Voter Suppression Runs Rampant in 2019 General Election

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Nearly 1.5 million people under the age of 35 registered to vote in the run-up to the general election, however, probably less than half actually got to exercise their right to vote. Hundreds of young people have taken to social media, after either being sent home from the polling stations or not receiving their postal vote. Prior to writing this story, I started a thread on Twitter sharing my experience and encouraging others to share theirs and I was overwhelmed by the immense level of responses I received, but then again I was not surprised.

Young people, in particular, young immigrants, including myself were devoted to this election and how the outcome will shape our future. We were all well-prepared to stand for what we believe in and not only save the NHS from being privatised, but also stop a racist, homophobic, and sexist man like Boris Johnson from ruling your country. Unfortunately, not many people shared the same view.

Since the very start of the newfound relationship between the USA and the UK, or should I say bromance between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, we have taken a page out of the same voters’ suppression handbook. In the run-up to American elections, ethnic minorities have been fed false information about where to vote and when. While in Britain, residents, who hold EU citizenship, have been misinformed about their voting rights. As thousands of European citizens registered to vote in this election, not knowing that they are not allowed to participate in general elections. Many of those affected either received a letter confirming that they can vote in the election or were told so directly by their local council. Not to mention, the British citizens who were turned away due to either some form of ‘system error’, ‘registration error’ or missing poll cards, despite the fact that you are still entitled to vote without a poll card.

Even those voting via post faced extreme difficulties\; many people did not receive their ballot papers. As the Christmas season approaches it is known that many British citizens, of European descent, are likely to leave the UK for the holidays, hence their need to vote by post. So is it really a coincidence that a mass amount of them didn’t receive their ballot in time if at all? Even those who were in the country and rushed down to polling stations upon not receiving their postal vote were turned away and told they could only vote via post.

I have never voted before, so I was highly motivated to vote this time around. I registered to vote a month and a half in advance, yet I did not receive a response. So, I decided to register again but this time for a postal vote, yet again I did not receive a response. At this point, I began to suspect something wasn’t right, therefore, on election day I called my local council on three different occasions, and asked if I am able to vote, to which I received the same response each time, ‘Yes, just go down to your local polling station.’ So, I did and everything was fine until they asked for my ID and saw that it was a Polish passport. Immediately, I was told I’m not allowed to vote, despite having all the corrects documents and being approved by the council. I could see my name on the list of people registered to vote, so I began to defend my right, which very quickly resulted in me being escorted out of the polling station. I soon found I wasn’t alone.

Kasia Williams, 22, and her husband Eriife, 24, went down to their local polling station in the constituency of Kensington and were abruptly asked to leave. Mrs. Williams despite receiving a letter confirming her right to vote was turned away for being a Polish national, if only British citizens are allowed to vote, why tell tons of immigrants they can too? Mr. Williams, on the other hand, who is a British citizen with Nigerian roots, had registered for a postal vote, which he did not receive, so rushed down to the polling station with his wife where he was told he can only vote via post. Now, was this true or has he simply turned away for being black or being married to a Polish woman? Both spouses are active in the London community, “Polish people are the biggest immigration group in the UK who live here and pay taxes so feeling like we have no say is ridiculous.”

Violeta, a 20-year-old girl from Latvia living in London, was misinformed about her rights and therefore registered to vote. Even if she was eligible to vote, she wouldn’t have been able to do so, as she received her postal vote the day after the election. Although, it was sent out on the 6th of December. A similar thing happened to 22-year-old Shamira Arshad from Coventry.

Residents who were born and bred in the UK have been turned away, why? Because they can’t afford to pay £1.3K for British citizenship. Adriana Dolinska, 22, from East London, both a full-time teacher and taxpayer was also turned away, “British Naturalisation is so expensive, I cannot afford to buy my citizenship even though I live and breathe like any other brit in this country.”

A 22, a Dutch national living in the UK without citizenship were allowed to vote, while the rest of her family, who are under the same circumstances were turned away. And the reason for this? She did not bring her Dutch passport as a form of ID, unlike her family who did. When asked about her experience, she said, “I feel like people at the polling station were really stopping people from voting and spreading lies about certain EU nationals from voting.” Jayda, 20, a French national faced similar difficulty, as her entire family was allowed to vote but her, “it’s just absolute inconsistency.”

Hundreds of college and university students across the country were also unable to vote, after being told there were clerical errors with their registration process. While other young people were turned away for lack of ID or poll card, neither of which are a necessity.

But if I was to sit here and in-depth describe each incident that took place on election day, this article would never end. To put matters into perspective in the space of 24 hours, the tweet generated over 5,000 retweets, 13,000 favourites, and near enough a hundred direct messages and still going. Not to forget, these are only the potential voters with access to social media, all of which were either misinformed, turned away, or did not receive their ballot.

And what did all these potential voters have in common? They were all going to vote for Labour. Now, I’m not saying this is a government conspiracy, but at the same time, I am. The UK loves to boast about the fact we have a framework of parliamentary democracy so why is there always talk of the elections being rigged, hence why many feel as if their vote is not important or as if the Conservatives are destined to win every election. It’s bad enough that in the run-up to the election, the right-wing mainstream media does everything in their power to diminish every other party but the Conservatives, in particular, the Labour party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

It seems as though, those primarily affected by these complications were of the same demographic, either young or European liberals. We all have a requirement to pay taxes, so why are we limited in our say of how these taxes are spent? This election will determine the outcome of Brexit and our relationship with the EU, so where is the logic in denying EU nationals living in the UK their vote? As the outcome will impact them most.

What is your country coming to? I say, ‘your’ because I refuse to take ownership of a country, which is so quick to strip me of my rights as a citizen. I will not claim a country that does not have my best interests at heart. And for those who are quick to say, ‘if you don’t like it, go back to your own country.’ Do you know what? I just might, but if I do what will be left of British culture? Beans on toast?

Personal note:

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all of you, who either shared your voting experience with me or simply shared my post, it has allowed me to construct this story and possibly make a difference, as I couldn’t do this alone. I would also like to apologise, firstly, for the fact that we have been deprived of our voting rights and dismissed as humans. But, also, I send out my sincerest apologies to those of you whos experiences I have not shared. Considering that I am just one person, and the response I received was astounding and nowhere near what I expected, it was difficult to sort through the stories alone. I wish I could have shared everyone’s stories to truly reflect what is happening and put the political corruption of this country into perspective. Now, I ask all of you to spread this article as far as you can in the hope of it grasping the attention of a more senior figure and evoking some form of reform or consequence.

Please note certain names have been kept anonymous to prevent them from being prosecuted for voting when they weren’t in fact eligible.

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