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Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey of an Emerging Democratic Norm

Noncitizen Voting Rights:
A Survey of an Emerging Democratic Norm
David C. Earnest
Department of Political Science
The George Washington University
Washington, DC
August 29, 2003
This paper is prepared for delivery at the 2003 annual convention of
the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
August 28-31, 2003. Copyright by the American Political Science
I would like to thank Martha Finnemore, James N. Rosenau, Susan Sell
and Erik Voeten for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this
paper. I also thank Ragne Beiming, Andreas Carlgren, Brita Cronquist,
Christoph Meran, Carlos Orga, Claes Thorson, and Tomas Udden for
patiently responding to my many questions about their respective
states’ policies and practices.
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 1
David C. Earnest
. . . the citizenship qualification carries the aura of
inevitability that once attached to the property, race and gender
[voter] qualifications.1
As Raskin (1993) suggests in the epigraph, to many observers it
seems only natural that citizenship is a prima facie qualification for
the right to vote. Yet, like previously “natural” qualifications for
voting such as race, gender or property, states and citizens of
democracies across the globe have questioned both the practicality and
the morality of limiting the franchise to those who are citizens. In
an era of large-scale migration, democracies today host populations of
aliens that reside within their borders for years—-if not decades or
lifetimes—-that pay taxes, face compulsory obligations like the draft,
and often share more political interests with their local neighbors
than they do with the citizens in their home countries.2 It is little
surprise, then, that in the last four decades governments and citizens
have come to embrace voting rights for aliens.
What is surprising, however, is the extent of alien suffrage
today. As this chapter shows, there are twenty-two states in which
resident aliens have at least some voting rights, and two others whose
constitutions explicitly permit their legislatures the discretion to
enfranchise resident aliens. Though rights in these states differ
widely in their scale--that is, the right to vote in local versus
national elections--and in their scope--the right belongs to specific
alien nationalities versus a general right for all resident aliens--
this variability raises important questions about the sources of these
rights. Why do some states limit rights to specific nationals, while
others extend the rights to all resident aliens? Why can resident
aliens vote in national elections in some states, and only in local
elections in others? Why can resident aliens within a given nation-
state vote in some municipalities, but those in other municipalities
have no voting rights? There are six states, furthermore, which have
considered alien suffrage but have rejected it. These six states—-plus
two others that “rolled back” or rescinded the rights—-offer important
opportunities for comparison. Why did the Netherlands enact alien
suffrage with nearly universal support, for example, but Belgium failed
to do so? Why did Australia roll back the rights it extended to
British nationals, but New Zealand expanded its voting rights for
resident aliens to become the most permissive state in the world?
1 Jamin B. Raskin, “Legal Aliens, Local Citizens: The Historical,
Constitutional, and Theoretical Meanings of Alien Suffrage.”
University of Pennsylvania Law Review, v. 141 (April 1993), p. 1394.
2 Again it is worth quoting Raskin: “While my Canadian and Brazilian
neighbors and I may have different interests or approaches on
international issues like acid rain or regional trade, we presumably
have identical interests in efficient garbage collection, good public
schools, speedy road repair, and so on.” (Raskin 1993, p. 1452)
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David C. Earnest
These cases are in addition to the consideration that international law
gives to the voting rights of resident aliens, in particular the
Maastricht Treaty of the European Union as amended by the Treaty of
Amsterdam. Taken together, there are 31 democratic states that have
alien franchise rights, have rescinded such rights, or have considered
but specifically rejected such rights. This represents one in four of
the world’s democracies, a substantial democratic practice that
deserves broader investigation.
This paper surveys the practice of voting rights for resident
aliens in the world today. It shows that although the practice is
surprisingly widespread--from Europe to South America, to Australia and
New Zealand--the specific institutions that each state has adopted vary
considerably. Some states have enacted rights that discriminate on the
basis of the resident alien’s nationality, others have
nondiscriminatory rights, and some have moved from a discriminatory
regime to a nondiscriminatory one. Some democracies allow resident
aliens to vote only in local elections, while others permit resident
aliens to vote in national or parliamentary elections. The paper
proceeds to develop a typology of voting rights on the basis of two
criteria--the discriminatory or nondiscriminatory nature of the right,
and the type of election in which resident aliens may vote. I conclude
the paper with a discussion of the implications of this typology for an
investigation of the reasons why states have adopted voting rights for
resident aliens.
It is important to note that while I attempt to be comprehensive,
the cases this paper identifies may not include every example of a
state that enfranchises resident aliens.3 There are a number of reasons
to suspect it is not exhaustive. For one, as this paper shows, some
states allow municipalities and sub-national jurisdictions to determine
their own qualifications for the franchise. This is typical of federal
states such as the United States and Switzerland. As a consequence
there may well be a number of cities, towns, or provinces in which
resident aliens can vote but may not participate in national elections.
Vienna, Austria just recently enfranchised its entire population of
resident aliens, for example, even though national law limits the right
to citizens of EU member states. (Meran 2003) As the case of the
United States shows, in which only a few small towns offer the
franchise to resident aliens, these cases may be obscure and easy to
overlook.4 Because the political rights of resident aliens may vary
within states as well as between them, can vary over time, and may even
vary on the basis of issues (such as the practice in Chicago and New
York City of allowing resident aliens to vote in school board
elections) one can reasonably surmise that a number of observations may
be omitted from this paper. Another reason to suspect this paper is
not exhaustive is that the practice of enfranchising resident aliens
remains controversial. The German Federal Constitutional Court argued
3 Jordan (1993) mentions Argentina as a state that allows all resident
aliens to vote, for example, though I have found no other sources to
confirm this.
4 Of the six towns in Maryland that allow resident aliens to vote in all
municipal elections, for example, by far the largest is Takoma Park,
with a population of 17,299 according to the 2000 census.
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 3
David C. Earnest
that such rights undermined democratic legitimacy when it struck down
the voting rights which Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg allotted to
their resident aliens. (Tomforde 1990) Negative observations by their
nature are difficult to observe; the controversy surrounding the
enfranchisement of resident aliens makes them more so.
A final reason to suspect this paper may overlook important
examples is that, at least in recent years, political scientists
largely have ignored “technical” issues like voter qualification
requirements. Most political science data on electoral systems today,
such as the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems dataset, collect
data only on electoral institutions such as legislative, executive and
judicial structures, electoral rules for the counting and casting of
votes, and apportionment. It seems as if political scientists treat
voter eligibility as an axiomatic, technical-legal issue that is
largely apolitical; if so, this is an ironic assumption since legal
scholars have argued that the reasons for and barriers to alien
enfranchisement, at least in the United States, are political rather
than legal (Neuman 1992, pp. 322-330; Raskin 1993, pp. 1431-1442;
Harper-Ho 2000). The issue of voting rights for resident aliens
reminds us that, just as in the era of suffragettes and the civil
rights movement, voter eligibility requirements remain a highly
contested political process that is centrally constitutive to politics,
since it defines the body politic. Alien suffrage is an important
example of an expansion of the franchise for another reason,
furthermore: resident aliens are perhaps the first social group to
receive voting rights in the absence of large-scale social unrest or
war. Unlike the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, resident
aliens have received the franchise without an attendant social
upheaval. Voter eligibility requirements remain highly political, yet
at least for resident aliens the nature of this contestation has
Despite these reasons for possible oversights, the available
evidence shows that the practice of enfranchising resident aliens is
prevalent among democracies. As the timeline in Figure 1 shows,
furthermore, the practice is spreading. This growth begs important
questions that I address in another study (Earnest, forthcoming): does
the growth of these rights indicate an emerging norm of democratic
practice? If so, to what degree do states exercise discretion over the
institutional implementation of the norm? As this empirical overview
shows, furthermore, there is considerably variation in the scope and
scale of the rights that states have provided to resident aliens. This
variation itself is an important puzzle.
