Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan has said that Irish citizens abroad should be able to vote in Irish Presidential elections. The Minister is currently on his first official visit to the United States since taking up the newly created office during the summer. Today he announced Government funding of nearly €2m for services supporting Irish emigrants in the US. The Constitutional Convention recommended that a referendum be called to extend voting rights in Irish Presidential Elections to people in Northern Ireland and Irish citizens around the world. The Department of the Environment is currently putting together a proposal in response to this which will be brought to the Government before Christmas, the Minister said.
As with the big independence decision itself, the issue of whether Scottish citizens living outside their homeland should be allowed to vote on the country’s future is the source of fevered debate. An estimated 1.15 million Scots will be watching from the sidelines on Thursday when the country decides whether or not to break away from the United Kingdom — including many high-profile campaigners such as James Bond actor Sean Connery, a pro-independence champion. While many accept the terms of the referendum agreed by London and Edinburgh which only allows current residents of Scotland to vote, others are furious that they will have no say on Scotland’s future, with some declaring their exclusion illegal.
The Conservatives have pledged to abolish the “15 year rule” that prevents millions of British expats from being able to vote – if the party wins the next general election. The manifesto commitment is designed to protect the rights of citizens overseas who have “contributed to Britain all their lives” according to a Tory spokesman. He said that if the party wins power next May, it will remove the cap that prevents Britons from voting in UK elections after they have been out of the country for 15 years and allow them the vote for life. “Millions of British citizens live and work across the globe. Many have worked hard, contributed to Britain all their lives, and have close family living in Britain,” said the spokesman.
A campaign to persuade British expats to vote in the European and local elections fell well short of its target, according to the Electoral Commission. An estimated 5.5 million Britons live overseas, but only a fraction – around 20,000 – were registered to vote in the UK as of February this year. The commission ran a campaign in the weeks before the elections on May 22 to encourage 25,000 more of them to register. However, only 7,079 did so – less than a third of the number hoped for. The Electoral Commission’s pre-ballot campaign involved advertisements on expat radio stations, and collaborations with the Foreign Office, groups such as Votes for Expat Brits, and political parties’ overseas networks. But in a report reflecting on the campaign, the commission disclosed that, although the number of registration forms downloaded from its website by Britons overseas was higher than for the previous European elections, it “fell well short” of its target. “Although we were disappointed not to hit our target we recognise that expatriates at these elections may have chosen to register to vote in their EU countries of residence,” said the report.
Irish passport-holders residing aboard may have a vote to elect three members to the Senate. Junior minister with responsibility for the diaspora Jimmy Deenihan outlined a proposed action plan to appoint three Senators with respective responsibility for “the Americas, Europe/ UK, and Australia/elsewhere”. Along with having a say in presidential elections, he indicated the Senate initiative could be part of a revitalised approach towards representing Irish passport holders abroad and inviting investment. Mr Deenihan had estimated the number of Irish passport holders abroad as “well over a million”. The former Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht Affairs minister also said, smilingly, that he had informed Taoiseach Enda Kenny — “when he was compensating me” — there was no point in having the new portfolio unless there was some action plan to accompany it.
From the time he was a wee lad on his grandpa’s knee, Ian Cowe had pride in his Scottish roots drummed into his bonny little head. Born in Edinburgh, he went to college there, spent part of his career in Scotland and joined the local Scottish cultural society when he was posted to Hong Kong. So he takes great interest in the referendum that could change his homeland, and the rest of Britain, forever. In September, voters in Scotland will decide whether the time has come to split from England and Wales and form the world’s newest independent nation, without a single shot fired. Cowe, 82, now lives in pleasant retirement in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England’s northernmost town. He can stand on the centuries-old ramparts and gaze across the border at Scotland just two miles away. He can get to Edinburgh by train — which he does once a week — faster than to the nearest English city, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. What he can’t do is cast a ballot Sept. 18. Only people living in Scotland proper have the right to vote in the binding plebiscite, leaving “expatriate” Scots such as Cowe without a say in the matter, regardless of their family history, emotional ties or sense of Scottish identity.
