“You can’t vote,” said the polling assistant. Wait! What?
I always vote. I am a non-British EU citizen, on the electoral roll, have received a polling card in the mail as always, and my name is on the list. I am entitled to vote. You see, I’ve lived and voted in the UK for many years, and I have never ever in my life been turned away from a polling station. I have even been a polling assistant myself, once upon a time. I know how this works!
My paperwork is in order. Or so I thought. This time was clearly different. Rather shell-shocked, I left the building, only to return five minutes later, because I could just not believe what I’d heard. “You can’t vote,” I was told again. Apparently, my ears are fine. I pointed to the list in front of me on the table – that’s my name, right there.
This caused the woman, who I assume was the polling officer, to come over and state categorically: “It doesn’t mean anything that you’re on the list, there is no ‘K’ next to your name, that means you have not filled out the second form, so you’re not allowed to vote.”
What second form? I was confused. Seemingly, the council should have sent me an additional form to fill in and return. When I said I hadn’t received anything, I was told “it got lost in the mail then”. Oh, how very convenient!
I then happened to notice my neighbour’s name on the list, also sans ‘K’. My neighbour is from a different EU country, but has also lived and worked here for many years. I asked, did their form get lost in the mail also? No answer. Of course not, what plausible explanation could there possibly be for such an unlikely coincidence?
Feeling like a complete failure for not performing my civic duty, all the way home I thought I was letting down all who came before me, brave people who fought and died for the right to vote. And that would have been the end of my sad story. Only, it wasn’t. As it turns out, I’m not the only one.
Social networks are buzzing with stories of EU citizens who weren’t allowed to vote in the UK. Many in London, apparently. Now even the mainstream media has taken up the subject. The Independent ran an article today titled “Go and vote in your own country”. So, maybe it wasn’t completely pointless to complain to the authorities (and all my Twitter friends). Maybe there is still hope for democracy; you never know.
Or maybe, as Cicero is alleged to have said: Nihil est incertius vulgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominum, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum. (Nothing is more unpredictable than the mob, nothing more obscure than public opinion, nothing more deceptive than the whole political system.)