A Typology of Resident Alien Suffrage
The voting rights that aliens have vary widely from state to
state both in their scope and scale. For the purposes of this survey,
the “scope” of resident-alien voting rights refers to the size of the
alien population in a given state that has the franchise. Some states
extend voting rights to resident aliens of all nationalities, while
other states offer the franchise only to resident aliens who have
migrated from specific countries. The “scale” of voting rights refers
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David C. Earnest
to the types of elections in which resident aliens may vote. In some
states, resident aliens can vote only in municipal, local or state
Figure 1: Postwar timeline of resident-alien voting rights.
elections, while in others they have the right to vote in elections for
national executive or parliamentary office. Using the scope and scale
of voting rights as axes, one can typify the cases of states that
enfranchise resident aliens into different categories. This paper
categorizes the states that have considered or that allow voting rights
for resident aliens into six groups: (a) those states that have
considered but rejected such rights; (b) those states in which the
national government does not grant a right to vote, but localities,
cities, or provinces may offer voting rights to resident aliens for
local elections only; (c) states in which the national government
enfranchises specific nationalities only, but only for local elections;
(d) states in which the national government enfranchises specific
nationalities only, but these nationalities may vote in parliamentary
or national elections; (e) states in which the national government
enfranchises all resident aliens irrespective of nationality, but these
aliens may vote only in local elections; and (f) states in which the
national government enfranchises resident aliens irrespective of
nationality, and these resident aliens may vote in parliamentary or
national elections.5 It is important to note that states within these
5 This typology may be inexact, however. At least one state (Sweden)
has allowed resident aliens to vote in national referenda, even though
Switzerland (Jura;
Neuchatel since 1849)
EU (Maastrict Treaty)
Finland (since 1919) New Zealand Venezuela Takoma Park, MD
Australia Portugal Ireland
Sweden (national) Bolivia
United Kingdom (local only) Arlington, VA
Denmark Spain (school board)
Uruguay (school board) Norway Iceland EU (Treaty of Amsterdam)
Canada France Germany Belgium
Belgium Japan
Australia Washington, DC France
Los Angeles Latvia
New York
Opted not to enfranchise
resident aliens Enfranchised resident aliens
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 5
David C. Earnest
Figure 2: The scope and scale of resident-alien voting rights in 26
states. *National constitution provides for an act of law to enfranchise
resident aliens, but legislature has not enacted such a law.
categories vary as well. Uruguay and New Zealand each allow any
resident alien to vote in national elections, for example. Uruguay
requires the alien, however, to have resided in Uruguay for fifteen
years before qualifying for the franchise, a stark contrast to New
Zealand’s residency requirement of one year. Likewise, several states
have constitutional provisions the permit the legislature to enact law
that would enfranchise resident aliens, but have not done so. Figure 2
graphs those states that allow resident aliens to vote according to the
discriminatory nature of and scale of the rights.
it normally permits them to vote only in local elections. (Beiming and
Thorson, 2003)
Australia (before 1984)
Canada (before 1975)
New Zealand (since 1967)
United Kingdom
Ireland (since 1984)
New Zealand (before 1967)
Local Elections National Elections
Denmark (1977 to 1981)
Finland (1981 to 1991)
Iceland (1920 to 1995)
Norway (1978 to 1982)
Localities only
Germany (1989-1990)
United States
Denmark (since 1981)
Finland (since 1991)
Ireland (1963 to 1984)
Norway (since 1982)
Specific resident aliens
All resident aliens
Scale of Rights
Scope of Rights
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David C. Earnest
Voting Rights Granted by Localities
In federal systems, local or provincial governments may enjoy the
constitutional authority to determine voter eligibility qualifications
for their own local elections, and may determine qualifications for
national elections as well (some may even have “citizens” who are not
citizens of the nation-state). In several of these federal states
municipalities or provinces have granted resident aliens the right to
vote. As a consequence, several federal states have produced a
variety of resident-alien voting regimes that differ not only from
other nation-states but from other jurisdictions within the federal
system as well. In this respect, the practice of enfranchising
resident aliens is a “bottom-up” phenomenon that emerges first at the
local level. There are four important examples of resident-alien
voting rights emerging at the local level in federal systems: the
Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the United States.
In the Federal Republic of Germany, two states and West Berlin
established limited voting rights for resident aliens in 1989. Hamburg
enfranchised all resident aliens who had resided in the state for more
than eight years to vote in local elections, while Berlin required only
five years of residency (Neuman 1992; Soysal 1994, p. 128). Schleswig-
Holstein also limited the voting of resident aliens to local elections
only but further limited these rights to Danish, Irish, Dutch, Norse,
Swedish and Swiss residents who had five or more years of residency.
The franchise rights in these two German states were short-lived,
however; the Federal Constitutional Court ruled in 1990 that both the
Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein laws violated the Basic Law (Neuman
Challenges to local resident alien voting laws in Switzerland, by
contrast, have survived constitutional scrutiny because Article 39(1)
of the Swiss constitution reserves for states the explicit power to
regulate the exercise of political rights in all cantonal and municipal
matter. Two cantons, Neuchâtel and Jura, have constitutions that
permit resident aliens to vote. Neuchâtel’s practice of alien
suffrage dates to 1849 and was restored after a decade-long suspension
in the late 19th century; Jura’s practice dates to its inception as the
twenty-third Swiss canton in 1979. Seven other cantons have considered
but rejected initiatives to enfranchise resident aliens.
In North America, resident aliens cannot vote in national
elections in either the United States or in Canada. But in both
nation-states a few jurisdictions have extended voting rights to
resident aliens. The Canadian constitution expressly limits voting
rights in federal elections to citizens, but in Saskatchewan and Nova
Scotia British citizens may vote in provincial elections.6 (Soysal 1994,
p. 128; Galloway 2001, p. 192) In the United States, there currently
are a few municipalities that allow resident aliens to vote in
municipal elections. In New York and Chicago, resident aliens with
children who attend public schools can vote in school board elections
(Raskin 1993, p. 1429; Harper-Ho 2000, p. 319 and fn. 3 and 4). In May
6 It is worth noting the discriminatory nature of these rights. See the
following section that identifies other regimes that discriminate on
the basis of the resident alien’s nationality.
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 7
David C. Earnest
1994, Arlington, Virginia also allowed resident aliens with children in
public schools to vote in the county’s school board election (Chung
1996, p. 176). In Takoma Park, Maryland, by contrast, since 1991
resident aliens have had the right to vote in any civic election, a
practice that has since been adopted by five other townships in
Maryland.7 The Maryland state assembly has endorsed these initiatives
by passing the necessary home-rule legislation to make these practices
constitutional under state law (Raskin 1993). In Massachusetts,
citizens in both Cambridge and Amherst approved referenda in 1999 to
enfranchise resident aliens, though unlike in Maryland the state
legislature failed to pass the necessary home-rule legislation to
enable the Cambridge and Amherst laws (Harper-Ho 2000, p. 312-13). It
is important to note, furthermore, that the Takoma Park initiative
prompted a number of unsuccessful movements elsewhere in the United
States. In Washington, DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, rights
activists sought to obtain civic voting rights for resident aliens, but
voters in all three municipalities rejected the initiatives. Most
recently, the city council of Rockville, Maryland also considered a
measure to allow resident aliens to vote, and the mayor of Washington,
DC once again raised the issue. (Gowen 2002; Washington Post October 1,
The current patchwork of resident-alien voting rights in the
United States is an historical anomaly only in the limits of its scale.
The member states of the United States have a rich tradition of
enfranchising resident aliens that dates from the founding of the
republic to the early 20th century. Raskin (1993) and Harper-Ho (1999)
both observe that historically, states have used alien suffrage to
serve a number of different political aims, particularly during the era
of weak federalism in which states had broader authority over matters
of citizenship. As westward expansion progressed, territories used the
offer of voting rights to encourage immigrants from Europe to settle
and thus speed the territory’s admittance to the Union. Similarly,
following the Civil War southern states offered resident aliens the
right to vote in order to attract the workers who would replace the
slave labor force and to expedite Reconstruction. A second goal was
political socialization. Following Wisconsin’s lead of enfranchising
aliens who had declared their intent to naturalize (so-called
“declarant aliens”), during the mid-19th century resident alien voting
became a means of educating aliens about the interests and issues of
their communities. Other political goals of alien suffrage were less
salutary, however, as the process became intertwined with the racial,
social and political divides of the country. Raskin notes that
Northern states sought to expand alien suffrage while Southern states
sought to limit it, since legislators on both sides believed most
immigrants were opposed to slavery. Similarly, Raskin and Harper-Ho
both note that the practice of resident alien suffrage was a subtle
form of discrimination against other disenfranchised groups like women
and African Americans. It is well known that during the 19th century
race, property and gender requirements prohibited most American
citizens from voting. By giving the vote to propertied immigrant white
men, the resident alien franchise underscored that voting was not a
right of citizenship (see Raskin 1993, pp. 1425-1430). It became an
7 These are Chevy Chase sections 3 and 5, Martin’s Additions, Somerset,
and Barnesville. See Raskin 1993, p. 1462.
