NONCITIZEN VOTING AROUND THE WORLD
As the labor market globalizes, countries rightly are concerned about how to foster a sense of belonging and civic responsibility among the migrant workers on whom they depend. Western Europe began to wrestle with this question early in its regionalization process.
After the creation of the European Commission in 1967 and the formation of a customs union in 1968, countries began to embrace the idea of enfranchising noncitizen residents. This idea spread and, from 1963 to 1992, 15 countries in Europe, Latin America, and the British Commonwealth approved varying forms of noncitizen voting rights, usually on a reciprocal basis within groups of affiliated nations—as within the Nordic Union or between Portugal and its former colonies. In 1992, as the European unification process accelerated, members of the European Community (as it was then called) agreed that citizens who were living in other member nations could vote in municipal and European Parliament elections of the host country.
Today, approximately 40 countries have approved some form of immigrant suffrage. Since 1994, Belgium, Austria, and Rome have approved laws according various levels of voting rights to noncitizen residents.
Their logic is simple and sensible, and it addresses the rhetorical question asked by the legal scholars T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Douglas Klusmeyer in their book, Citizenship Policies for an Age of Migration: “Why should [a European Union] citizen who has just recently moved to another member state enjoy a right to vote in a local election while a third-country national who has lived there for years but does not yet qualify for naturalization is excluded from participating in his or her city?”
RESOURCES ON IMMIGRANT VOTING RIGHTS AROUND THE WORLD
Immigrant Voting Project Timeline A list of countries around the world that have approved noncitizen voting rights
Les habitants de Saint-Denis favorables au droit de vote des étrangers aux élections locales
Deux tiers des habitants de Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) ayant
Summary: Two-thirds of residents of Saint-Denis voted in a referendum Sunday, March 26 in favor of allowing foreigners to vote in local elections, 64.11% to 30.99% against. The mayor of Saint-Denis, Didier Paillard (PCF), proposed the change, which has received unanimous support from the left.
“It’s not normal that in this country people who live here cannot vote in local elections, even though they work and pay taxes” said Mr. Francois Hollande, the first secretary of the Socialist Party”
The referendum was only symbolic, however, as the Cergy administrative court ruled in February that it was not legally binding.
The Korea Times
By Kim Rahn Staff Reporter
An ethnic Taiwanese couple, Mo Hu-gul, 59, left, and his wife Son Suk-mi, 58, cast ballots for the first time in their lives at a polling station in Puksong-dong, Inchon, Wednesday. Yesterday’s local elections were the first chance for foreigners who have lived here for three or more years since obtaining permanent residency, to vote in Korean elections.
The election law revised last year granted voting rights to foreigners, so 6,726 foreign residents who met the legal requirements were entitled to vote at the local polls to elect governors, mayors and council members.
Those entitled to vote are foreign nationals aged 19 years and older who have lived in Korea for more than three years after obtaining permanent resident visas.
Among them, almost 99 percent were Taiwanese residents, according to the Ministry of Justice, at 6,511 people. Fifty-one voters were Japanese, eight American, and five Chinese.READ MORE
Los que sí votan allá: El derecho al sufragio para los que no son ciudadanos en EU
Hay mexicanos que no tienen derecho a votar en ningún lado, ni en su lugar de residencia ni en su país natal. Mientras en México se discute si los connacionales que viven en el exterior pueden votar, en Estados Unidos se libra una batalla por lograr su derecho a sufragar a nivel local en varios estados, entre ellos en dos de los lugares donde viven muchos mexicanos –Nueva York y Los Angeles. Y así como van las cosas, quizá logren primero votar allá
Pagan impuestos, trabajan en la comunidad, hasta llegan a pelear en la guerra, pero no tienen derecho a elegir a sus autoridades locales, y por lo tanto, no tienen voz en las decisiones concernientes a sus escuelas, servicios públicos, transporte. Incluso no se les permite participar en las juntas escolares donde se toman decisiones que afectan la educación de sus hijos.
Son casi 20 millones de residentes en Estados Unidos que no son ciudadanos, de los cuales la mayoría es de origen latino.READ MORE
New proposals recommend citizenship and vote for foreigners
Announcing that the government would discuss the proposed changes in a Friday cabinet meeting, he said the moves “will introduce those civilized principles that have existed elsewhere for some time” .