Nigerians living overseas may be on the verge of realising their dream of exercising voting rights during future elections in the country. This is because the National Conference delegates yesterday voted in favour of Nigerians in the diaspora to exercise their voting rights and participate adequately in elections. The Committee on Foreign Policy and Diaspora Matters had explained in their report that in line with the provisions of section 13(1) C of the Electoral Act 2096 as amended and sections 77(2) and 117(2) of the Constitution of the country, which provided that only citizens present in Nigeria as at the time of registration of voters can register and vote in any elections. It said the provision had disenfranchised millions of Nigerians living abroad, who are vehemently seeking to exercise their voting rights as part of their fundamental human rights.
More than one million Canadians living abroad are now eligible to cast ballots in the next federal election after a court struck down a law stripping them of their voting rights. While mass murderers have the right to vote, long-term expats “who care deeply about Canada” do not have the right, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Penny said in his decision. Penny found part of the Canada Elections Act, which bars expatriates who have lived abroad for more than five years from voting, is unconstitutional. “The (government) essentially argues that allowing non-residents to vote is unfair to resident Canadians because resident Canadians live here and are, on a day-to-day basis, subject to Canada’s laws and live with the consequences of Parliament’s decisions.”
Chile has reformed its constitution to give voting rights to citizens living outside the country. The measure was more than 20 years in the making, and is seen as a major victory for the many Chileans who left the country during its long dictatorship. Tuesday’s Senate approval came after a deal between the center-left ruling coalition and right-wing politicians. The vote was 28-5 in favor with three abstentions. The House of Deputies passed the measure last week.
A million Scots living outside of Scotland should be allowed to vote in a referendum this year on whether their country becomes an independent nation, one of them said on Monday as he sought backing for a legal challenge. James Wallace, a Scottish-born trainee lawyer who lives in England, is among the 1.15 million Scots who are excluded from the vote as they are not resident there. Anyone over the age of 16 living in Scotland – about 80 percent of the 5.2 million population – has the right to vote on September 18 either for independence or to remain part of the United Kingdom alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That means 800,000 Scots living in the rest of the UK and others in large Scottish communities in countries such as the United States, Canada and Ireland will have no say.
The Irish abroad do not need a voice in Leinster House because they have the likes of Facebook and Twitter, a minister from the Irish Government has claimed. Speaking exclusively to The Irish Post, Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes said all Irish passport holders should be given a say in Ireland’s Presidential elections. But the growth of social media has eliminated their need for a political voice at home, he added. The Fine Gael TD’s comments come amidst revelations that Irish emigration is at an all-time high. Almost 90,000 people left Ireland in the 12 months to April this year, with one person emigrating every four minutes and 60 starting a new life in Britain every day. Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson for the Irish overseas previously told The Irish Post that the Government must respond to the mass exodus by giving the Irish abroad a voice in the Oireachtas rather than just a “tokenistic” vote for its President.
With South Africa’s next national election coming up in 2014, the right of citizens to vote abroad looks set to be written into law. The Electoral Act of 1998 currently only allows government officials, travelling sporting teams and people on business trips or holidays abroad to cast special votes – if they notify the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) within 15 days of the proclamation of the election date. However, in 2009 this stipulation was successfully challenged in court by the Freedom Front Plus, AfriForum and others. The Constitutional Court found in Richter v Minister of Home Affairs and Others that the Electoral Act was unconstitutional and invalid as it prevented South Africans living overseas from voting. This meant that South Africans in the UK and elsewhere were allowed to vote in the 2009 national election. Now the IEC has taken this a step further and proposed amendments to the Electoral Act that would allow people to vote no matter where they are on election day.
A new voting campaign is about to go live online to attract British expats back into UK politics. After successive disappointing local and national election turn-outs and fearing more coalition governments, the Electoral Commission wants more expats to use their votes. However, they seem to have forgotten most of them left Britain because they didn’t like living here anyway. Around 5 million British expats live overseas, and around 1 million have the vote, but only 20,000 are on the electoral roll. The Electoral Commission wants to up this number and aims to urge expats to vote by sending emails to expats who set up the account in the UK and advertising the right online – especially via British news sites and the BBC. The commission wants to try and muster more support for the polls – and has the next round of European elections in May and the general election in 2015 as targets. Expat voters could qualify to enter the ballot on the yes/no referendum on the European Union promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The major political parties have launched a pitch for the votes of thousands of expatriate Australians who could influence the final result in this year’s federal election. The Australian Electoral Commission says over 74,000 votes were cast from overseas at the previous federal election in 2010 and it’s expecting similar numbers this time. The major parties are distributing campaign material to potential voters overseas and say they will have volunteers handing out how to vote cards around the world in the lead up to polling day. The Australian Electoral Commission is encouraging voters who are likely to be overseas on the date of the federal election to cast a vote through Australian embassies and consulates. Voters who will be overseas for a short time can fill in an AEC form with details of their electoral division and cast a vote either through the post or through voting centres which will be set up at diplomatic missions.