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David C. Earnest
implicit means of reinforcing discriminatory voter eligibility
practices. For this reasons, states continued to discriminate not only
against citizens but between resident aliens as well, as they chose to
offer voting rights only to European immigrants but not to the
burgeoning Chinese immigrant population of California and other western
states. In these respects, the 19th century practice of enfranchising
resident aliens in the United States was as much about excluding groups
of citizens from political rights as it was about including resident
Nevertheless, the 19th century practices in the various states of
the Union have left a case-law legacy that leads most legal scholars to
argue that alien suffrage is neither prohibited nor required by the
U.S. constitution. Since the Constitution reserves for states the
right to define “electors,” furthermore, past practices suggest
resident aliens in the United States may legally vote even in elections
for national office. By law, any voter in a state of the Union is a
federal elector. For this reason, in the past resident aliens in the
United States who voted at the state level could vote in federal
elections as well. Thus Aylsworth (1931) notes that resident aliens
voted in every presidential election until 1925. At the height of the
practice in the mid 1870s, 22 of the 37 states in the Union permitted
declarant resident aliens to vote. The Supreme Court has consistently
upheld, furthermore, the right of states to determine voter eligibility
requirements and has specifically ruled that alien suffrage violates no
constitutional provisions. In terms of the United States, then, the
question of alien suffrage is purely a political rather than legal one.
As the history of alien suffrage in the United States suggests,
the very nature of federalism produces some interesting patterns of
alien suffrage both between democracies and within the democratic
states themselves. The cases of Switzerland, Canada, Germany and the
United States suggest that geography provides few obvious explanations
for the patterns of passage or rejection of resident alien franchise
rights. Schleswig-Holstein’s and Hamburg’s proximity to the Baltic
suggests the influence of Scandinavian norms of resident alien voting
along the lines of regimes in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and
Sweden (see below), though this cannot explain either Berlin or the
Swiss cantons of Neuchâtel and Jura (though contiguous to each other,
both cantons border on France).8 Likewise, initiatives to enfranchise
legally resident aliens in the United States have sprung up in some of
the largest cities—-Chicago, New York and the suburbs of Boston and
Washington, DC (though interestingly they have failed in Los Angeles,
San Francisco and the District of Columbia itself). This is similar to
the pattern in the Federal Republic of Germany, where the initiatives
took hold in Berlin, Hamburg and the other Baltic ports of Schleswig-
Holstein. Another recent example is the city of Vienna, which
enfranchised its resident aliens irrespective of nationality. (Meran
2003) In Switzerland, by contrast, the cantons with the largest
cities--Geneva, Zurich, Vaud (where Lausanne is located) and Bern--all
8 One possible explanation for Jura’s enfranchisement, if not
Neuchâtel’s, is that Jura is the newest canton in the Swiss federation.
It was established in 1979, a time when several European states had
started to enfranchise resident aliens.
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 9
David C. Earnest
rejected resident alien voting initiatives.9 These variations within
federal systems themselves are an interesting puzzle.
Discriminatory Regimes
Several states have enacted voting rights regimes that
discriminate on the basis of the resident alien’s nationality. In some
cases the nationality criterion reflects historical relationships
between a state and its former colonies, such as Portugal’s policy of
allowing Cape Verdean and Brazilian resident aliens to vote in
parliamentary elections.10 (Katz 2000, p. 174) Another important
example is Estonia’s enfranchisement of its Russian-speaking minority.
(Laitin 1998) It is important to note, however, that these
“discriminatory” regimes may themselves reflect a latent form of
postnational citizenship. The United Kingdom’s practice of allowing
citizens of Commonwealth nations and the Republic of Ireland to vote in
Parliamentary elections--a practice that several other Commonwealth
states follow or have followed--reflects the Commonwealth’s largely
unrealized goal of a common citizenship.11 (Soysal 1994, p. 127; Rath
1990, p. 136) Likewise, as I discuss later, the European Union’s
Treaty of Amsterdam ensconces voting rights that discriminate in favor
of EU nationals who reside in other member states. These examples show
that while rights may discriminate, the nationality criterion in fact
may reflect supranational organizations if not postnational norms of
inclusion. In this respect, even discriminatory voting rights for
resident aliens may foreshadow the eroding link between citizenship and
political incorporation.
Discriminatory Rights for Local Elections
Several states allow resident aliens from their former colonies
to vote, but only in local elections. In Portugal, for one, Article
15(4) of the constitution gives resident aliens the right to vote in
local elections “subject to reciprocity” (Flanz 2000, vol. XV). Katz
(2000) notes that these special voting rights are for citizens of
Brazil residing in Portugal. In a surprising reversal of the colonial
relationship, Estonia has created limited voting rights to accommodate
what Laitin (1998) calls a “beached diaspora” of native Estonians who
9 The three other Swiss cantons that considered but failed to pass alien
voting measures are Aargau, St. Gallen and Solothrun.
10 Colonial relationships created other unexpected voting rights as
well. Under the Fourth Republic (from 1946 to 1948) “residents of the
French Territoires d’Outre Mer and Territoires sous Tutelle were
allowed to elect representatives to the French parliament” (Katz 2000,
p. 174). In other words, resident aliens residing in French
possessions overseas elected representatives to Parliament. In
essence, they had resident-alien voting rights without migrating to
France, highlighting an implicit-—but neither necessary nor sufficient-
—relationship between migration and resident-alien voting rights.
11 Galloway (2001) argues by contrast that although Nova Scotia and
Saskatchewan allow British subjects to vote in provincial elections,
these rights are “anomalous” and should be considered a “legal
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David C. Earnest
speak only Russian.12 Since the Estonian constitution does not
recognize such Russian speakers as citizens, the grant of resident-
alien voting rights is one way the government has sought to incorporate
this population. But the right is limited to local elections only and
requires the Russian-speaking resident aliens to have established
permanent residence. Such resident aliens are prohibited not only from
voting in national parliamentary elections, but are prohibited from
joining parties or holding office as well.13 These facts suggest the
voting rights of Russian-speaking aliens in Estonia are the result of
changes in Estonian citizenship law after the demise of the Soviet
Union, which in effect revoked the citizenship of Russian-speaking
Other states’ discriminatory practices may also reflect specific
nationality concerns. Since 1950, Israel has allowed resident aliens
to vote in local elections, for example, but only those immigrants who
come to Israel under the Law of Return but who refuse to take Israeli
citizenship. (Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer 2002, p. 49) While the Israeli
practice does not discriminate on the basis of nationality per se, its
dependence on the Law of Return indicates the franchise discriminates
on the basis of religion.
It is worth noting that in a number of the Scandinavian states,
all of which today have nondiscriminatory voting rights for resident
aliens, these rights emerged from practices that originally
discriminated in favor of only a few specific nationalities. When
they first enacted voting rights for resident aliens, Norway, Finland
and Denmark all permitted only resident aliens from other Nordic states
to vote in local elections. (Soysal 1994; Rath 1990, pp. 136-139;
Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer 2002, p. 48) Denmark expanded the right to
all resident aliens in 1981, Norway in 1982, and Finland in 1991.
All three now require resident aliens only to have lived in the country
for a specific time. Norway requires three years of continuous
residency, Finland stipulates four years of residency, while Denmark
requires only one year (see below).
Discriminatory Rights in National Elections
The voting rights of resident aliens in Portugal, Estonia and
Israel are circumscribed when compared to the broad rights enjoyed by
resident aliens from Commonwealth states who reside in the United
Kingdom. There citizens of Commonwealth nations and the Republic of
Ireland may register to vote in national parliamentary elections.
12 The ETA news agency reports that 194,525 resident aliens were
eligible to vote in the 1999 elections. In the October 1999 local
elections, resident aliens cast 11.7 percent of the total votes. (BBC
October 16, 1999)
13 Perhaps these rights have less to do with colonial relationships per
se than they have to do with the state’s formation. Much like Estonia,
Iceland and Finland also are secessionist states that originally made
the franchise available to nationals from the parent state. Since then,
however, both Iceland and Finland have broadened the franchise to all
resident aliens.
