Some non-UK students had the chance to vote fraudulently in last week’s election because of lax safeguards and mistaken electoral rolls—and at least four foreign citizens claim to have actually voted illegally.
Max Gallien, a German student at Queen’s College, who as an EU citizen was eligible to vote in the local council election but not in the general election, claims to have cast a ballot in the Oxford East parliamentary contest.
Gallien said election workers handed him the national ballot even after he told them he was a German citizen and not allowed to vote: “It said on their list that I was allowed to vote for parliament, too,” he said. “So I did.”
Gallien said he simply assumed he was wrong about the rules.
At least two other students at Balliol and one at Queen’s also claimed to have voted illegally, though it is impossible to verify their claims as ballots are cast anonymously.
A first-year American student at Queen’s, who should have been entirely ineligible to vote as neither an EU nor a Commonwealth citizen, said he voted at the St Clement’s polling station after receiving both polling cards in the mail.
“They handed me both ballots, and I didn’t really say anything,” the student said.
Both students at Queen’s had been mistakenly entered as British citizens on the electoral register.
An administrator at Queen’s blamed local authorities for the error. She said the College just exported data they already had on students.
“We don’t change anything – there is no opportunity for it to be corrupted,” she said.
It is unclear how many foreign citizens might have been mistakenly allowed to vote in the general election, but the close margins of some contests mean any error could be significant.
Oxford West incumbent Evan Harris lost his re-election bid by just 176 votes. Harris’s campaign did not return questions about whether he would challenge the vote; his challenger, Nicola Blackwood, also did not respond to requests for comment by the time this paper went to print.
At least four undergraduate EU citizens at Harris Manchester College were mistakenly sent polling cards for both the local election and the general election, but were given the correct ballot at the polling station.
A spokesman for the national election commission confirmed that EU citizens eligible to vote only in local elections should have received polling cards – which tell voters what elections they are registered for, and where to go to vote – for those contests only. Local authorities were responsible for organizing voter registration and mailing polling cards, he said.
A worker at the Oxford election commission confirmed that EU citizens should not have been sent polling cards for the general election. If they were sent those cards, she said, there “wouldn’t be anything stopping them” from voting for a parliamentary candidate – “but they shouldn’t have done so.”
The confusion and apparent lack of safeguards raise worries about the integrity of last week’s elections in Oxford and elsewhere.
Multiple students told of voting without being asked for identification, while national media reported “chaotic” scenes at polling stations around the country last week along with dozens of allegations of postal vote fraud.
OxStu reporters Winston Featherly-Bean and Matt Thompson-Ryder also contributed to this report.