Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is facing an internal Fine Gael backlash over plans to extend voting rights in presidential elections to the diaspora. An increasing number of Fine Gael Cabinet ministers are understood to be opposed to extending voting rights to all Irish citizens over concerns about the impact it would have on elections. Agriculture Minister Michael Creed raised his objection to the referendum directly with the Taoiseach at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. Other ministers who did not want to be named said they privately agreed with Mr Creed but did not speak up at the meeting. “It is a nonsense idea based on something Enda Kenny announced when he was on a visit to America,” a Cabinet minister said.
While the economic, social and cultural contributions made by the Kosovo diaspora for their home country is well-recognized, their contribution to the direct democratic process – namely, elections – has been met with continuous obstacles. Kosovo citizens that live abroad are entitled to voting rights as per the country’s constitution. However, experience so far has shown that the voting process for diaspora members is complicated and riddled with technical, administrative and legal snags. In the best case scenario, diaspora members from Kosovo faced many difficulties while participating in the voting process. Worst case scenario, it can be said that they were denied a right guaranteed by the constitution and laws in force. Yet, these problems have had no proper resolution, because voting from abroad is seen as a secondary issue in the debate for electoral reform in Kosovo.
A native of Kunting village in Central River Region’s Sami district has said that Gambians in the Diaspora are equal citizens of the country and they should be given the right to vote in the country’s elections particularly in presidential elections. Kalifa Sillah said Diasporans are one of those who regularly contribute to Gambia’s remittance through foreign currency exchange and contributing to national development. During the first phase meeting of a two-week civic education public sensitization campaign by National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) in his community, Mr. Sillah said Gambia should now be advancing to provide voting right opportunity to Gambians abroad. The NCCE and CRC civic education public sensitization campaign is meant to prepare and set the ground for the public consultations across the country.
A referendum on extending voting rights to Irish citizens overseas in Presidential elections is planned for May 24th, 2019, the same day as local and European Parliament elections, Senator Billy Lawless has said. Speaking at a meeting organised by the Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) campaign in London, Mr Lawless said he had been…
One of the longest-standing unresolved political issues, the right of Greeks abroad to participate in elections, has gained new relevance recently, during a parliamentary debate in Greece, regarding legislation to change electoral divisions – and particularly to break the country’s largest electorate, that of the outer suburbs of Athens, into three divisions. The opposition proposed an amendment to the legislation (which also regulates municipal elections, linking them to the ones about the European Parliament), suggesting that every Greek citizen, registered in the electorate catalogues, should be able to vote at Greek embassy or consulate offices of their place of residency (the same right should be reserved for sailors, at the place where their ship is docked on election day).
United Kingdom: Long-term British expats could soon win right to vote in UK general elections | The Parliament Magazine
Campaigners have welcomed plans to abolish the rule which bans UK voters overseas from voting in British general elections after they have been abroad for period of 15 years or more. They were commenting to news that the overseas electors bill had passed the second reading stage in the UK House of Commons. Speaking on Tuesday, Roger Casale, the founder of citizens’ rights group New Europeans, said, “This is great news.” He told this website, “The goal of abolishing the 15-year rule does at last seem to be in sight. I am happy above all for all Britons abroad who do not want to lose their democratic voice and the right to vote.”
The Diaspora Voting Right Movement, a Nigerian Group based in the United Kingdom, on Wednesday called on the Federal Government to legalise Diaspora voting. Dr Philip Idaewor, the Convener of the group, said on the telephone from London that the clamour for Diaspora voting had been on for more than a decade. “ As women celebrate 100 years of voting rights in the United Kingdom, Nigerians in the Diaspora renew call for the right to vote in elections in Nigeria,” he said.
The dream of Nigerians in the diaspora to participate in the country’s electoral process may soon be realised, going by the words of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu. He said the commission had written the National Assembly on the need to thinker with the enabling law, to allow Nigerians living outside the country to vote. Yakubu spoke yesterday with the Sudanese ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim Mohammed, who was at INEC’s headquarters to deliver a letter of invitation to him. There are about 10 million Nigerians in Sudan under two categories- Sudanese of Nigeria origin and Nigeria migrants in Sudan.