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David C. Earnest
Several other Commonwealth states or former British colonies make
similar provisions. Ireland reciprocates Britain’s extension of voting
rights to Irish citizens by allowing British citizens to vote in
national parliamentary elections (though Ireland also allows resident
aliens of any nation to vote in local elections after six months
residency) (Soysal 1994, p. 127-128; Rath 1990, p. 139). Until 1984,
Australia allowed British citizens to vote in parliamentary elections.
Though Australia has since rescinded this right, those British citizens
who were previously enfranchised were granted a grandfather exception,
which in 1999 amounted to about 17,000 (Slattery 1999). Similarly,
Barbados allows those Commonwealth citizens who have resided for at
least three years prior to the election to vote in parliamentary
elections (Election Process Information Collection 2002).
Nondiscriminatory Regimes
Nondiscriminatory voting rights regimes are those in which
resident aliens do not need to satisfy a nationality qualification for
the franchise. These nondiscriminatory rights typically have residency
qualifications, however, that in some cases are quite lengthy. Some
nondiscriminatory regimes provide the right to vote only in local
elections; others provide the right to vote in national and
parliamentary elections; and some regimes--like Ireland’s and
Portugal’s--are hybrids because they do not discriminate for the right
to vote in local elections, but only resident aliens from specific
states qualify to vote in national elections.
Nondiscriminatory Rights for Local Elections
The most common form of resident-alien voting rights today is a
nondiscriminatory right to vote in local elections only. Eleven states
allow aliens who satisfy a residency requirement to vote in municipal,
provincial or other local elections; two others (Bolivia and Colombia)
make explicit constitutional provision for the national legislature to
provide such rights at its discretion. The nondiscriminatory local-
rights model differs in important ways in both scale and scope from the
discriminatory national and local regimes of states like the United
Kingdom, Estonia or Israel: while it permits voting only in local
elections, it does not discriminate among the nationalities of the
states’ immigrant populations. It is also broader in scope than the
limited rights offered by jurisdictions in Federal states like
Switzerland and the United States, since it is a right provided by the
national government rather than sub-national ones, and applies to all
municipalities, boroughs, states or other localities in a given nation-
state. In this respect it is neither geographically discriminatory (as
in federal states) nor ethnically or nationally discriminatory. In all
cases of local nondiscriminatory voting rights, however (indeed in all
cases of voting rights for resident aliens irrespective of their scope
and scale), resident aliens must reside for a given number of years
before they can vote in local elections.
This model typifies the resident-alien voting rights regimes of
Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Ireland,
Hungary, Venezuela and perhaps Belize. With the obvious exceptions of
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David C. Earnest
Belize and Venezuela (more on Belize later), the states that utilize
this model of resident-alien voting rights are European democracies.
All except Ireland and Belize have proportional representation systems,
and of these all except Venezuela have party-list electoral rules.
Belize has a plurality first-past-the-post system, Ireland has a
single-transferable-vote proportional representation system, and
Venezuela has a mixed-member proportional representation system. The
Republic of Ireland first allowed resident aliens to vote in local
elections in 1963; today Ireland has the most permissive residency
requirement, allowing aliens to vote after only six months residency in
the Republic. Sweden enfranchised resident aliens for local elections
in 1976, requiring only that the alien voter have resided in Sweden for
three years. Denmark followed suit in 1977, requiring only one year of
residency, followed by Norway in 1978, which required three years of
residency (Soysal 1994). The Netherlands, in which Rotterdam and
Amsterdam first established resident-alien voting rights in 1979 and
1981 respectively,14 has a longer residency requirement of five years
(Rath 1990, p. 139). Another more recent example is Hungary. Upon the
collapse of the Soviet Union, the newly constituted legislature passed
the Local Elections Act of 1990, which Nagy (1995) notes provides
voting-rights in municipal elections for “non-citizen permanent
residents” (p. 125).
Interestingly, Iceland has a longer history of resident-alien
voting rights, perhaps reflecting its history as secession states
(Rokkan 1999). The history of alien voting rights in Iceland is
somewhat convoluted. Article 75 of the 1920 constitution granted
voting rights to Danish nationals resident in Iceland, rights that were
eventually expanded to other Nordic immigrants (Raskin 1993, p. 1459).
Article 33 of the Icelandic constitution of 1995 stipulates, however,
that only citizens can vote. Interestingly, the 1995 constitution
accommodates “foreign nationals” who had previous voting rights under
Article 75 of the 1920 constitution in a “Temporary Provisions” section
at the end of the document. This section effectively grandfathers the
resident-alien voting rights that foreign nationals had previously
received. In this respect, the Icelandic case is an interesting one:
although the 1995 constitution eliminates resident-alien voting rights,
it does so only prospectively for future immigrants to the country.
While Norway, Denmark and Finland today allow all resident aliens
to vote in local elections, it is important to recall that these states
originally discriminated among immigrants of different nationalities.
Just as Iceland limited the rights to immigrants from Nordic countries
only, Norway, Denmark and Finland originally extended the alien
franchise to immigrants from the Nordic states. In this respect, the
alien franchise rights in these states originally were discriminatory.
Two important questions are how and why these rights evolved in scope
14 It is interesting to note that alien suffrage in the Netherlands
first emerged in municipalities, suggesting a “bottom-up” evolution of
rights that evokes the current rights in municipalities in the United
States and Switzerland. How do rights evolve from localities to become
a nationwide right? This bottom-up process, particularly when compared
to the United States and Switzerland, may provide us with insights
about the evolution of resident alien rights in other states and in
other models.
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David C. Earnest
to encompass all alien residents, not merely those from Nordic states?
A related but equally important question is, why were Norway and
Denmark’s alien voting rules originally discriminatory, but the
Netherlands’ and Sweden’s were nondiscriminatory?
Belize, the last state that I have categorized as having
nondiscriminatory rights for local elections, offers the franchise in
municipal elections only to alien residents of three years or more
(United States Library of Congress). Unlike the northern European
parliamentary democracies, however, Belize’s government is a first-
past-the-post plurality parliamentary system, undoubtedly a reflection
of its historic relationship with the United Kingdom. Like these
institutional variables, Belize’s colonial history also begs an
important question: why did Belize opt for the local model instead of
the discriminatory national-rights model that typifies the United
Kingdom, Barbados, and (until 1984) Australia?15 For this reason,
Belize offers an interesting anomalous case: it neither fits the
institutional pattern of the northern European democracies, nor the
scale of rights typical of other states with historic colonial ties to
the United Kingdom.
Nondiscriminatory Rights for National Elections
Only one nation-state offers universal resident-alien voting
rights for all elections, local to national, with only a brief
residency requirements. Prior to 1975, New Zealand allowed immigrants
from the United Kingdom to vote in parliamentary elections. Since
then, however, any immigrant who has resided in New Zealand for one
year may register to vote in national elections (Soysal 1994, p. 128;
Katz 2000). The case of New Zealand therefore is the ideal type of
resident-alien voting rights: the residency requirement is minimal
(only Ireland’s six-month requirement is shorter); and the rights are
nondiscriminatory—-any resident alien can register to vote.
Alien suffrage in New Zealand is interesting for two reasons.
First is the timing of New Zealand’s expansion of voting rights to
resident aliens. This occurred in the mid-1970s when the Scandinavian
states and the Netherlands first offered the franchise to resident
aliens. Yet the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway opted for a
local-voting approach to alien suffrage, whereas New Zealand opted for
national voting rights. The proximate timing of the cases may offer an
15 These examples suggest a possible relationship between the
Commonwealth--or at least the United Kingdom’s colonial legacy-—and
certain forms of resident-alien franchise rights. Indeed, if common
political rights were a goal of the Commonwealth, then why did some
Commonwealth states extend voting rights to all immigrants, while other
member states restricted rights to Commonwealth citizens or offered
none at all? Why did New Zealand opt for a liberal regime that
included resident aliens of all nationalities, while Belize adopted a
narrower scale of alien voting rights? Given the variation in rights
among the 38 democracies that are members of the Commonwealth (not to
mention the inclusion of 20 non-democracies in the Commonwealth), the
relationship between alien voting rights and the Commonwealth seems
problematic at best.
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David C. Earnest
opportunity to control for as-yet-unspecified transnational or global
phenomena, such as norms of “personhood” (in Soysal’s words (1994)).
