Gill Frank and Jamie Duong, Canadian citizens who have lived in the U.S. for several years, asked the Supreme Court of Canada Wednesday for the right to vote in Canadian federal elections. Under Canadian law, anyone living outside Canada loses voting rights after five years. Frank and Duong were born and raised in Canada, and both say they would like to return if they could find suitable jobs, similar, presumably, to their current positions at Princeton and Cornell universities. Duong is a dual citizen and has voted in U.S. elections. He has also taken advantage of Elections Canada’s recent decision to allow long-term ex-pats to vote in Canada if they appear in person at the voting poll
A little over 24,000 overseas Indians, who are entitled to cast their ballot in India, have registered themselves as voters. Now, in a bid to attract more such Indian citizens living abroad to become voters here, the Election Commission has launched a portal which allows them to register online. The portal also has a long list of frequently asked questions to help people understand the procedure. While there are no estimates on the number of overseas Indians eligible to vote in India, only 24,348 have registered with the poll panel.
The Government on Wednesday approved changes in electoral laws to permit Non-Resident Indians to cast their vote in assembly and Lok Sabha elections from overseas. If the proposal passes political muster in Parliament, NRIs will be able to exercise their voting rights through “proxy”. Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy. However, the facility for NRIs will not be the same as that enjoyed by service personnel. For instance, voters in the armed forces can nominate their relatives as permanent proxy to vote on their behalf. But the Union Cabinet’s approval for proxy voting by NRIs carries a caveat: they cannot nominate one proxy for all polls.
Indian expatriates from all walks of life have welcomed the Government of India’s decision to amend the existing electoral law and allow millions of Non-resident Indians (NRIs) to vote from abroad in elections back home. They opined that the decision will involve NRIs in nation-building activities and expressed hope that now political parties will give serious considerations to the problems faced by NRIs. Bindu Suresh Chettur, eminent advocate, legal consultant and President of the Indian Business and Professional Council, Dubai, welcomed the decision and said that it was a constitutional right of the NRIs.
Editorials: It matters that Nigerians in diaspora want the rights to vote for our leaders | Cynthia Okoroafor/Ventures
Ahead of the Diaspora Day celebrations scheduled for tomorrow, July 25, and with a view of the next defining round of general elections, about 17 million Nigerians in diaspora are pushing for their rights to participate in the political endeavours of the country by way of casting votes where it matters – our leadership. Although the existing merits and logistical concerns to consider in pursuing this desire might strain the possibilities, it is realisable and should be a key concern of the Nigerian government for reasons which include progress and inclusion. Unlike their around 30 counterparts across the continent, including Benin, Mozambique, Senegal, and Mali, Nigerians in diaspora are constitutionally unable to contribute to electoral activities in the country and are demanding a change. Their argument for the cause lies in their interest and commitment to the development of the country, and their present and potential contributions to the objective thus far.
Disenfranchised expat Canadians are questioning whether the Liberal government is deliberately allowing legislation aimed at restoring their voting rights to wither on the vine. The concern comes as the country’s top court set a new date for hearing their constitutional battle against provisions that strip Canadians abroad for more than five years from voting in federal elections. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed just ahead of a scheduled hearing in February to a government request for an adjournment given the introduction of Bill C-33 in late November.
Ireland’s diaspora has no chance of voting in next year’s presidential election, Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney has confirmed. Work is however starting on improving the voter registration process, he said. Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged during his St Patrick’s week visit to the US that a referendum would be held on whether or not to allow non-resident citizens, including those in Northern Ireland, to vote in presidential elections.
Editorials: The Tories promised to give expats the vote last year. It was a whopper | Giles Tremlett/The Guardian
In the rough-and-tumble of democracy, a general election is that magic moment when you kick out a politician who has reneged on their promises, or reward one who has fulfilled them. The genius, or cynicism, of Theresa May’s early election is that, after so few months of government, she has no real record to study. But here, for those wondering about her ability to flout any of her own government’s solemn pledges, is a whopper that has left millions of UK citizens in the lurch. In October her minister for the constitution, Chris Skidmore, made a clear and unequivocal pledgeto bring UK citizens living abroad back into the democratic fold, by allowing them to vote, before the next election. This was especially important to those whose lives are most traumatically affected by Brexit because they live elsewhere in the EU.
