Are the European Elections for EU citizens living in the UK a disenfranchisement of voters a la British?

First published in May 2019.

My voting card hasn’t arrived.


I am registered to vote. I have the letter to prove it.

I filled out the extra form. I sent it off by mail. The letterbox is directly in front of our door. It cannot have been swept away by the wind. I remember the clacking sound of the little lid as my letter fell in.

So, what happened?

Did the postman lose it from his big bag? Did the sorting computer not find the address of the local council? Did it fall into a crack in the office corridor? Do they have dogs there?

My housemates and neighbours have all received their voting cards.

So, what is the difference between them and me?

Ah, yes. They are British. I am not.

I recently created the English subtitles for a ‘Making of’ documentary of a German art film based on TRANSIT, the novel by Anna Seghers. Many of her characters are refugees, people who were expelled or fled a country where they no longer had full citizen rights. Where, at that point, their lives were in danger, after years of being reduced, again and again, and after complying, again and again, in the hope to appease those who threatened them.

Now, some of them are refugees in a foreign country, still in danger. And in limbo.

They don’t know what will happen to them.

One of the actors explained their state of mind like this: “He’s been away from his own life for so long, he’s been living under various different identities for so long that his expectations of normality are very low. He no longer expects to be part of everyday life.”

That really struck a chord with me.

My life is not in danger, and I believe that I will survive Brexit.

But, sooner or later, I will have to ask the British government, as a petitioner, to please reduced my citizen’s rights so that I am allowed to stay in this country, my home, where I am now a full citizen, everyone’s equal.

And the failure of my voting card to arrive has brought this home to me.

Already, says the ghost of that missing voting card, I am lesser than those around me. No longer their equal.

I have to worry and wonder, while it’s business as usual for them. Of course, they can vote. The council is looking after their rights. Not mine.

When I read about ‘disenfranchisement’ of voters, I think of the US. I think of black voters being disenfranchised. I think of voting districts re-zoned so that the Republicans win again and again.

But now, it is right here. In the very heart of the UK.

Will my voting card arrive? Will it arrive in time?

I really want to vote in the European Elections on 23 May. To me, it would be an act of affirmation. ‘I am still Citizen Nox’.

It is also, as a voter, my only real tool to tell the government what I think and what I want.

The irony – a very dark irony – is, of course, that although EU citizens can vote in the European Elections (unless of course their voting card never arrives...), we were not allowed to vote in the 2016 EU referendum – a decision that affects us more than anyone else. As I have written elsewhere, Brexit will destroy my life. But I constantly meet people from Canada, Australia, or Madagascar who voted in the referendum. Brexit will not affect them personally.

As I read the news, I realise that this is how women must have felt, all the time, before they had the vote. Reading, thinking, talking, but being excluded from taking part in deciding our fate.

And how empowering it must have been when they got the vote.

For us, EU citizens, it is the other way round. Women got the ‘franchise’, the vote, and became, slowly, full equal citizens.

We were full equal citizens and now our rights and our ‘franchise’ are being taken away.

In my mind, I see my voting card as a little bird whose wings have been clipped. It can hop, it can flutter, but it can no longer fly.

Maybe my card will arrive. There are still a few days left.

Maybe I will be able to vote as a full citizens, one last time.🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 11 May 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: JNPMedia Ltd.)