Second is the hypothesized relationship between colonial history and
alien suffrage. States with historical colonial relationships may
discriminate in favor of each other’s citizens by offering limited
voting rights to immigrants from colonial possessions (or from the
imperial state). As noted above, this may explain Australia’s
enfranchisement of British citizens prior to 1984 as well as rights in
other Commonwealth states. A key feature of this practice is, however,
their discriminatory rights; states offer voting rights only to
specific nationalities. Yet New Zealand switched in 1975 from a
discriminatory regime to a nondiscriminatory permissive one. Given New
Zealand’s colonial history, its continuing membership in the
Commonwealth, and its geographic proximity to Australia (where the
government rescinding the franchise rights of British resident aliens
only nine years after New Zealand), New Zealand’s liberal alien
suffrage regime is an interesting case.
It is important to note that at least in a de jure sense, Uruguay
also allows any alien to vote in both local and parliamentary
elections. Uruguay differs from New Zealand in one substantive way,
however. Uruguay’s residency qualification is the most exclusionary of
any nation-state that allows resident aliens to vote. Only after an
alien has resided in Uruguay for fifteen years can he or she qualify
for the franchise. This stands in marked contrast to Ireland (which
requires only six months of residency to qualify for the right to vote
in local elections) and New Zealand (which requires only a year of
residency to qualify for the right to vote in parliamentary elections).
While Uruguay’s right to vote is nondiscriminatory in a de jure sense,
then, its residency qualification raises the question of how other
qualifications for the franchise may discriminate against resident
aliens. As I note below, Venezuela also allows resident aliens to
qualify for the vote in local elections, but only after ten years of
residency. These residency requirements arguably mitigate the
nondiscriminatory nature of the de jure voting rights, and raise issues
of comparability to states like New Zealand.
Discrimination through Residency Qualifications
Three South American democracies permit resident aliens to vote,
but only after an extended period of residency that effectively
discriminates against most resident aliens. In this respect, the
residency requirement for resident aliens limits these franchise rights
to a very small number. In Chile, Articles 13 and 14 of the
Constitution entitle aliens with five years of residency to vote in
national parliamentary elections (Flanz 2000, vol. IV). The Venezuelan
constitution (Tit. III, Ch. 4, Art. 64) entitles aliens with 10 years
of residency to vote in municipal and state elections only, while the
Uruguayan constitution (Sect. III, Ch. 2, Art. 78) requires 15 years of
residency (Katz 2000). Given that all three states have zero or
negative migration rates, it is doubtful that many resident aliens
satisfy such onerous residency requirements to qualify for and claim
their franchise rights.
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David C. Earnest
It is difficult if not impossible to say when a residency
requirement becomes onerous to the point of being restrictive rather
than expansive. While Uruguay’s 15-year requirement clearly curtails
the voting opportunities of most aliens, Chile’s five-year provision is
the same as the Netherlands’ residency requirement. The scale of
resident alien rights in Chile is greater, furthermore, than in the
Netherlands; unlike in the Dutch case, resident aliens in Chile can
vote in national elections as well as local or regional elections. So
why might one categorize the Chilean case as more restrictive than the
Dutch case? Though the Chilean requirements are more permissive in
principle, the levels of immigration to Chile mean that in fact far
fewer aliens receive voting rights than the Netherlands grants to its
resident aliens. While Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay had zero or
negative immigration rates in 1999, the northern European democracies
offering nondiscriminatory local rights have net inflows of migrants
(United Nations Population Division 2002). Similarly, the number of
migrants as a percentage of the total population is much lower in the
Latin American democracies. Only one percent of Chile’s population
were migrants in 2002, though Uruguay and Venezuela had slightly higher
percentages (2.65 and 4.16 respectively). These figures suggest that
the total number of resident aliens eligible to vote is greater in
countries that host larger numbers of migrants. While one might argue
that the Chilean case parallels the nondiscriminatory national rights
of New Zealand, it seems disingenuous to overlook the overall migration
levels and net flows of these states as well as their extended
residency requirements when categorizing their alien voting rights.16
Alien Suffrage in National Constitutions
Curiously, the constitutions of two South American democracies
explicitly address the issue of alien suffrage. Colombia’s
constitution, dating to 1991, stipulates that the legislature may pass
an act to allow foreign citizens to vote in municipal or district
elections (Tit. II, Ch. 2, Art. 100, see Flanz 2000, vol. IV). The
16 Of the 31 states discussed in this chapter, in 2002 nine (Barbados,
Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Uruguay)
had negative net migration rates per 1,000 citizens. One other
(Venezuela) had a net migration rate per 1,000 citizens totals of
approximately zero. Of the 21 states with positive net migration, it
is interesting to note that migration rate alone does not appear to
predict whether or not a state will extend voting rights to resident
aliens. While notable negative cases like the Federal Republic of
Germany (2.26 migrants per 1,000 citizens) and the United States (4.53
per 1,000) have relatively high net migration rates, some of the states
offering the franchise to resident aliens have higher rates: Canada is
4.79 per 1,000 and Ireland is 4.86 per 1,000. Other notable negative
observations have relatively low migration rates, furthermore: Belgium
is 1.27 per 1,000 and France is 0.66 per 1,000 (all figures are from
United Nations Population Division 2002). Of course, net migration
rates might be significant in a comprehensive model, or alternative
measures of migration such as absolute levels might be more reliable.
But the prima facie impression is that migration rates alone are not
sufficient to explain the variation among states offering resident
aliens the right to vote.
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David C. Earnest
Bolivian constitution (of 1967 as amended in 1994) has a similar
clause: the legislature explicitly has the discretion to enfranchise
aliens to vote in local elections (Tit. IX, Ch. 1, Art. 220, see
Constitutions of the Countries of the World, vol. VII). It is
interesting to note not only that these constitutions came into being
relatively recently, but also that they explicitly give discretionary
power over resident-alien voting rights to the legislatures. Neither
legislature so far has exercised this unique constitutional authority,
however. But the mere fact that constitutional framers considered the
issue important begs the question of why?
Resident-Alien Voting Rights in International Law
In addition to the 24 states that have varying degrees of voting
rights for resident aliens, two important pieces of international law
address the issue of political rights for resident aliens. One is the
Consolidated Version of the Treaty Establishing the European Community,
as Amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997; hereafter referred to as
the Amsterdam Treaty). The other is the Universal Declaration of Human
The Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 amended, consolidated and reordered
the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 to become the legal foundation for common
foreign and security policies for the European Community member states
and for cooperation among members on issues relating to justice and
home affairs. Though the amended and consolidated version changed some
of the contentious issues of the Maastricht Treaty, it preserves an
important article that addressed voting rights for EU citizens. Part
II, Article 19(1) of the Amsterdam Treaty, echoing Article 8 of the
Maastricht Treaty, commits EU member-states to establishing voting
rights for those aliens from other EU states who reside in their
country. The language reads:
Every citizen of the Union residing in a Member State of which he
is not a national shall have the right to vote and stand as a
candidate at municipal elections in the Member State of which he
resides, under the same conditions as nationals of that State.
(Amsterdam Treaty 1997)
The rights enunciated by the treaty therefore appear to be a hybrid
type. The Treaty stipulates that resident alien be allowed to vote
only in municipal elections, reflecting the scale of rights typical of
the local voting rights regimes used by the Nordic states, the
Netherlands and others. But the Treaty also adds a discriminatory
nationality requirement; EU member states will extend the right only to
EU nationals, not to immigrants of any nationality. In this respect,
the Treaty combines the discriminatory nationality requirements typical
of the voting rights regimes of the United Kingdom, Ireland and
Portugal with the restrictive scale of the local regimes of Sweden,
Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and others.
Article 19(1) therefore is a curious hybrid that defies easy
explanation. Given the pre-existing heterogeneity of resident-alien
voting rights among European Union states, it is puzzling that the
Treaty articulated this particular set of rights with discriminatory
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David C. Earnest
scope and limited scale. Perhaps more surprisingly, some states have
revised their voter eligibility requirements to comply with Article
19(1) while others have not (notably Italy; see Aleinikoff and
Klusmeyer 2002, p. 51). Answers to these puzzles may offer some
important insights into the evolution of alien suffrage. The EU member
states’ resistance to Article 19(1) may help explain, furthermore, a
number of important negative cases (which are elaborated below).
The other notable piece of international law is the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Raskin (1993) argues that the Declaration
is “. . . written in such a way as to leave open the possibility that
resident aliens will have the right to vote” (p. 1458). Indeed,
Article 21 of the Declaration, which enunciates basic political rights,
uses the ambiguous term “everyone” instead of “every citizen”: Art.
