With the election date in Ireland finally set for February 25, Irish people are gearing up for what is one of the most significant general elections in the history of the State. Party manifestos have been drawn up, campaigns are being rolled out and soon the entire country will be littered with election posters as every available lamppost in Ireland becomes a platform for a political mantra.
But as people cast their ballot papers, a universal murmur will echo around the world as the countless number of Irish emigrant voices go unaccounted. Under current Irish law, if you are an Irish citizen living abroad you cannot be entered onto the register of electors. Postal votes are limited to Irish diplomats and army officials stationed abroad.
Hundreds of thousands of emigrants who have recently left Irish shores forfeited their right to vote in elections at home upon departure. For people who have emigrated within the last 18 months, and remain registered at their old address, the only option available is to fly home to vote.
Here in the U.S. citizens abroad are afforded the right to vote by postal/absentee ballots. The U.S. government devised a special program to support those who are abroad during elections. The Federal Voting Assistance Program states that U.S. citizens can vote absentee in any election for federal office if the citizen is 18 years or older.
In the U.K., citizens abroad can vote in both general and European elections for up to 15 years after moving abroad, as long as the citizen is registered to vote. Germany, Spain, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are just a few of the other countries that offer their expatriates the right to vote. Many argue that citizens living abroad forgo their right to vote and should not have a say in the future of a country where they no longer pay taxes.