During the last European Parliament elections in 2009, I wanted to exercise my democratic right and vote. But at the last minute, I found out that I could not.
The reason - while I had signed up on the electoral register in Ireland, I had omitted to do so with the Dublin City Council's records. I had thought that being registered as a voter would entitle me to vote both for the local and for the European elections, which were on the same day in Ireland. When I arrived to the polling station, I was told that I could not vote for the European elections, only for the local ones, because I had not filled out a form declaring that I would not vote again in another country.
In order to vote, it is required to register on two lists. One, to put your name on the voters' registry of the country where you live and another, to declare that you are only going to vote once during the European elections. You have to repeat this procedure in every European election in order to be allowed to vote.
I thought that I could not vote because I had to vote for Greek MEPs only and that I was not allowed to vote for Irish ones. The whole thing seemed to me like a joke, because I've been living in Ireland for so long that I knew more about Irish political reality than the Greek one. Besides, it is what happens in Ireland that affects me directly, not what happens in Greece. When I contacted the responsible authorities in Brussels to complain about it, I received an e-mail from the Ombudsman saying that these kind of regulations are put in place to prevent people voting in more than one country. Surely - what if I voted here in Ireland, and then took the plane all the way down to Greece and voted again, thus placing two MEPs in the European Parliament (EP) to represent me? It doesn't sound right! I understand, of course, that such regulations most likely apply to people that live in neighboring countries, like Belgium and Holland for example.
Given the very low turnout in the European elections for the last few years, it seems unlikely that anyone would take the effort to vote twice. People are either not interested, nor convinced that it will make any difference. In some countries, the turnout has been as low as between 20-30 % of eligible voters. Instead of trying our best to bring people to the polls and increase their interest in the elections, we are putting more red tape and restrictions.
Why put so much legislation into these elections, when they should be as easy as the national ones? Just register and you can vote. We could harmonize our voters' records and once they move to another country and register to vote there, their records would be moved with them to their new country of residence.
Of course, there are other, maybe more urgent issues that Europe and the EU must solve before linking their electoral records - something to revive voters' interest in the EP elections. For example - better and fairer media coverage of the news coming out from Brussels. Citizens rarely see any broadcasts or updates directly from the EP, while they do receive the bad news about new EU regulations.
At least, we could make it easier to vote for citizens that live in another EU country, but are confused with all the paperwork and typicality. When voting for MEPs, I do so for a better Europe and to promote my interests according to my everyday reality in the country where I live.
Generally, we should revive the EU citizens' interests for the European Elections, by perhaps reassuring them that they really matter. It is in their interest to have a well-functioning EP that works for them and actively promoting their interests. Also, we should educate our youth. Before becoming full citizens, they should be taught about their rights as voters in national and European elections. Everything I have learned, I did so through hours of research, contacting authorities, and spending hours online searching different EU portals on issues like this.
The information I gathered was because of my own initiative, while it should be more accessible to young people via our educational systems.