21(1) states “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of
his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”17
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948) Nowhere does the
Declaration specify citizenship as a requirement for political rights
(or any rights for that matter); it is mute, furthermore, on voter
eligibility requirements. While the phrasing of the Declaration falls
short of explicit advocacy of alien suffrage, Raskin’s argument
deserves consideration. It is telling that an important articulation
of principals of human rights decouples the ideas of citizenship and
political rights. In this respect, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights approximates the historical condition of many states granting at
least some resident aliens the right to vote and participate in
Raskin (1993, p. 1458) also notes that the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 contrasts with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights by explicitly confining the right to vote
to citizens. Article 25 (a through c) uses the term “citizen” when
articulating a vision of political rights (International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights 1966). The contrast with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights begs two obvious questions: why do the two
documents have competing visions of political rights? And do these
competing visions reflect some broader phenomenon or mechanism that
might explain the variation in the observed cases of alien suffrage?
Negative Cases: States That Have Rejected Alien Suffrage
There are a number of cases where either states considered
franchise rights for resident aliens but failed to offer them, or
rescinded voting rights it had extended previously to resident aliens.
Though these failed cases vary over time, they offer both an important
theoretical counterweight and possible cases against which to test
hypotheses. These negative observations fall into two categories:
states whose governments considered resident aliens voting rights but
failed to adopt them (hereafter referred to as “failed cases”); and
states that rescinded alien voting rights (or “rolled back” cases).
17 This language creates another ambiguity, however. When it assets the
right of the individual to take part in the government of his or her
“country,” it is unclear whether this refers to his or her country of
citizenship, or his or her country of residence.
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David C. Earnest
The failed cases include Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Latvia
and perhaps Switzerland and the United States (because the latter two
are federal nation-states, their constituent jurisdictions present both
positive and negative examples of municipalities adopting voting rights
for resident aliens). Rath (1990) notes that Belgium has considered
numerous initiatives dating back to 1972. All have failed to garner
much support, and often have faced nearly universal opposition from
parties across the political spectrum (Rath 1990, pp. 128-130). France
first considered resident alien voting in 1981, when the Partie
Socialiste (PS) first proposed an initiative to enfranchise resident
aliens. Rath (1990, p. 130) reports that the PS measure faced
widespread opposition. The Assemblé Nationale considered another
measure to enfranchise resident aliens in 2000, but the measure failed
due to constitutional concerns and opposition from the Sénat
(Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer 2002, p. 51). Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer
(2002, p. 51) also note that Italy has yet to enact the legislation to
comply with Article 19(1) of the Amsterdam Treaty.
Latvia and Japan’s consideration of voting rights for resident
aliens suggest that the state faces international pressures when
considering voting rights for resident aliens. Kashiwazaki (2000)
reports that in 1990, eleven permanent resident Korean nationals in
Japan sought from a Japanese court the right to vote in national
elections. Five yeas later the Japanese supreme court ruled that the
right to vote is reserved for Japanese nationals, but also held that
the Diet has constitutional authority to enact legislation
enfranchising resident aliens if it so chooses. In 2000 the Diet
considered but tabled such legislation despite the championing of such
voting rights by the Republic of Korea. In Latvia, the parliament
rejected a measure to permit the state’s resident aliens to vote in
local elections despite pressure from the European local governments’
Chamber of Regions and from the Latvian Human Rights committee (Baltic
News Service 1998; BBC January 31, 2000; BBC July 11, 2000).
By contrast, the federal nation-states of Switzerland and the
United States present numerous cases of resident alien voting
initiatives at the local level that have failed to win popular support.
Though as noted above two Swiss cantons have enacted resident alien
voting laws for municipal and cantonal elections, seven other cantons
have considered but rejected similar measures (Rath p. 128).18
Similarly, the success of the Takoma Park initiative and its
replication in other Maryland hamlets, not to mention the rights of
resident aliens to vote in Chicago’s and New York’s school board
elections, belies the difficulties that resident alien voting
initiatives have faced elsewhere in the United States. In the early
1990s activists in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC tried
to adopt voting-rights measures similar to the one established in
Takoma Park. In all three cases municipal voters failed to approve the
measures (Chung 1996; Harper-Ho 2000). Similarly, though the voters in
Amherst and Cambridge, Massachusetts elected by referenda to extend
voting rights to resident aliens, the Massachusetts State legislature
failed to enact the necessary home-rule legislation that would have
18 These are Aargau, Bern, Geneva, St. Gallen, Solothurn, Vaud, and
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David C. Earnest
enabled the Amherst and Cambridge initiatives. It is interesting to
note, furthermore, that in both the Swiss case and in the United States
large urban areas have rejected, for the most part, alien suffrage
initiatives while smaller municipalities or cantons have enacted such
measures. This pattern contrasts, furthermore, with the Federal
Republic of Germany’s brief history of alien suffrage, which occurred
in the largely urban länder of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and West
These failed cases raise a number of interesting puzzles. For
one, resident alien voting initiatives in France and Belgium faced
strong opposition, but similar measures in the Netherlands, Norway,
Denmark, and Sweden at the same time faced very little opposition.
What explains this variation within Europe? The failed cases in
federal systems suggest another important puzzle: the variation in
outcomes within a nation-state may (or may not) be caused by the same
mechanisms that cause the observed variation among nation-states. In
these respects, the failed cases may present important crucial cases
for a model that seeks to explain variation in voting rights for
resident aliens. Finally, to what degree do settlement patterns
affect the outcome of resident alien franchise initiatives within
federal states? Are municipalities, cantons, länder or states with
large immigrant populations more or less likely to enact alien
suffrage? Does alien suffrage depend on the ethnic composition of
immigrant groups? Does this pattern hold across the federal cases as
well as other cases?
Australia, Canada and the United States present important cases
of rolled-back alien voting rights that contrast with the failed cases.
As noted above, in 1984 Australia eliminated the voting rights of
British citizens resident in Australia (though it grandfathered the
rights of those British citizens who resided in Australia prior to
January 25, 1984). Canada similarly rescinded voting rights for
resident aliens who were citizens of Commonwealth states in 1975 (Kondo
2001, p. 239), though Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have at least de
jure rights to allow British subjects to vote in provincial elections.
Though of a different historical period, the United States’ rollback of
resident-alien voting rights was of an even greater scale. Raskin
(1993) and Harper-Ho (2000) both argue that the shift in immigration
sources from Northern Europe to Southern Europe and Asia, when coupled
with the xenophobia that followed the First World War, caused most
states of the Union to reconsider granting voting rights to declarant
aliens. As Aylsworth (1931) noted, by the mid-1920s every state that
had previously allowed resident aliens to vote had rescinded the right.
From a high of 22 states in 1875, the member states of the United
States had disenfranchised all resident aliens within the country, a
remarkable reversal given what the scope and scale of resident alien
rights once had been. It would be easy to dismiss the United States’
rollback as belonging to another era, or as the product of a
historically unique confluence of war and intolerance. Such a
dismissal ignores, however, historical parallels between the 1900s and
the 1980s and 1990s in the composition and size of immigration to the
United States (Held et. al. 1999, pp. 283-326). So why did the states
rescind the rights in an era of mass migration from non-European states
when localities today once again are extending the rights in a similar
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David C. Earnest
Finally, it is important to note three other potential negative
observations. The case of the Federal Republic of Germany is difficult
to categorize: is it a failed case or a rolled-back case? On the one
hand, two German länder did extend franchise rights to specific
resident aliens, but on the other, the Federal Constitutional Court
ruled these rights unconstitutional a year later, implying that
enfranchised resident aliens never consolidated these political rights.
Given that the German courts never established the legality of alien
suffrage, it seems reasonable to treat the German case as a failed
observation rather than an instance of rolled-back rights. The other
difficult case is that of the United Kingdom. Since the eligibility of
resident aliens to vote is tied to an intergovernmental organization-—
the Commonwealth—-the roll of resident aliens eligible to vote in
parliamentary elections ebbs and flows with the membership of the
Commonwealth. Although the UK’s rules of eligibility may not have
changed over the years, resident aliens theoretically may lose their
voting rights through no action of their own. In this respect, as the
case of the United Kingdom shows, the discriminatory aspect of the
these voting rights can cut both ways: it can exclude nonresident
aliens from voting as arbitrarily as it may include them. This and the
other cases of rollback highlight, furthermore, an important and
perhaps theoretically interesting phenomenon: resident aliens may be
the only voters in consolidated democracies to lose the franchise.
