Saturday, May 25, 2019

Who can vote for what bodies?

Amongst the many comments about the elections this week and the problems many EU Citizens raised was the fact that their names appeared on the paper registers at polling stations but crossed through. Why was this?

The basic answer is that the election register combines six different categories of voters with differing entitlements to vote in different elections. All qualified voters who have registered and can vote in at least one set of elections appear are on the list but those ineligible to vote at the election in question at the polling station in question are crossed out.

More detail required? Sure.

Broadly there are three different franchises in this country:
  • The local & devolved government franchise for electing councils, police & crime commissioners and devolved parliaments & assemblies.
  • The Westminster franchise for electing the House of Commons.
  • The European Parliament franchise for electing members of the European Parliament.
(I'll come to referendums later in the post.)

Due to the different voting entitlements of ex pats, EU citizens and members of the House of Lords there are six different categories of voters with various combinations of franchise. For operational simplicity a single electoral roll is maintained but has to indicate the differing eligibility. If you see a register you will note that some voters' names have letters next to them; these indicate the different categories. These are as follows:
  • (No letter) - Citizens of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Commonwealth countries (including Cyprus and Malta) who have all three franchise.
  • E - Ex pat members of the House of Lords who have the European Parliament franchise only.
  • F - Ex pats who moved abroad from the United Kingdom in the last fifteen years who have the Westminster and European Parliament franchises (in the constituency of their last registered address) but not the local government franchise.
  • G - Citizens of other European Union countries (excluding the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta covered above) who only have the local government franchise unless they've completed a further stage...
  • K - Citizens of other European Union countries (excluding the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta covered above) who have completed, returned & had processed a formal declaration to state that they will be exercising their vote for the European Parliament in the United Kingdom and not in their country of citizenship, and thus have both the local government franchise and the European Parliament franchise.
  • L - Members of the House of Lords who have both the local government franchise and the European Parliament franchise but not the Westminster franchise for the House of Commons.
(The document for converting from "G" to "K" is called the UC1 form, although annoyingly not on the form itself, or the "European Union citizens – European Parliament voter registration form (GB)" in Great Britain and the EC6 form, a code that does appear on it, or the "EUROPEAN UNION CITIZENS - EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VOTER REGISTRATION FORM (NI)" in Northern Ireland.)

There are also two letters relating to how votes cast:
  • A - Indicates a voter who has applied for a postal vote and thus cannot vote at the polling station.
  • P - Proxy - a vote has proxied their vote for someone else to cast it on their behalf.
To summarise by franchise:
  • Local & devolved government - (No letter), G, K, L
  • Westminster - (No letter), F
  • European Parliament - (No letter), E, F, K, L
Referendums usually use the same franchise as the relevant body in question though there have been some variations. Votes on various council matters or devolution use the local & devolved franchise. The AV and Brexit referendums used the Westminster franchise plus members of the House of Lords (E & L), with the latter also enfranchising voters in Gibraltar.

The standard election registers have all registered voters across the six categories listed. The copies for polling stations are printed so that all names appear but those unable to vote in a particular election are crossed out. As well as the categories of voters ineligible at the election, also crossed out are people with postal votes (A) and people on the register under the age of 18 on polling day.

This arrangement helps staff quickly identify the reason why a person will not be able to vote there, albeit at the expense of potentially confusing ineligible voters who may not understand why they can't vote when their name is on this list.

The problems relating to EU Citizens and the declaration forms to convert their category from G to K is such a big subject that it would take a separate post. However looking at some of the reported letters and phone calls, it seems that a lot of wording has not distinguished between someone appearing on the combined register for elections in general and having had the specifics processed for European Parliament elections.

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