Speakers at a programme here stressed for a provision wherein the Nepali migrant workers abroad could cast their ballots back home by any means. At an interaction programme themed on the voting rights of the migrant workers and organized by People Forum in the capital city, they also suggested the concerned authorities to consider the ways for the Nepali migrant workers off-shore to help them exercise their franchise in the next local level election to be held after five years. There are a total of 115 countries in the world having provisions for their fellow citizens in the foreign soil to vote, they shared recommending a system wherein the Nepali migrant workers could cast vote at Nepali diplomatic missions from the respective countries they work in.
Despite the Representation of the People Act allowing a Non Resident Indian (NRI) the right to enrol as a voter in India, he/she is not allowed to vote through postal ballots (like defence personnel) or through a more modern e-voting system. This denied them their fundamental rights. On Friday (July 14) the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre for this lapse and gave the government a week to decide whether the Act would be amended to allow such people to vote. The bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud studied a report of a panel headed by Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi which said that the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre were, in fact, agreeable to the issue, but action has been missing in this regard.
Timor-Leste’s electoral commission is giving some Timorese Australians the chance to vote in the country’s upcoming elections for the first time since independence. Citizens living in Darwin and Sydney will be part of the trial, which allows them to vote without flying back to Timor-Leste. In 1975, Darwin resident Dulcie Munn fled Timor-Leste and has not voted since the country’s independence referendum in August 1999. “That’s 18 years ago,” she said. “To be able to participate again this time, casting our vote for the future of our nation Timor-Leste, is quite important.”
Nigeria: Electoral Commission constitutes diaspora voting, electoral constituencies committees | BusinessDay
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has constituted a 10-member committee on the Review of Diaspora or Out-of-Country Voting. Also constituted, according to the commission’s daily bulletin issued on Tuesday in Abuja are eight-member committee for the Review of Electoral Constituencies and committee for Review of Polling Units and Registration Areas. It said that other committees set up included those on Review of the Suppressed Constituencies and Review of GIS Laboratory. The commission explained that the committees were constituted as part of its effort at improving the electoral process, adding that the committees were chaired by its National Commissioners.
Long before Billy Lawless became the first expatriate to serve in the Irish Senate, he was a regular guest at a uniquely Irish event known as the “American wake.” A full-blown going-away party held in a small Irish village, this occasion earned its dour name “because Johnny or Mary were going to the United States and that was probably the last we’d ever see of them,” said Mr. Lawless, a Chicago restaurateur who grew up on the outskirts of Galway. “But that day is gone now. Everything has changed.” Though emigration once implied a dramatic severing of ties, today’s expats are remaining more engaged than ever with the political affairs of their home countries, following local news on the internet and voting from abroad. In a more profound break with old patterns, expats like Mr. Lawless are even taking on political roles in their native countries. Most nations, including 23 of 28 European Union member states, now allow some form of voting for non-resident citizens, said Jean-Thomas Arrighi, a political scientist specializing in the issue at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. Thirteen countries have gone further, establishing “external constituencies,” with representatives directly elected by citizens abroad.
The Greek parliament last month (21 July) approved by a simple majority government’s proposed changes to the electoral system, with 179 votes in favor, 86 against, and 16 lawmakers abstaining. Among other provisions, Greek lawmakers decided to lower the voting age, allowing 17-year-olds to vote in the next general elections. According to the new electoral law, about 130,000 17-year-olds are expected to participate in the next national election. For the Syriza-led government, this move will enforce youth participation. But the opposition parties do not share such a view and believe that Greek premier Alexis Tsipras is trying to “cheat” young people. But the coalition government rejected the opposition’s proposal to grant voting rights for Greeks living abroad.
Ireland: Referendum in Ireland on whether Irish abroad should have voting rights at home looks likely | Irish Post
A referendum is likely to be held in Ireland asking the electorate whether millions of Irish living abroad should have a vote in the next Presidential election. A spokesman for the Department of the Taoiseach told The Irish Post why a referendum was necessary: “Any such vote granted to those not living in the Republic would require a change in the constitution. This in turn needs a referendum to enact such a change.” The department confirmed that discussions have been entered into by the Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh. However, no date had been fixed for any referendum and neither had the exact wording of any such question been formulated.