Whereas voting rights for citizens, women, minorities and other
previously excluded groups are now sacrosanct, states apparently may
legitimately rescind the voting “rights” of resident aliens.19
The member states of the European Union represent important
additional cases of the failure of states to adopt resident voting
rights. Although a number of EU member states had voting rights
regimes that complied with Article 19(1) before the Treaty of
Amsterdam’s entry into force, at least one state--Italy--has failed to
amend its electoral laws to comply with the provisions of the treaty.
Such legislation undoubtedly takes time to amend, and it may be that EU
member states will become compliant with Article 19(1) over time. But
if not, there may be a number of important additional cases of states
that have failed to enact alien suffrage laws even though they have
committed by treaty to doing so.
19 This begs the question as to whether or not resident aliens actually
have a right to vote. It is interesting to note that at least in
American constitutional jurisprudence, there is no “right” to vote. So
the interesting case of resident alien voters highlights two important
questions: to what degree is the franchise a fundamental right in the
various nation-states mentioned in this paper? And to the degree it is
a right, have states literally created “second-class citizens” in
resident alien voters, whose franchise rights the state may arbitrarily
abridge? While the case of the United Kingdom seems to affirm the
vote-as-a-privilege hypothesis, Iceland’s and Australia’s
implementation of grandfather clauses for previously enfranchised
resident aliens suggest that, at a minimum, states are reluctant to
abridge voting privileges.
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David C. Earnest
Hypothesized Explanations for Alien Suffrage Rights
Legal scholars who have explored the expansion of voting rights
for resident aliens have proffered a number of explanations for
variations in such rights. The common variables to their analyses are
levels of immigration and associated xenophobic backlashes; the
historical and legal evolution of national conceptions of both
citizenship and of voting rights; and, in Raskin’s (1993) words,
“evolving international norms of community based democracy and human
rights” (p. 1394). In this respect, the hypothesized causes of alien
suffrage range from historical path-dependent processes to national
institutions and international norms. While I derive explicit
hypotheses in another study (Earnest, forthcoming), it is worth
previewing that discussion by exploring what a number of researchers
have written about the cases this paper presents.
Alien suffrage rights are inescapably embedded in a broader
institutional and legal framework of general voting rights. For this
reason, franchise opportunities for resident aliens in many countries
evolve as other electoral institutions and franchise rights change.
Harper-Ho (2000) and Raskin (1993) both explain the variation over time
of alien suffrage in the United States as a product in part of broader
debates about the gender, race and property requirements for voter
eligibility. In a comparison of the recent alien voting rights
successes in the United States to the failed initiatives in the Federal
Republic of Germany, Neuman (1992) explains the differences in part by
citing historically divergent conceptions of citizenship and democratic
legitimacy. Unlike in the United States, the courts in Germany have
historically viewed the right to vote as a collective, rather than
individual, right. This right is historically tied, furthermore, to a
historical conception of German nationality as an ethnic construct; the
right to vote is not only a collective right of the nation, it is a
collective right of the German nation (Neuman 1992, p. 283-287).20 The
absence of alien suffrage rights in Germany
. . . reflects the particular historical development of
nationhood in Germany, where the rise of a linguistic and
cultural nationalism at the beginning of the nineteenth century
led to an emphasis on nationality rather than residence as a
crucial factor in defining a polity. (Neuman 1992, p. 291)
A historically exclusive conception of the nation proscribes resident
alien voting in the German case. The franchise rights of resident
aliens therefore depend upon not only the franchise rights of other
members of the polity, but on historically contingent constructions of
the polity itself.
Scholars also cite changes in the size and composition of
immigration, and the corresponding social backlashes, to explain
20 This argument is similar to Rogers Brubaker’s explanation (1992) of
the differences in the naturalization rates of France and Germany.
Brubaker argues the greater naturalization rates in France reflect the
different “cultural definitions of citizenship” embedded in the
competing legal traditions of jus soli in France (citizenship by birth)
and jus sanguinis in Germany (citizenship by decent or ancestry).
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David C. Earnest
variations in the voting rights of resident aliens. Harper-Ho (2000,
pp. 282-283) attributes the end of alien suffrage in the United States
in the 1920s to both the shift in the ethnicity of the immigrant
population (from northern European to southern European and Asian
nationalities) and to the xenophobic backlash that followed World War
I. Raskin (1993, pp. 1415-1416) comes to a similar conclusion. The
absolute level of immigration, independent of its ethnic composition,
may also explain the variations among the states that offer resident
aliens the vote. Neuman (1992, p. 264) for one argues that the
expansion of alien suffrage is inversely related to the level of
immigration. Those European states that have expanded the rights are
those with lower proportions of resident aliens, while those states
with the highest proportion of resident immigrants—-including France,
the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany—-have either discriminatory or
no voting rights whatsoever for their resident aliens.21
Finally, these scholars also cite the importance of international
variables as well. Neuman argues that “as the interdependence of
national economies deepens and regional ‘common market’ arrangements
multiply, more nations (including the United States) may be called upon
to rethink the question of alien suffrage” (Neuman 1992, p. 261).
Similarly Raskin (1993, p. 1394) cites “evolving international norms of
community based democracy and human rights” as one explanation for the
emergence of resident-alien voting rights in several American
municipalities. He thus sees alien suffrage as local response to
transnational processes and emerging global norms: “the unification of
national economies into a global market system at the end of this
century undermines the salience of national identity and increases the
historical importance of defining a citizenship of place and locality”
(Raskin 1993, p. 1456). He calls this redefined citizenship a “polity
of presence” (p. 1393). Such a radical redefinition of basic concepts
like citizenship and the body politic may result from the
deterritorializing impact of modern global trading relationships, in
which labor and capital migrate unhindered across national borders but
political and social rights do not. The “straitjacket of nation-state
citizenship” is incapable, Raskin argues (p. 1458), of accommodating
the fundamental political rights of those who participate in and
sustain these widening transnational processes. In this respect,
emerging global norms of community-based democracy encourage
municipalities and localities to enfranchise resident aliens. The
globalization of the marketplace may have created a localized response
that is transforming traditional conceptions of citizenship,
participatory government, and democratic legitimacy.
These hypothesized explanations for alien suffrage are complex
and somewhat contradictory. Raskin cites emerging global norms for
community-based participatory democracy, while Harper-Ho and Neuman
cite xenophobia to explain the curtailment of resident-alien voting
rights. It is unclear, however, if and when global norms of
participatory democracy will override popular backlash to immigration.
Similarly, Neuman cites different historical traditions of citizenship
to explain variations in alien suffrage. Again, it is not clear under
what conditions national institutions or historical conceptions of
21 The migration data for each of these states cast doubt upon Neuman’s
argument, however. See footnote 14.
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 23
David C. Earnest
citizenship rights will yield to emerging global norms. Not all
municipalities within federal states respond to these norms in the same
way, furthermore. Given the same institutional legacies and
conceptions of citizenship, why have some municipalities in the United
States, or cantons in Switzerland and provinces in Canada, enfranchised
resident aliens while others have not? Clearly, the global norms of
community-based democracy that Raskin identifies, or historical
conceptions of the nation that Neuman identifies, are not sufficient to
create resident-alien voting rights. Other factors must explain the
wide variation among the states this study has discussed. These
questions demonstrate the need to consider what other scholars
have written about the state’s incorporation of its migrant population.
In another study (Earnest, forthcoming) I undertake such a
consideration of the hypothesized causes of variation in the state’s
treatment of resident aliens.
Conclusions: Challenges to Future Research
Table 1 lists the democracies around the globe that either have
some form of voting rights for resident aliens, or have considered
extending such rights but have failed to do so. These cases represent
about one in four of the world’s democracies. Yet those democracies
that do extend voting rights to resident aliens vary considerably in
both the scope and scale of those rights.