After more than two hours in a queue that snaked for more than a mile round the cosseted streets of South Kensington, Jérémy, 36, was finally nearing the voting booth – and still was not sure for which candidate he would cast his ballot. Who are the leading candidates in the French presidential election? With his two-year-old son Ernest in a pushchair, the engineer from Guildford said he had followed the campaign closely on French media but was still hesitating. Would it be the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, or the hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon? “It all feels new this time around,” he said. “Elections used to be all about left and right. This is between the centre and the extremes, continuity or change, Europe or not Europe. There are good elements in both programmes … I just don’t know. Angel, or demon?”
Bulgaria: Caretaker Justice Minister fires official over unconstitutional draft bill limiting voting rights abroad | The Sofia Globe
A controversial draft bill that would have curtailed the voting rights of Bulgarians abroad has been withdrawn and the official responsible for posting it online has been fired. This was announced by the Justice Ministry on April 5, a day after reports about the draft bill, which proposed allowing Bulgarians to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections only if they had been resident in the country three months prior to the vote. Critics immediately pointed out that this would hardly survive a challenge in the Constitutional Court. In its Wednesday statement, the ministry said that caretaker Justice Minister Maria Pavlova had identified “imperfections” in the text of the draft amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act.
Bulgaria: Expats in Germany and US take election commission to court over polling stations | The Sofia Globe
ulgarian citizens living in Germany and the United States are taking the Central Election Commission (CEC) to the Supreme Administrative Court over the commission not opening polling stations in 13 German cities and two places in the US with Bulgarian communities. This emerged from the electronic public register of complaints and communications submitted to the CEC, Bulgarian National Radio said on March 9, seventeen days ahead of Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections.
Punjab’s strong non-resident community has arrived in hordes from Canada, Britain, the US and other countries for the February 4 assembly elections in the state.
All major parties are paying special attention to the diaspora — or non-resident Indians (NRIs) — who have arrived here as the community is believed to have an influence on voting prospects in Punjab. In the past over one year, not only have NRIs extended support to the three major parties in the fray — the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal — but are also believed to have made major financial contributions to the parties.
Canada: Federal government wants expat voting rights case adjourned due to proposed legislation | The Globe and Mail
Proposed legislation granting long-term Canadian expats the right to vote will render a court fight over the issue moot, the federal government argues in new filings. As a result, the government is calling for a year-long adjournment of a Supreme Court of Canada hearing – set for February – in which two expats were expected to challenge parts of the Canada Elections Act that have disenfranchised them. “If Bill C-33 is enacted in its current form, the appellants will have the right to vote in future elections,” the government says in its motion to the chief justice. “An adjournment of the appeal is warranted to allow Parliament to debate and consider the bill.” At issue in the legal battle is a ban on Canadians’ voting in federal elections if they have lived abroad more than five years. Ontario’s top court has upheld the restriction as constitutional, prompting the pending the Supreme Court challenge.
The world has never been more interconnected than it is today. Not only are goods traded across borders, but people go abroad to work as well. Expatriates (or more commonly known as expats) are those who have lived and worked in another country, usually for a large, multinational corporation However, they are the ones who choose to remain citizens of their home country instead of applying for citizenship in their country of employment. Since they have been residing in another country, their voting rights have come into question. Countries like the United States allow their citizens to vote by a blank absentee ballot sent to them. Canada has yet to restore their expats’ voting rights, and with the new Liberal government, the issue has come up in court.
Editorials: The right to vote belongs to every Canadian — everywhere | Jamie Liew and Donald Galloway/iPolitics
Who has the right to vote? Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms appears to give a clear enough answer by stating that “every citizen has the right to vote.” The Canada Elections Act, however, currently provides that citizens who have lived abroad for more than five years are not permitted to vote. This limit was defended by the previous government as demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society, therefore constitutional. The tension between the legislation and the Charter has led to litigation by non-resident citizens going before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Liberal government has pre-empted the need for a judicial decision by tabling legislation that will ensure that the Charter right is not infringed. The proposed legislation will allow any Canadian citizen who is resident outside Canada to vote, no matter how long they have been outside the country. This is a welcome legislative intervention. It reveals a sound appreciation of the depth of the bond between the citizen and the state and augurs well for those concerned about the health of our democracy.
