Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ex-Pat Voting

The big news in Canada is that a court ruled that Canadians living outside of Canada should lose their ability to vote in elections long enough.  As an ex-pat living in Canada and as a scholar who has pondered voting rights for outsiders, I am conflicted.

On the one hand, voting is the very basic right of citizenship.
On the other, if one is not paying taxes and not otherwise involved in political outcomes back home, it is not clear that one should have a say.
On a third hand, politicians may have preferences, based on what they think the voting inclinations of the outsiders might be.  Some Hungarian politicians wanted to give citizenship to the Hungarians abroad in part because it was soft irredentism but mostly because they figured that these people would vote for their party (Fidesz).

To be clear, voting rights should not be decided by politicians with skin in the game, as they tend to do things like #voterfraudfraud to disenfranchise those inclined to vote against them.  So, strike/amputate that third hand.

As an American in Canada, I have voted in most major American elections since I left the US.  Why?  I still do American tax forms, so I think I have a stake in the system (US is fairly exceptional in making ex-pats pay taxes on foreign income).  Also, I still identify strongly as an American.  Some point this year, my identity will get complicated as I will be a dual citizen and will eventually vote in Canadian elections.  Should I stop voting at that point in American elections?  I am not sure.  I see the point that outsiders should not be involved.  However, I find that rights matter more than optics or even that which feels just a bit inappropriate.  Since I think that voting rights are the most basic rights, the most fundamental right, and I worry about politicians playing #voterfraudfraud, I guess I stand on the side of the Canadian ex-pats living in the US and wanting to vote in Canadian election.

It will be interesting to see how these decisions in Canada play out as they go higher up in the court system.  

Update: after engaging in some twitter discussion, I realized that my stance is more absolute.  There is only one class for citizenship.  Creating second class citizenship is just inherently problematic.


Blair said...

Two comments/questions associated with your blog post.

1) Unlike a lot of places, our elections in Canada are based on ridings. We do not have a vote for the Prime Minister we vote for our individual member in the ridings in which we are a resident. If an expat has left the country and has deliberately identified themselves as a non-resident (which many do to avoid paying taxes) in what riding do you suggest they get to vote?

2) Your blog post includes the word "right" seven times but does not include the word responsibility a single time. Our "rights" as citizens should be matched by our responsibilities as citizens. If a Canadian has identified themselves as being a non-resident in order to deliberately avoid paying taxes, have they not surrendered their right to vote by abdicating their responsibilities as a resident of Canada? I am not saying that we take away anyone's citizenship, that is ridiculous in my mind. However, I see an expat who has declared themselves to be a non-resident to be a different tier, worthy of our consular protection etc.. but not allowed to vote until they re-establish Canadian residency.

Steve Saideman said...

1) I guess they should vote in the last riding they lived in. I vote in the US in Virginia, the last state in which I resided.

2) Lots of Canadians don't pay taxes but can vote. So, I understand this idea of responsibility (taking the citizenship text next week and all), but voting is more fundamental than any responsibility. The idea of creating second class citizenship is just so very problematic.

I do get what you are saying, I just disagree. Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

This critique of Ont CA majority judgment on expat voting is well worth reading: http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/reframing-the-debate-over-expat-voting/