Over 300 Southwark voters living abroad might be denied the right to vote in the EU, writes Emma Finamore…
Hundreds of people in the borough could be denied the right to vote in this week’s EU referendum, due to the dates their postal vote packs have been sent out.
A man on the electoral roll in East Dulwich, temporarily working abroad outside of the EU, said he was concerned he had not been given enough time to send back his vote. “Based on the dates the council sent the postal vote forms, anyone outside of Europe is not likely to get the papers in time to send them back by the deadline,” he said.
Despite applying for a postal vote a month before the referendum, the man – who wished to remain anonymous – said Southwark Council only sent his pack on 14 June – less than ten days before the deadline to return them to the UK. Over 300 overseas voters were sent their packs on that day.
“Given it takes up to seven working days for Royal Mail first class to arrive in any location outside of Europe, this basically means I have no vote as I cannot return the forms in time,” he said. “It does not seem fair to be disenfranchised simply because of an administrative issue, when I applied for postal well in advance.”
The angry voter said he had received documents and personally paid for a courier to ship his documents express delivery back to the UK on Monday morning: “It is touch and go and I’m doing this because I take my right to vote seriously, but can’t see it being healthy for democracy that one could get priced out of a vote. For a neck and neck race, this is a scary proposition.”
He also described the council as “tone deaf on this issue” – and that they suggested several times to use a proxy vote, although he made it clear this was something he could not do. “My sense is that they have not been willing to acknowledge that they haven’t thought the process through at all,” he said.
A council spokesperson said it had abided by all timeframes and procedures required by the Electoral Commission. The first “batch” of postal vote packs, for those registered by 15 May was sent on 24 May. “The number of overseas electors in the first run was 763,” she said. “After that, the next run of all postal voters, including overseas voters, was despatched on 14 June.”
She said this included 329 postal packs to overseas electors.