Last week’s election in the United Kingdom was deemed a disaster by many voters as a result of polling problems experienced throughout the country. However, it now emerges that it wasn’t just the voters onshore who were affected; it is anticipated that thousands of expatriates throughout the world were also left without an opportunity to vote.
There have been no shortage of headlines relating to the apparently botched electoral process emerging out of the United Kingdom over the last week but it now appears that expatriates too were also denied their democratic rights, with a number of newspapers around the world reporting of issues.
Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Heraldrevealed that expatriates in Australia were being told that mail delays caused by the recent Icelandic volcano were to blame. In this region of the world approximately one million British expatriates failed to receive their voting cards and were therefore unable to vote in the elections. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Canberra commented: “I’m sure people will have been unfortunately caught out by the volcanic explosion … we rather wish this hadn’t happened,”
“We are aware that a significant number of voters who had hoped to vote may not be able to do so.”
Elsewhere, a blogger, Majorcan Pearls, revealed in an article for The Telegraph Online that many voters had missed out because of the fact that the papers simply weren’t posted in time. According to the author, the electoral commission had an obligation to post all voting papers at least 11 days prior to the election, but her own card had failed to arrive. Having pursued the matter she had been informed by the Electoral Commission that the papers had not been sent out eleven days in advance due to the fact that “(…) they could not be printed any sooner by our printer.”
The BBC website told of further expatriate woes, citing the stories of expatriates in Singapore, the USA, Egypt, France, Geneva and Germany who all faced issues voting in the 2010 election. Issues ranged from expatriates being unaware of the deadlines for registering their votes, through to polling cards being posted to the wrong address. One expatriate puzzled as to what the cause was: “Despite getting our request into our council well in advance of the deadline, we still haven’t received our postal votes,” she said.
“I’ve seen forum posts from other expats here in Singapore who are also wondering where their voting forms are.”
One British soldier serving in the US told of his polling card arriving late, saying: “I have been denied my vote and I strongly suspect that the literally thousands of other soldiers posted abroad, including those on operations at the moment, will also not have been able to cast their vote.
“Ironic that those people who risk their lives to protect our right to determine our government, have that right taken away from them.” He added.