Thousands of British expats in France may be denied a vote in the European elections because their postal votes have gone missing.
Councils must have their postal votes back by election day – in this case Thursday, May 23.
The rules demand the votes must go into the count in the constituency where the expat or their parents was last registered as a voter by the time polling stations close on election day, which is generally 10 pm.
But thousands of voters have yet to receive their ballot papers or they have arrived too late to return in time, according to an investigation by the BBC.
The media broadcaster claims some councils have sent their ballot papers to registered voters in France by postal agency Adare SEC instead of the Royal Mail.
Denied a vote
The Adare ballot papers appear to have been sent via the Netherlands, with many yet to arrive.
One expat voter, Ann Bone, who lives at Maury in the Pyrenees Orientales, told the BBC her postal vote did not arrive until Friday last week – and when she went to return it to Calderdale Council she was told by the French postal service that it had “no chance” of arriving in the UK in time.
Her husband’s ballot has still not arrived in France.
“We’ve been denied a vote, basically,” she said.
Another expat claims her ballot paper took 16 days to arrive from Barnsley Council via The Netherlands.
Voting in the UK from overseas
Expats can register as an overseas voter for up to 15 years after leaving the UK, if they are British and were registered to vote in the UK sometime during the past 15 years.
Special rules apply to voters who were too young to vote when they left the UK.
Expats who want to vote can register online, but will need a national insurance number and passport to do so.
Expats can vote by proxy, which involves someone voting for them in the UK, or by post.
This election for 73 members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) was never meant to happen as Britain should have left the bloc before the polling date.