A three-member Supreme Court bench on Friday observed that without the participation of eligible overseas Pakistani voters, elections could not be called fair and transparent. The bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was hearing a petition filed by PTI chief Imran Khan seeking voting rights for Pakistanis living abroad. The bench noted that participation of overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming general elections was possible given right steps are taken by concerned authorities.
Joining the ranks of countries like Mexico, Venezuela and over 100 countries in the world, El Salvador passed legislation earlier this week allowing citizens living abroad to vote in the country’s presidential elections. With around 1.8 million Salvadorans living in the United States – around one-sixth of the country’s 6 million citizens – the absentee votes could have a huge impact in the country’s upcoming presidential elections where Salvadoran’s next year will elect a successor to President Maurcio Funes.“This is a historic day finally, as a state, we fulfilled the constitutional right for our citizens living abroad,” Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez said in a press release of the bi-partisan legislation. “Their voice and vote can be taken into account the political system, from anywhere in the world.”
Cyprus: Forty polling stations to operate abroad during Cyprus presidential elections | Famagusta Gazette
Forty polling stations will operate abroad during the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for February 17. According to the Office of the Chief Returning Officer, there will five polling stations in Athens, three in Thessaloniki, as well as polling stations in Volos, Heraklion, Ioannina, Komotini, Larissa, Patra, Rethymno and Rhodes. Five polling stations will operate in London at the High Commission building and two at the Cypriot Community Centre. In other parts of the UK there will be a polling station in Leeds, two in Manchester, two in Birmingham and one in Bristol. Polling stations will also operate in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Brussels, Manama (Bahrain), New York, Doha, Paris, Prague, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Sofia.
Egypt’s referendum on a controversial draft constitution will now take place on two separate dates, Egyptian state television said on Wednesday. The electoral commission announced that the vote, initially set only for December 15, will take place both on Saturday and a week later on December 22, Nile TV said. The respective rounds of the referendum will be divided into two regions, it said. The TV report came as Egypt’s official news agency said embassies around the world opened their doors to expatriate voters.
The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan has given the strongest indication yet that proxy voting would be allowed during the December polls. He made the assertion during an interaction with senior journalists at the Editors’ Forum. According to Dr. Afari Gyan the EC initially had written off proxy voting because of the biometric voting. He however conceded that after careful consideration they [Electoral Commission] had devised a means to allow for proxy voting.
On Saturday, Canada saw its quietest election ever. It was the don’t ask, don’t tell election. Thousands of French citizens in Canada voted to choose a member of France’s National Assembly representing North America, in the first round of legislative elections. But Canada, alone among the world’s nations, objected to the election in the first place and said it shouldn’t be held on Canadian soil. Having someone represent Canada in another country’s parliament infringes on our sovereignty, Ottawa has decided. They don’t want rough foreign politics in our genteel streets. The French went ahead and Canada couldn’t stop it, so they made a deal with the French government: Have your election, but keep it quiet. The campaigning, heading to a second-round vote on June 16, is being done mostly through social media and in private places. It was a trade-off, but a worthless one. It showed Canada can’t stop foreign elections here. And it was yet more proof there really isn’t much point in trying. Canada is the only country in the world that objects. It’s time to get over it. Globalization is here. The trend will grow as more people spend time outside their native lands and many countries seek to have their diasporas vote.
Canada: Law stripping voting rights from Canadian ex-pats unconstitutional, legal challenge argues | National Post
A law stripping voting rights from more than a million expatriate Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years should be struck down as unconstitutional, according to a legal challenge served on the federal government Tuesday. The new application, filed in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of two Canadians living in the United States, argues the five-year rule in the Canada Elections Act is arbitrary and unreasonable. “I was very surprised to learn that I have no voting rights, that I have no capacity to interact with my government formally, that there’s no one representing me,” said Gillian Frank, 33, who works in Brooklyn, N.Y. “My sense of being disenfranchised and the fundamental unfairness of it all motivated me (to file the suit).”
