Campaign group the3million has raised £50,000 in crowdfunding to support a legal challenge to the government’s handling of the European elections.
The organisation says that widespread reports of EU citizens being unable to vote for members of the European Parliament in May were the government’s fault. It wants a declaration that the conduct of the election was unlawful, and possibly compensation for those denied a vote.
EU residents can vote in European elections in the UK, but most nationalities need to fill in a form confirming that they will not vote in their country of origin. Polling day saw social media awash with complaints that council had not processed completed forms in time — meaning that potential voters were marked as unable to vote on the electoral register.
The3million says that the government “introduced and maintained an inadequate system that led directly to large-scale illegality and unfairness”. It claims that tens of thousands of people were turned away, with only 10% of Europeans permitted to vote in some areas.
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The exception was citizens of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta. They were not required to fill in an extra form to vote because of the historic ties between their countries and the UK.
The3million says that the difference in treatment between these and other EU nationalities amounts to unlawful discrimination and a breach of the Equality Act 2010.
John Halford, the solicitor representing the group, cautions that the case is not a challenge to the actual outcome of the elections. That would require evidence that “the result in every region would have been different had disenfranchised people been permitted to vote”. Obtaining that, he said, was “not realistic”.
Instead, the group wants to the government to “acknowledge that there was illegality and discrimination; to accept that it was responsible; and to take remedial action, in so far as that is possible, including the payment of compensation to those who have been deprived of their right to vote”.
The crowdfunding target is £65,000, of which £50,000 has already been raised. Still more will be needed if the case goes to a full judicial review hearing.