Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

October 8th, 2003

The right to vote

Until I moved to Canada I had never really considered the question of when someone should be allowed to vote, and when they shouldn’t. When you are a citizen of a country, and almost all of the people you know are also citizens the question of eligibility does not arise.

The issue is of particular importance in Latvia because 21% of Latvian residents are not citizens, and they are currently excluded from all elections including local elections. It seems clear to me that when nearly a quarter of the permanent residents in a country are dis-enfranchised in this way that something needs to change.

As a Brit in Canada I can’t vote in any Canadian election whether National or Provincial. If I “landed” (i.e. became a permanent resident) then I would still be excluded from voting, regardless of how long I lived here, unless I took up Canadian citizenship. Conversely I’m eligible to vote in the UK despite being out of the country for the last 3 years.

In the EU any EU Citizen is allowed to vote (even stand for office) at the local level if they are a resident. This logic hasn’t been extended to voting in national elections, and I doubt it will be any time soon.

With the increased mobility (particularly in Europe) of people between countries I would like to see the right to vote being tied to permanent residency. The latest EU directive on freedom of movement will bring an immediate right to permanent residency for EU citizens after 5 years in a member state. This seems to me like an appropriate length of time before someone is able to make an informed electoral choice in a country.

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Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

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