Mexico: Mexican-American vote in Mexico election hampered by apathy, hurdles | San Jose Mercury News
Juan Castro is voting for two presidents this year: one for the United States and another for Mexico. “I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for,” said the San Jose resident. “To tell you the truth, the three main candidates who are running are worthless, more of the same.” He’s talking about the Mexican election. The three-month campaign for Mexico’s July 1 presidential and congressional election officially began Friday. “They’re all career politicians. As far as parties, they’re all the same.” Still, four decades after he moved to the United States, the municipal accountant at Sunnyvale City Hall is one of more than 12,000 Mexican-Americans in California who have registered to vote in the election, a fraction of the nearly 4 million eligible.
The Uganda Federal Alliance has threatened to sue the Electoral Commission for failing to ensure Ugandans living in the Diaspora vote. Addressing journalists in Kampala on Tuesday, UFA president Beti Kamya said it is a constitutional right of every national to participate in the elections of the country despite living outside its borders. “Article 62 of our Constitution states that the Electoral Commission is independent and there is no way it can base its adamancy on policy. People in the Diaspora contribute greatly to our economy and we can’t just undermine them like that,” she said. Ms Kamya said her party had established a five-member steering committee to oversee the court process.
Kenyans in the diaspora want to be involved in decisions on the country’s political process to ensure their rights are safeguarded. They said they would not acknowledge the work of any taskforce set up by the government or ambassadorial offices without their direct participation. In a three-hour meeting on Sunday, participants vowed they won’t be left out of Kenya’s political process and resolved to ensure that the civil rights of Kenyans living abroad were not violated. The meeting was conducted via Skype and telephone connections and brought together more than 100 diaspora leaders and organisations from the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Australia and several others.
According to local media reports, the decision was made at a meeting at the headquarters of the Election Commission in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The change is expected to affect more than three million Pakistanis living abroad, with another meeting expected soon to decide whether voting should take place by postal ballot, or at polling stations set up at foreign embassies.
Voting will be limited however to those Pakistanis who have a National Card for Overseas Pakistanis or NICP card, an identification card which allows expats visa-less entry into their home country.
Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said yesterday he had never suggested that only tax-paying Malaysians overseas are allowed to become postal voters. Instead, he said, what he suggested was that in determining the eligibility of Malaysians abroad to become postal voters, they might need to fulfill certain conditions as practised in other countries. This is due to the fact that not all Malaysians abroad are eligible to become postal voters, he told reporters after receiving the Umar Abdul Aziz Award at the state-level Maulidur Rasul celebration here yesterday. For instance, he said, there were countries which allowed their citizens to become postal voters provided that they had been abroad no longer than five years and had made a trip back home during the period. In some countries, he said, the period allowable was four years.
A total of 85 polling stations in 41 countries—the greatest number ever—will be open outside the homeland on Feb. 18 for a national referendum to decide if Russian should become an official language alongside Latvian. The Central Election Commission in Rīga announced the list Jan. 20 after the Constitutional Court decided not to interfere in the referendum, although it will take up a case questioning the legitimacy of parts of Latvia’s initiative and referendum law.
Despite relaxing regulations, Mexico authorities say they expect just a fraction of the 10.8 million voting-age Mexicans living in the U.S. to register to vote in time for the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, reported it had received 24,154 registrations as of Jan. 6—the latest count available. Voter registration for Mexican nationals abroad ends Sunday, Jan. 15. There are 11.7 million foreign-born Mexicans living in the United States, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 92.3 percent of whom are of voting age.
The time has come for the EC to fulfil the task of helping Malaysians to exercise their right as voters rather than excluding some because of an archaic interpretation, writes Christopher Chong. Article 119 of the Federal Constitution gives the right to vote in elections to every Malaysian citizen who is 21 or above. The Article defines a voter as being either a resident of a constituency or an absent voter. A resident of a constituency simply means someone who lives in a constituency in which he or she has registered with the Election Commission (EC) to vote in.
The clock is ticking as the registration deadline fast approaches for Mexican expatriates to vote in their country of origin’s presidential election this year. Although Mexican election officials are confident a late rush of applications will mean greater absentee participation than in the 2006 election, preliminary reports of the number of applications received indicate few expatriates will vote in the 2012 race.
According to Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), 14, 776 voter registration applications had been received as of December 20. That’s out of a potential voter pool of an estimated four million migrants. Opened in October, the registration window for Mexicans living abroad closes on January 15-more than four months before the July election.