Software snafu let EU citizens get referendum vote, says Electoral Commission

Regulator coughs to cock-up, spills the details to El Reg

A software snag was behind a number of EU citizens in Britain being sent polling cards for the EU referendum later this month – even though they aren't eligible to vote in it.

Political blog Guido Fawkes reported yesterday that EU citizens had wrongly been sent polling cards. The Electoral Commission blamed “an issue with elections software”.

This afternoon an Electoral Commission spokeswoman told The Register that the snafu – a threat to the integrity of the voting system – was down to its software not recognising certain inputs to its nationality field.

She said: “It was a glitch where if you type in the nationality it wasn't recognised so the correct marker wasn't attached [to the voter's record on the system]. It was just an entry not being recognised properly.”

The Electoral Commission said it is working on identifying how many EU citizens have wrongly been issued polling cards allowing them to vote, adding that it will issue a further statement this afternoon.

An open letter (PDF) from the Electoral Commission to Conservative MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Bernard Jenkin, who are prominent supporters of the pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign, explained: “If the Electoral Registration Officer determines that the elector is eligible to vote only at certain elections – for example, if they are an EU citizen – they will add the relevant franchise marker to the register to indicate this. This marker ensures that they will not be issued with a ballot paper at the referendum unless they are eligible to receive one.”

The letter added: “The software provider has resolved the issue which means that, if any postal votes have been issued to these electors, they will be cancelled and none of these electors will be shown as eligible on the electoral registers to be used at polling stations on 23 June. All of the affected electors will also be written to with an explanation of what happened and will be told that they will not be able to vote at the referendum.” ®

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