England

Devon and Cornwall PCC: Voters turned away over EU mix-up

  • 16 November 2012
  • From the section England
Devon and Cornwall PCC ballot paper
More than 1.3 million people were registered to vote in Devon and Cornwall's first police and crime commissioner election

Three voters were turned away from a polling station in Plymouth after being told they were not eligible to vote in the police and crime commissioner election.

The voters had a letter "G" printed before their names which indicated that they were "other EU citizens".

Plymouth City Council said it was a "misunderstanding by staff" and efforts were made to contact them.

Two of the three later voted, the authority confirmed.

One of those initially turned away was German-born Franziska Sieck who has lived in the UK since 1998 and is a registered voter.

Polling staff at High Street Primary School in Stonehouse said as an EU citizen, Ms Sieck could not vote.

'Incorrect information'

Her husband, Dr Martin Austin, asked the Electoral Commission to intervene, and Ms Sieck was later allowed to vote.

The Electoral Commission confirmed its helpline had received a call from Dr Austin on his wife's behalf.

"The information given by the polling staff was incorrect - EU citizens who are registered to vote and resident in the UK can vote in the PCC election," a spokesman told BBC News.

Dr Austin, a research scientist in Plymouth, said he and his wife went to the polling station - both with their voting cards issued by Plymouth City Council - just after 19:00 GMT.

"When the polling staff checked Franziska's card, they said it had an extra letter on it - a 'G' - which meant she was an EU citizen and therefore not eligible to vote," he said.

"When we returned the second time, staff were apologetic, but said they were following the advice given to them during training by Plymouth City Council.

"They also told us at least two other EU citizens had been turned away."

'Upset and concerned'

Plymouth City Council told the Electoral Commission the mistake at High Street Primary School had been an isolated one, caused by the presiding officer at the polling station who had not followed the guidance issued.

The couple said they were "upset and concerned" rather than "angry" about the mistake.

"Even if it was just confined to this one polling station, it's still an issue because it's a democratic right to cast your vote," Dr Austin said.

Plymouth City Council said: "We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to the individuals affected."

All the votes for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are currently being counted and the new commissioner will be announced later.

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