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What stops Polish people from voting in the UK?

Posted November 8th 2017 by Alice

The Polish flag

As a part of our Voting Champions project we are producing a series of blogs looking at why people from different communities don’t vote. Click here to see our blog on the reasons why people from the Gypsy/Traveller community might not vote.

We spoke to a group of Polish people living in Scotland and asked them whether they vote in the UK and, if not, what stops them from voting. Fortunately, some of the people we spoke to said they always vote in the local elections.

‘I always vote here.’

‘I always vote and I think everyone who lives here should vote. In the end, we do it for our own good.’

‘I always vote when I have the right to.’

We also heard from people who simply didn’t want to vote.

‘Why don’t I vote? Because politics stinks!’

Some people felt, as they are fairly new to living in the UK, that they did not deserve to decide how the country was run. However, other people from the group disagreed with this perspective.

‘I don’t vote because I don’t believe I should have the right to decide the future of the country of which I’m unfamiliar with the culture and traditions. In other words, I haven’t been here long enough.’

‘Nonsense, you should participate in local elections because they affect you’.

People from the European Union are able to vote in the local election in the UK, but are not able to vote in the general election. Unfortunately a number of the people we spoke to did not know when exactly they could vote.

‘Whenever I can I vote here. Sometimes when I go to the polling station there is a star next to my name that means I’m not a citizen with full voting rights.’

‘If you have residency documents there shouldn’t be any problems like that’.

‘How come I can vote in the general election? I only have residency and not citizen status’.

‘I can vote? I’ve been misinformed. It’s good to know I can vote in the future, thanks’

We clarified with the group when they can vote in the UK. People from the EU can vote in local elections whether they have residency status or not. Once someone is a British citizen they have the same voting rights as someone born in the UK, so they can vote in general and local elections.

We hope by sharing this information we can encourage more people living in the UK to participate in the elections they are able to vote in. Is there a community you would like us to approach as a part of our series? Let us know below or send us any comments you have to alice@otbds.org.

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