“Democracy is impossible without universal laws,” he continued. “Anyone living in a country, working there and paying taxes, must have the right to become a citizen of that country after five years, and must have voting rights” READ MORE
The Associated Press
Fifty-one candidates from across the globe vied for four nonvoting seats on Rome’s city council — one each to represent Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Another 172 others were bidding for 19 nonvoting district council seats, representing each of Rome’s 19 municipal neighborhoods. READ MORE
Agence France-Presse (via Clari.net)
“Everything will go — the government will fall and we’ll be headed for early elections,” warned Northern League party leader Umberto Bossi, who is minister for institutional reform.
He was reacting to a suggestion Tuesday by Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini, who heads the conservative coalition’s second party, the National Alliance (AN).
Fini, who has made no secret of his desire to see the Northern League and its firebrand xenophobic leader out of government, proposed that immigrants with valid residency papers should be given the right to vote in local Italian elections. READ MORE
Overview of Noncitizen Voting Rights in Belgium
Belgium grants all expatriates local voting rights
As a reflection of Belgium’s multicultural reality, just under 10 percent of the country’s population is foreign. While the EU component of this population has the right to vote in local elections in Belgium and in European elections, the non-EU contingent goes mostly unheard and unseen on the political radar screen.
Despite enjoying many of the same rights as Belgians, thousands of long-term legal residents live in the political shadows. Whether of African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Eastern European, or American origin, these people lead their lives – for the most part – as decent, law-abiding citizens. These expatriates work, pay taxes, contribute to the welfare system, and obey the country’s legal code but they cannot vote.
That means they may walk and talk like citizens, but they differ in one important respect: although the decisions of the political apparatus affect them, they cannot hold politicians to account. Such political muteness can be frustrating and alienating because it sends a message that immigrants are welcome to pay but that doesn’t give them the right to play.
The right to participate politically has inched a small step closer. A Senate select committee adopted a draft bill that proposes to grant non-Union immigrants similar local voting rights as their EU counterparts. According to the proposed legislation, expats from outside the EU who have been living here for five years or more will be granted the right to vote in municipal elections but not to stand as candidates.
The proposed right to vote is ‘passive’, meaning that for a person to be granted it they have to seek it actively. In addition to having to register, the draft legislation proposes that prospective voters must also sign a declaration that they understand Belgian law and will uphold the constitution. READ MORE
The widely covered June 2004 national referendum in Ireland pertained to the birthright citizenship status of children born on Irish soil to two “illegal immigrant” parents (effectively changing Article 27 of the Irish Constitution).
Noncitizen residents of the Irish Republic were allowed to vote in the national referendum, which passed by a margin of 4 to 1. The referendum is not binding, but will likely become law and is the direct result of pressures to make Irish citizenship law conform to the rest of the EU, which has had more stringent rules and exceptions to citizenship by birth.
The referendum approved adding the following to Article 9 of the Irish Constitution: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, a person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, who does not have, at the time of the birth of that person, at least one parent who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen is not entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless provided for by law.” Irish Referendum Commission
The Christian Science Monitor
Belgium is considering a bill that would let noncitizen immigrants cast ballots in local elections.
By Tom Vandyck
BRUSSELS –Belgium plans to let noncitizen immigrants vote in local elections are fanning the latest controversy as Europe wrestles with the issues of immigration, citizenship, and national identity. READ MORE
Earnest, David C. Working Title: “Voting Rights for Resident Aliens: Nationalism, Postnationalism and Sovereignty in an Era of Mass Migration.” Dissertation.
Earnest, David C. “Political Incorporation and Historical Institutionalism: A Comparison of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.” Prepared for the 2005 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association. Honolulu, HI: March 5, 2005.
Earnest, David C. “Voting Rights for Resident Aliens: A Comparison of 25 Democracies.” Prepared for the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Northeast Political Science Association/International Studies Association-Northeast. Philadelphia, PA: November 7, 2003.
Earnest, David C. “Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey of an Emerging Democratic Norm.” Prepared for the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. Philadelphia, PA: August 29, 2003.
Last Updated September 2, 2006.