Ireland: Calls strengthen for voting rights for Irish in Northern Ireland and living abroad | Irish Central
Pressure is growing on the Irish government to extend voting rights in Irish presidential elections to Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and across the globe. Newry, Mourne and Down Council is the latest local authority to add its voice to the call for northerners and the diaspora to participate in future Presidential votes. Last month, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams criticized Enda Kenny after the taoiseach rejected a proposed referendum in 2017 on the right of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and in the diaspora to vote for the next President. The Taoiseach said the delay in holding a referendum was due to the need for officials to determine who would be included in a new franchise as well as the cost of the venture. Mr. Adams described the decision as “unacceptable and deeply disappointing.”
Ireland: Government will publish paper on the extension of voting rights to Irish abroad in January | Irish Post
An options paper on extending voting rights in presidential elections to Irish citizens living abroad is due in January, according to Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. The issue of extending the electoral franchise to members of the Irish Diaspora around the world was raised by Sinn Féin deputy Mary Lou McDonald TD, speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil. Ms McDonald accused the Government of a “con job” in their treatment of the prospect of the Irish abroad and those in Northern Ireland being handed the right to vote in presidential elections. But the Tánaiste rejected Sinn Féin’s accusation that the Government had been “stalling” on the issue, saying that “considerable practical implications” had been behind the motion’s apparent lack of speed.
Canada moved on Thursday to expand the ability to vote to citizens that have lived out of the country for more than five years, making good on part of the Liberal government’s campaign promise to reform election laws. The bill, introduced by Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, will also allow voter information cards to be used as identification at the polls and allow a voter to vouch for someone else without ID, measures Monsef said will improve voter participation. The proposed changes would roll back measures that were brought in under the previous Conservative government. With the one-year-old Liberal government controlling the majority in the House of Commons, the bill was all but guaranteed to pass, though Monsef said she looked forward to working with opposition parties on any improvements.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams described Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s rejection of a promised referendum next year on the right of the diaspora and Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland to vote in presidential elections as “unacceptable and deeply disappointing.” The Sinn Féin leader also criticized the announcement by the Taoiseach ruling out a referendum before the next presidential election in 2018. In his response to a question from the Sinn Féin leader, the Taoiseach blamed the delay in holding the referendum on the need for officials to determine who would be included in a new franchise, what categories of people would be covered, and the cost of the venture. Kenny, according to an Irish Times report, said he was still committed to holding a referendum on the issue of emigrant voting for the president and had recently met with Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh to request that the research being done by an interdepartmental group be concluded soon.
In spite of the long and leading march of democracy of Kuwait, the parliamentary election law does not give citizens abroad the opportunity to vote as is the case in most democratic countries. It has been the practice in democratic countries where citizens living abroad are allowed to vote in the elections, even if they are resident outside the country, making it easier for the voters to exercise their right and increase the rate of participation in the electoral process.
Participation of Kuwaitis living or studying abroad is of a great significance especially with the rise in their numbers in recent years, which is difficult for many of them to return to the country on time for the parliamentary elections.
Canada: Why Can’t Canadian Expats Vote Forever (Like Americans)? | Robert Waite /Huffington Post Canada
I have lived in Canada for 30 years and have never missed a U.S. election. Indeed, I have already voted this year, casting my ballot electronically in the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, from my home computer keyboard in Ottawa, Ontario. Until recently the process was much more cumbersome — your local town clerk received a letter from you expressing your desire to vote absentee; she sent you the ballot by mail with instructions; you filled it out, had it notarized, and mailed it back. Indeed, the one time my vote failed to register, in 1976, I was a news correspondent in Warsaw, Poland. My ballot arrived in the mail eight days after the election. No one seems to know how many Americans live in Canada. Estimates vary from 900,000 to 2 million full- and part-time residents: The 2011 census says that 372,575 people claim American “ancestry”.
British expats have at long last won the right to vote in the next general election regardless of how long since they have left the country. Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed she will change the law in time for the expected 2020 poll. Thousands of expats were stopped from voting in the Brexit referendum and the recent general election as current rules bar them from taking part if they have spent more than 15 years living outside the UK. The Electoral Commission estimates that 5.5 million Brits live overseas but only had 106,000 on voting lists for the 2015 general election – the highest number ever recorded. Alex Robertson, director of communications at the Electoral Commission said: “A lot of people aren’t aware that it’s possible to register as an overseas voter for certain UK polls – UK Parliamentary General Elections, European Parliamentary elections. Many people are eligible to vote and now it’s easier than ever to take the first step by going online.”