Organisations representing Irish citizens overseas have welcomed the announcement that a referendum will be held early next year on the right of emigrants to vote in Presidential elections. Plans for a referendum were discussed last week at an interdepartmental group on diaspora affairs, chaired by Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh. Proposals will be brought to the Global Irish Civic Forum, a meeting of organisations and individuals working with Irish communities around the world, in Dublin next February. It is the second time such a meeting will take place; almost 200 people attended the first forum in June 2015. A recent poll of 350 Irish people who emigrated since 2008, carried out by Ipsos MRBI for The Irish Times, found 62 per cent would like a vote for the president.Sixty-three per cent wanted a say in general elections, 61 per cent in referendums, and 53 per cent in Seanad elections. The remainder of those surveyed were fairly evenly split between those who had no opinion on the issue, or who didn’t think they should have a right to vote.
We remember the long lines at ports and airports when Irish emigrants, at great personal cost, came home to vote in the marriage equality referendum, in May 2015. The sense was of a lost tribe returning to its roots and having a say in a critical decision for the Irish people. The Irish government did not make it easy. Polling stations could have been set up in embassies and consulates, a form of postal voting could have been introduced. Instead, many trekked thousands of miles, from as far away as Australia and California, to make their vote count. Yet, as Washington expert Kevin Sullivan wrote, only about 66,000 of the 280,000 who left after the Celtic Tiger collapsed were eligible to vote leaving the emigrant Irish with a much diminished voice when it came to the battle over human rights for all.
The Government is considering extending voting rights to Irish emigrants for three years after they leave the country without holding a referendum on the issue, the Minister for Diaspora Affairs has said. Under existing electoral legislation, Irish citizens are entitled to vote for 18 months after they leave the country, if they intend to return to live in Ireland within that timeframe. Speaking at the first Global Irish Civic Forum at Dublin Castle today, Jimmy Deenihan said there’s a possibility this could be extended to 36 months “without going to the people”.
Ireland: As Ireland Voted For Same-Sex Marriage, Thousands of Expats Came #Hometovote | Wall Street Journal
We woke up on Saturday morning, turned on our radios, and checked our Facebook and Twitter accounts. It was a landslide. Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. With 60.5% of the population coming out to vote, it was the largest turnout for a referendum in recent years and, based on the final count, more than 62% of the country voted ‘yes.’ The ‘no’ side conceded by 10 a.m. “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done,” one prominent ‘no’ campaigner tweeted. But it wasn’t as simple as that for us. For the gay people of Ireland, this was our lives. And the high turnout across the country proved that, with thousands of expats returning home.
For the last nine years I have had the privilege of being the chairman of the Washington Ireland Program (WIP), a well-established leadership programme that brings 30 young future leaders from the Republic and Northern Ireland to Washington, DC every summer for two months. More than 300 Irish university students annually apply to the WIP programme. The selection process is fair but rigorous and only one in 10 applicants makes the cut. Every year there are several gay students on the programme. These young people are idealistic, patriotic, full of spark and intellectual curiosity – just the type of leaders that Ireland will need in the coming decade. They are passionate about equality and are working hard to turn out a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum with their many straight friends. In London, Lorcan O Cathain, a WIP graduate, has organised “Change Ireland”, which is raising money to help Irish voters get back to Ireland in time to vote on the 22nd. What a valiant effort to get around Ireland restrictive voting laws.
A Conservative victory at the UK general elections means the UK will now be expected to hold to a pledge to end the 15-year limit on the expat vote. That was one of the party’s main promises to Britons overseas, and it was the only party to offer it unequivocally. However, the Conservatives will also now be expected to follow through with another policy likely to divide expats much more – an in/out referendum on the EU, by the end of 2017. The party has not clarified if it would give the vote back to long-term expats in time to take part in it.
British expats around the world have complained that they’ve not received their ballot papers in time for their postal votes to count in Thursday’s general election. Reports from as far afield as France, Brazil and the United States emerged this week of the problem, which has left expats “damn cheesed off” according to one campaigner. Brian Cave, 82, who has lived in south eastern France for 17 years, runs a blog focusing on expat voting rights.
PRIME Minister Mizengo Pinda has said that Tanzanians living in the Diaspora will not be eligible to vote in the General Election to be held in October, this year. He said that there are various things that the government will have to first implement to enable them to vote. Mr Pinda said this on Saturday night while addressing a gathering of Tanzanians living in the United Kingdom at the residence of Tanzania’s Ambassador to UK, Peter Kallaghe, at Highgate, south of London.
