There is no rational purpose served by forcing EU citizens to register to vote twice with their local council. Everyone (including EU citizens) should receive one form on which they (if foreign) declare their nationality and on which they tick a box agreeing not to break the law and double-vote (pretending for the moment that this is a matter of any significance and a matter, even if it were of any significance, that could be solved by making people fill in a form).

Unfortunately, if is not within the gift of local authorities to change this system and, bonkers though it is, it probably won't get changed.

2 Local councils don't understand the nutty system and can't administer it

This aspect of the situation could be fixed more easily. Bradford in particular and local councils in general need to do the following as a matter of urgency:

  • Educate their electoral services staff about the rules for elections
  • Respond to enquiries when they have promised to do this
  • Put up links to the "separate form" - this one I believe - on their websites with clear instructions as to what to do with the form and where to send it
  • Ensure that they send out the "separate form" at the same time as the normal electoral roll form and in the same mailing - again with clear instructions as to what to do with the forms and where to send them and with a return envelope
  • Ensure that their staff process the "separate form" at the same time as the normal electoral roll form when they receive it back from the voters
  • Publish an augmented electoral roll that indicates whether those included have been granted their full voting rights or only some of them or some way of checking - preferably on-line - what one's voting status is (now that merely being on the roll is no longer a clear indication of this)


  1. If only there were a party that would get rid of all this EU nonsense.

    1. And they would also get rid of your right to paid holidays and various human rights, among them the right to be anonymously racist on a website. But go on, vote for them, you poor little lamb. That's exactly what they want, so they can screw you.

  2. I used to live in Germany and voted in EU elections over there, I'm sure it's the same over here. It says you can here although it doesn't give any detail. https://www.gov.uk/what-elections-you-can-vote-in

  3. As a Spaniard married to a Brit and 35 years in the UK, I've voted in the local and European elections for a long time. Fed up of not being able to vote in the general elections of the country I live in, I finally bit the bullet and acquired British citizenship. It cost me about £900 to acquire the right to representation in the country of taxation.

    I made sure my records were "updated" at the Register as soon as possible despite advice "to wait till you receive your card".

    So, this time and for the first time, I was voting as a Brit.

    But Sod's Law intervened and as we were going to be abroad on the day, my husband and I opted for proxy voting. Both forms were sent together, first class (to cover a distance of 500 yards, from PO to Town Hall).

    Our proxy in the same borough (Waltham Forest) never received our cards. She phoned repeatedly and was told to wait and wait (" it's a waiting game"). Finally someone "checked" and told her everything was fine and to just take her ID to our polling station to identify herself.

    Needless to say we were disenfranchised. And that is two Brits... with an Italian proxy.

  4. It's not the EU nonsense we need to be rid of - but the "Little Englander" UKIP nonsense !

  5. I saw your comment on the Independent. The same happened to me. I have emailed my complaint to my council. I shall wait for a reply from them...


  6. I'm a Brit based in Germany and voting the EU elections is a lot less problematic over here. I'm sorry that this has happened to your wife, looking online it appears she isn't the only EU citizen wanting to vote in the Uk to be told this. I hope you're right about it just being a cock-up or a misunderstanding because the alternative is much scarier.

  7. Nicely written and summarized by M. Ward. I live in "merica where we can vote as long as we are not of a distinctly different coloration in the required photo id or fail a number of other requirements mostly having to do with not working on Tuesdays which generally are the election days. I hope M. Ward and wife get this straightened out. It is clearly a matter of bureaucracy of which M. Ward is a veteran victim having once
    moved a chair in the former East Berlin from its proper place so that he and four other mates could sit together at a table. Oh no you don't, says the proprietor, the rules don't allow the movement of chairs from their proper place, and upon appeal to the proper authorities, this same rebellious M. Ward learned in a letter now framed on a wall in his home that those to whom he had appealed do not make the rules; they just have to administer them. Nice to know that there is a continuity of responsibility across the Anglo German world as indeed there appears to be everywhere. Here in 'merica the rules are more general and more understandable. Be rich and white or stay home on voting day or increasingly join the over fifty percent who just don't give a damn and like insightful people in all oligarchies just shuffle on home and don't make trouble.

  8. Please join and encourage others to join so that we can discuss action across the country! https://www.facebook.com/groups/DeniedEUvote/

  9. I lived in a shared house by the end of Feb. My ex house mates gave me a card to vote and 22nd of May I didn't have any problem voting, and I didn't even have to fill in a second paper..
    We received a electoral form last year, II think my name was already printed on the form) I don't know who sent it back, but I didn't fill in any other form. That's weird.

  10. My German wife was always allowed to vote in Local and EU elections in the UK with no problem.She filled in the extra form sent by Cornwall County Council and there was never a problem.Same for me in Germany.I had no problem voting Sunday in the EU elections or in the Local & Regional elections a few months back


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