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Should long-term expats vote?

I know, it's a constitutional right: if you still have citizenship of your country of origin, most constitutions say it shouldn't matter if you've lived abroad for decades. You have the right to vote.

For example, federal law gives US expats who no longer are residents of any state the right to vote in presidential, senate and house elections in the state in which they were last residents as if they were still residents there. But does this really make sense? For example, decades after leaving Connecticut, the expat living in Bangkok has the right to vote for congressman and senator from his old district and to vote for the Connecticut electors in the presidential race. I'm not seeing how this makes a lot of sense.

Most recently, there was a row in Canada (about a couple years ago) over Harper's (quite successful) efforts to disenfranchise Canadian expats from voting. More recently, British citizens also lost a legal battle in court over UK's ban of expats from voting on the EU referendum (political calculation?) On the other hand, now probably in a display of political calculation, the Tories are planning to lift a ban on 15 year expats from voting.


And frankly, I'm raising the issue because of yesterday's parliamentary election here in Bulgaria, where the main issue of the campaign wasn't jobs, immigration, the EU, the economy or any other such thing of importance – but whether our Turk expats now living in Turkey should be allowed to become tools in the hands of an Erdogan-sponsored new ethnic party (called DOST), which was threatening to disrupt the monopoly that another ethnic Turk party (DPS) used to have over the hearts and minds of our Turk compatriots, whom he held as serfs for decades. Long story really. In a nutshell, Erdogan was trying to influence our domestic politics by installing a puppet inside our parliament, namely this DOST party. And he pressured and manipulated the thousands of Bulgarian ethnic Turks now living in Turkey into voting for his new puppet. The thing is, even though they haven't lived here for a quarter of a century, don't speak our official language any more, and have completely divorced themselves from our political life, all those people still hold dual citizenship and as per our constitution they have the right to vote in our elections, period. So once more we saw hundreds of buses arriving in organized "voter excursions" across the border, sponsored by the Turkish government – full of ethnic Turks who haven't lived here in BG for decades, suddenly showing up and demanding their right to vote. And there was no legal reason to stop them, of course. Many didn't even speak the language any more. Most didn't know how to write their names in Bulgarian. And they still voted (the constitution says that all documents and all campaign propaganda should be done in the official language, not Turkish – but I guess some points in the constitution don't matter that much when such powerful foreign interests are at stake). DOST didn't make it into parliament, for the record. But it caused quite a lot of drama.

Anyway. Our very local/regional woes aside, observing the obvious, voting is done at multiple levels: local, regional and national. Policies for ex-patriot voting need to consider the impact on voting at all levels. So my question is, does it make sense that someone who has lived for years in another place should still have the right to determine the policies directly affecting a country they're no longer involved with? Why should someone living in Anatolia who hasn't paid any taxes to my government, and who doesn't even speak the language of the country any more, be able to come here and vote (or stay wherever they now live and vote from a distance), to determine MY future? What do they care? Why should they matter? Is it right that their government should be able to influence our politics using them as a tool?

If you are living overseas for many years, it seems intuitive that an informed connection to local issues through local values is likely lost or changed by a long-term foreign residence before a similar national connection is lost. Assuming voting is all or none, voting cannot be allowed at the national level while dis-allowing it in local elections (which the constitution already does). Therefore it seems reasonable that a long absence is at least one valid criteria to put voting eligibility on hold.

For fairness sake, I should also present the opposite argument. Some have argued that someone not following politics here as closely, potentially making worse choices at the ballot box or being more prone to manipulations as a result, is a rather dumb argument. After all, millions of domestic citizens are ignorant of local (and state and federal) politics as well, and yet they are still allowed to vote, right? And voter disenfranchisement based on discriminatory criteria like education (or rather, complete lack thereof), social position, wealth, not to mention race, religion or ethnicity, is inherently un-democratic and potentially dangerous for statehood itself. Granted, the constitution has been more than clear on the issue: there are no second-class citizens. If you are a citizen, then you have all the rights and responsibilities of all other citizens. Even if for some reason (maybe as my country's way of apologizing to those people for mistreating them in the past and being the reason that they've moved elsewhere in the first place), you have still retained a dual citizenship. Perhaps we should start re-thinking dual citizenship as well then? But without discriminating based on ethnicity or origin – if we do it at all, the rule may as well be universal for all expats. Your thoughts?

Source: Talk politics.

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