James Jackson, 71, does not have the right to vote in the UK, having become a victim of the rule preventing Britons from voting at home once they’ve been out of the country for 15 years. However, nothing in law stops him standing as a Parliamentary candidate in the general election, so he plans to throw his hat in the ring as a candidate for the safe Tory seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. In an interview with the getwestlondon news website, Mr Jackson said: “This Kafkaesque situation means that, theoretically, I could win a parliamentary seat and take my place in the House of Commons, despite living abroad and not having a vote.” The website reported that Mr Jackson formerly lived in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, working as treasurer of the former Colwyn Borough Council. He left the UK in 1996 to work as an internal auditor/treasurer for the Falkland Islands government and later retired to live in Narbonne, southern France.
The Electoral Commission has launched an ambitious drive to persuade 100,000 British expats to join the UK voting register ahead of the general election on May 7. However, pro-democracy campaigners say Britons abroad are annoyed with politicians at home over topics such as frozen pensions and winter fuel payments being cut – so they may not heed the call. Only 15,849 of the estimated 5.5 million Britons overseas were signed up to vote in UK elections as of March 2014, according to the commission. The last recruitment drive – aimed at adding 25,000 expats to the voters’ roll in the weeks before the European and local elections last May – fell flat. Only 7,079 signed up.
India: Expats To Be Allowed To Vote Through Absentee Ballot, Court Rules | International Business Times
India’s Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, on Monday asked the government to allow Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), or Indian citizens living abroad, to vote remotely. This would mean that Indians living in foreign countries would be allowed to vote from their country of residence. Until now, Indian citizens living abroad have had to travel back home in order to exercise their franchise, something not many people do. India had given voting rights to NRIs in 2010. Under the new system — e-voting — a blank postal ballot paper is emailed to the voter, who has to then fill it and send it to their constituency via post, according to a report by NDTV, a local news network. India already allows on-duty defense personnel and certain categories of government officers and exiled Kashmiri Hindus to cast their vote remotely. The apex court has reportedly said that the proposed e-voting mechanism, which could require a constitutional amendment, should be implemented within eight weeks.
The right of long-term expats to vote in federal elections goes before Ontario’s top court Tuesday, as Ottawa fights a ruling that struck down part of Canadian voting laws. Barring Canadians from voting — in this case, those who have lived abroad for more than five years — is a justified restriction in a free and democratic society, the government argues. “The residence limit to voting ensures the connection of the citizen to the place where he or she casts their vote,” the government states in its factum. “That is the social contract at the heart of our system of constitutional democracy.” In May last year, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Penny ruled that parts of the Canada Elections Act — which became law in 1993 — were unconstitutional.
Despite longstanding promises that the Irish government would this week debate and decide on the question of a presidential vote for Irish living abroad, they have failed to do so. Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh criticized the government for failing the Irish diaspora again, by not following up on their commitment to implement the Constitutional Convention’s recommendation to hold a referendum on voting rights in Presidential elections for Irish citizens abroad.
A Bill to restore voting rights to all British expatriates before next year’s general election was given permission by MPs to move to the next stage of the process today. Although a date was set for the second reading of the Bill, on March 6, it is thought unlikely that it will be successfully passed into law due to the slim window of time before Parliament is dissolved ahead of the general election in May. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a Conservative MP, raised the matter in the Commons today, urging MPs from all parties to support his efforts to get the current ’15-year rule’ abolished as soon as possible. The rule blocks Britons overseas from voting in UK elections if they have been out of the country for longer than 15 years. In his speech, made under the Ten Minute Rule – a procedure that allows MPs to seek the leave of the house to introduce a Bill – Mr Clifton-Brown said the ban on voting affects an estimated one million of the 5.5 million Britons living overseas.
A Conservative MP will make a last-ditch attempt tomorrow to get the 15-year rule affecting British expats abolished before next year’s general election. The rule blocks Britons overseas from voting in UK elections if they have been out of the country for longer than 15 years. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown will make a speech under the Ten Minute Rule – a procedure that allows MPs to seek the leave of the house to introduce a Bill – seeking to restore the vote to all British citizens. Mr Clifton Brown will ask “that leave be given to bring in a Bill to allow British citizens resident overseas for more than 15 years to vote in UK parliamentary elections and referendums, and for connected purposes”. However, he expects that this will be opposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have successfully resisted previous efforts to abolish the 15-year rule. The ban on voting affects an estimated 1.5 million of the five million Britons living overseas.