A study released Wednesday, described as the first of its kind, has found what political scientists have long suspected: Most American expatriates don’t vote in U.S. elections. The study by the Federal Voting Assistance Program found that voting rates for all estimated 2.6 million eligible overseas voters, excluding servicemembers and their spouses, was 4 percent in 2014. That compares to 36 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. and, according to a previous study by the FVAP, 21 percent of eligible active-duty military voters who mailed in ballots in 2014. “While we can expect to see an increase in the overall voting rates for the 2016 presidential election, we need to understand whether the overall rate for 2014 is due to low awareness of how to vote absentee or if it is related to other factors,” FVAP Director Matt Boehmer said in a news release.
Give Justin Trudeau and the Liberals high marks for creative fundraising. On the prime minister’s Facebook page he has reached out to Canadians living abroad, inviting them to donate to his party and support “Canada’s most open and progressive movement.” But give them a failing grade for consistency. Even as the Liberals woo expatriates for money, they have failed to deliver on promises to restore voting rights to Canadians who have been out of the country for more than five years. More than a million Canadians living abroad were denied the right to vote in the last federal election. Rules prohibiting those who have been away for more than five years were adopted back in 1993, but they were only enforced by the Harper government starting in 2011. The rule needlessly excludes Canadians from remaining engaged with their country’s politics and is patently unfair. In the 21st century it’s easier than ever for people living abroad to keep up with events here, and many have a long-term commitment to the country even if they have been away for years.
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.
Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev will refer to the Constitutional Court the Parliament’s “hugely regrettable” decision to override his veto on changes to election rules that could hamper voting by Bulgarian citizens residing abroad. By rejecting the veto the lawmakers “bet on a policy of confrontation even at the expense of the Constitution and basic democratic rights of citizens,” Plevneliev said in a statement on Wednesday after Parliament refused to rescind recently adopted controversial changes to the Electoral Code. The changes must be revoked as they curb the opening of polling stations abroad and will infringe on the voting rights of Bulgarian expats, according to Plevneliev.
Just under 200,000 British expats have registered to vote in the EU referendum, a small fraction of the several million eligible. British expats in Europe could have been a key constituency, on the assumption that they would be concerned at losing their right of residence. British embassies across Europe were asked to launch campaigns to persuade voters to register, with the embassy in Paris offering afternoon tea at the residence in a competition. But according to the Electoral Commission, only about 196,000 online applications have been received and a recommended cut-off point to apply for a postal vote passed this week. It said estimates showed the number of British citizens overseas might be as high as 5.5m.
Millions of Britons living abroad are being urged by the Electoral Commission to register to vote by 16 May so they can take part in the EU referendum on 23 June. About 5.5 million British citizens are estimated to live outside the UK, with at least 1.2 million of these living in other EU countries, but only a fraction are on the electoral roll. Anyone who was registered in a UK constituency during the past 15 years is entitled to vote in British elections, but half of British expats are not aware of this fact. A survey of eligible voters by the Electoral Commission, the non-partisan body that oversees elections, found that 30% of people were unsure about the rights of overseas voters, while 20% thought, wrongly, that they were not allowed to vote. The commission surveyed 4,700 people, but mostly those living in Europe, meaning the survey is not representative of all British overseas voters.
A legal challenge aimed at giving “substantial” numbers of Britons living in Europe the right to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum could throw into doubt the June 23 date of the vote if it succeeds, a court heard. The High Court in London is hearing a legal challenge against the government brought by several Britons living in Europe who claim they have been wrongly disenfranchised in the planned EU vote because they have lived outside Britain for 15 years, meaning they are ineligible to vote. The case is significant because there are between 1m to 2m Britons living in Europe — some of whom cannot vote as they have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. The government claimed in written arguments on Wednesday that if the legal challenge succeeded, it could call into question the date of the referendum on June 23 as the case has been brought “late”.
Editorials: Why is Ottawa still defending disenfranchisement of expats? | Semra Sevi & Gillian Frank/The Globe and Mail
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear a case about whether Canadians living abroad should regain their right to vote in federal elections. Over the past four years, the Conservatives sought in the courts and through legislation to prevent expatriate Canadians from regaining their voting rights. The Liberals, however, promised a different path. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” Justin Trudeau repeatedly said during the 2015 election campaign when he repudiated the Conservatives’ narrow vision of citizenship and democracy. To understand what’s at stake, it’s necessary to understand the history of expat voting rights. According to a study by Asia Pacific Foundation, 2.9 million Canadian citizens – equivalent to 9 per cent of Canada’s population – study, live and work abroad.