Electorally registered Kilburn artist denied her EU Election vote at polling station
PUBLISHED: 18:01 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:01 24 May 2019
A Czech national living in Kilburn has slammed the "administrative mess" that resulted her being denied a vote in yesterday's EU elections.
Lucie Gutfreund, who lives in Chase House, Hansel Road, was twice refused the opportunity to vote as she pleaded with "sympathetic" presiding officers at Carlton Centre in Granville Road last night.
The 39-year-old art student, who received an email confirming she could vote from Brent Council on May 8, was pulled up for not having a second form - because she had known nothing about it.
Returning home after being denied a vote when she turned up at 8pm, she saw on social media that hundreds of people in the country were experiencing the same problem. She was led to the Your Vote Matters website, where she downloaded a declaration and returned with it to the polling station.
"Since Brent confirmed I am on the vote registry," she said, "I argued at the polling station I should be allowed to vote and I [was] giving them my declaration that I [would] not vote elsewhere for their records.
"The presiding officer did her best to help me. She called Brent several times, but the answer was no."
On holiday in Switzerland on May 7 when the UK announced at short notice that in was participating in the election, she went "back and forth" between the government website and the Brent website to find the form she needed to register - and eventually received confirmation she could vote.
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"I understand why EU nationals were being asked to sign a declaration form to ensure they do not vote twice in their native country and in the UK," she said. "But that Brent Council did not make that clear in its online registration form and its confirmation emails is inexcusable.
"I understood later Brent was also sending out a declaration form through the post. However, I did not receive it."
The Kilburn Times has seen the email Lucie was sent confirming her right to vote, and it makes no mention of the UC1. And while the council put on its website EU nationals could not vote in two countries, we could not find find any reference to a "two-stage process" or mention of UC1 forms at brent.gov.uk as the council claimed.
The Electoral Commission said it understood the "frustration" of some EU citizens finding they could not vote, adding: "The very short notice from the government of the UK's participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process amongst citizens, and for citizens to complete the process."
But a Brent Council spokesperson denied Lucie had been missing any information.
"We are not aware of any administrative issues in Brent," they said. "We received some calls from residents who ultimately had not returned their UC1 forms [the declaration] in time and were unable to vote.
"Council officers have worked extremely hard over recent weeks to make sure everyone who was eligible to vote in the EU elections could have their say in a poll that was not expected or planned for.
"We do everything possible to ensure everybody who wants to vote knows what they need to do to have their say.
"For EU citizens not born in the UK, registration for European Parliamentary Elections is a two-stage process and we made this clear in all of our numerous communications."