Given this variability among the states that enfranchise resident
aliens, and given the limited number of observations, it is unclear
whether or not a single model can explain all the variation among the
cases. There are a number of possible research strategies. One is to
conduct a comparative analysis of a smaller set of states, perhaps the
twelve European Union states (plus two candidate states, Estonia and
Latvia) that either allow resident aliens to vote or have rejected such
measures. Such a comparative case-study design would allow the
researcher to control for some variables, such as the role of Article
19(1) of the Treaty of Amsterdam. It would also allow variation in the
type of voting rights states grant since, using the typology developed
in this study, the EU member states represent three of the models of
resident-alien voting rights (discriminatory local, discriminatory
national, and nondiscriminatory local rights). With so few
observations, however, such a comparative design cannot test
statistically the number of divergent hypotheses that nationalist and
postnationalist scholars put forth. A case-study design also raises
difficult questions about the selection of cases. Given the number of
dimensions along which the states that enfranchise resident aliens
vary, it is unclear which cases (if any) are representative of the
universe of cases.
An alternative design would address the universe of democracies
to test hypotheses. While such an approach would have greater degrees
of freedom, it faces the challenge of explaining such wide variation
among cases. Since it is unclear that one explanation will suffice for
all cases, such a broad approach risks creating a “patchwork”
explanation that lacks any theoretical import. In these respects, the
choice of the states to examine seems to be a difficult one between
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David C. Earnest
Table 1 A list of states that allow or have considered voting rights
for resident aliens.
general but valid findings, and specific findings that may not be
reliable due to the degrees-of-freedom problem.
A second challenge is that of measuring the voting rights of
resident aliens in a given state. Does the typology developed in this
study accurately capture the differences in resident-alien voting
aliens to
local or
national rights?
Nationality requirement?
Australia Rescinded
January 1984 National British Citizenship
Barbados Yes National Commonwealth citizenship
Belgium No -
Belize Yes Local None
Bolivia Yes Constitutional
Canada Yes Localities
Commonwealth citizenship;
provinces only
Chile Yes National None
Colombia Yes Constitutional
Denmark Yes Local None
Estonia Yes Local Russian-speaking minority
Finland Yes Local None
France No -
Germany No -
Hungary Yes Local None
Iceland Yes Local
Grandfathered rights from
1920 constitution;
current law requires
Ireland Yes Local/National
Only British citizens
allowed to vote in
national elections
Israel Yes Local Qualification tied to Law
of Return
Italy No - -
Japan No - -
Latvia No - -
Netherlands Yes Local None
New Zealand Yes National None
Norway Yes Local None
Portugal Yes Local/National
Only Brazilians allowed
to vote in national
Spain Yes Local None
Sweden Yes Local None
Switzerland Yes Localities None
UK Yes National Commonwealth citizenship
United States Yes Localities
Municipalities only;
previous states’ rights
Uruguay Yes National None
Venezuela Yes Local None
Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey--Page 25
David C. Earnest
rights between the states it identifies? It may not, given a number of
states that seem to defy easy classification. One might argue that
Chile is an example of nondiscriminatory national voting rights, for
example, though I have argued otherwise. Another important question is
whether or not the de jure constitutional provisions of some states
create de facto rights for resident aliens. The cases of Venezuela and
Uruguay most explicitly raise this issue. A related question is the
number of resident aliens who actually vote in each state, data that is
difficult to find. Despite these concerns, however, I argue in
another study that a ranking of the subject states on the criteria of
scope and scale of voting rights is a reasonable measure of the
national or postnational citizenship practices of a state.
A third challenge is the likelihood of omitted cases. As this
paper noted earlier, the list of states presented here may not be
exhaustive. It undoubtedly is difficult to find evidence of states
choosing not to pursue a policy of enfranchising resident aliens. Yet
more negative observations (indeed any observations) will help obviate
the degrees-of-freedom problems associated with small-n studies.
The surprising number of states that allow resident aliens to
vote suggests, however, that such a study is overdue. The history of
suffrage movements shows that citizens and states rarely extend voting
rights in the absence of social unrest, war, and agitation by excluded
social groups. Alien suffrage has occurred, by contrast, with
relatively little violence. This is perhaps the most provocative of
the many questions this empirical overview has raised. While I have
posed several questions about the democratic practice of enfranchising
aliens, however, I have left them unanswered. In another study I begin
a systematic undertaking of an investigation of these questions by
deriving hypotheses from what might be called the “nationalist” and
“postnationalist” literature. The nationalist thesis explains these
variations as a product of traditional politics within the state, and
asserts that such practices only reinforce the traditional relationship
between the polity and the state. The postnationalist thesis argues,
by contrast, that international and transnational factors explain
variations in the incorporation of migrant communities in democratic
states. Postnationalists cite the growth of practices such as plural
nationality as evidence of a separation of the polity from traditional,
nation-based conceptions of the political community. They expect a
convergence of democratic practice around a common set of inclusive,
nondiscriminatory principles and norms, if not a common institutional
design. Informing these hypotheses is a shared commitment to a basic
question: why do states vary in their policies and practices for the
incorporation of resident aliens? As this survey has shown, the
variation among those democracies that enfranchise resident aliens is
no exception. A key task for nationalists and postnationalists is to
explain not only the surprising number of states that allow their
resident aliens to vote, but the surprisingly different ways in which
they do so.
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David C. Earnest
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... Por ejemplo, se ha esperado que países con una tradición de ciudadanía "conservadora" o "etnonacionalista" no extiendan derechos electorales a los migrantes residentes, en un sentido de coherencia normativa (Kalicki 2009b). Sin embargo, según otros autores, se debe esperar que precisamente los países de tradición conservadora y difícil acceso a la ciudadanía por medio de la naturalización abran una vía a la participación por medio de los derechos electorales, en el sentido de dar una alternativa, cuando hay un déficit democrático que atender (Justwan, 2015;Earnest, 2002). En sintonía con esa suposición de que extender el sufragio a los migrantes y facilitar la naturalización son políticas alternativas para resolver el déficit democrático, algunos interpretan que si la tradición de ciudadanía en un país es liberal e incluyente, es decir, sus reglas respecto a la adquisición de ciudadanía vía naturalización son relativamente asequibles para los migrantes residentes, entonces no hay necesidad de abrir un camino a la participación vía derechos electorales para los migrantes residentes (Mouritsen, 2013;Thränhardt, 2014). ...
Full-text available
In comparison to other countries in the Latin American region, especially in Central America, support for democracy in Costa Rica is high –despite ups and downs in recent years. Still, regarding the challenges that immigration poses for the principles of democratic inclusion and representation, Costa Rica lag behind 11 countries in Latin America –and 35 democracies in the world– where immigrant residents have the right to vote in local elections. In Chile and Uruguay, the only countries in the region where support for democracy tops that observed in Costa Rica, the right to vote of immigrant residents even reaches national elections. With such a comparative background, this article addresses the question: how to explain that this democracy ignores the tendency to give the right to vote to resident migrants? The study reveals a society in which the narrative of exceptionality with respect to other countries of the continent and the formal primacy of nationality to political citizenship, allow tolerating a clear inequality between the political rights of emigrants and immigrants.
... As David Earnest notes in a fine review article on the subject, there is no common formula across these 26 states for the rules under which non-citizen voting rights are exercised (Earnest 2003). The scope and scale of such rights vary in different countries. ...
Kap. 2 legt die normative, theoretische und praktische Relevanz zum Verständnis der Ausweitung des Wahlrechts auf Denizens in Bezug auf verschiedene Staatsbürgerschaftstheorien dar. Die analytischen Stärken und Schwächen der sich darauf beziehenden Literatur werden gegeneinander abgewogen und bestehende Widersprüche und Probleme aufgezeigt. Innerhalb der Literatur können drei Stränge unterschieden werden, die alle plausible Einblicke bieten, warum es so kam. Ohne die Erklärungskraft der gängigsten Ansätze anzweifeln zu wollen, zeige ich, dass diese Theorien es nicht schaffen, die Vielfalt der Reformen zur Ausweitung des Wahlrechts auf Denizens wiederzugeben. Diese Beschränkung hängt damit zusammen, dass innerhalb der Staatsbürgerschaftsforschung die Untersuchung der Ausweitung des Wahlrechts auf Denizens immer im Schatten der Erforschung der Veränderungen des Einbürgerungsrechts stand. Ich plädiere daher dafür, einen Forschungsansatz zu finden, dem es besser gelingt, die verschiedenen theoretischen Ansätze zu verknüpfen.
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Over the last fifty years, eighteen regional assemblies in Europe have debated the extension of voting rights to foreign residents. Yet only Scotland and the Swiss cantons of Neuchâtel and Jura have adopted such legislation. What explains this variation? Through a comparison of debates that have taken place in Italy and Switzerland, I show that multilevel governance expands access to policymaking, but also multiplies veto points in the system. As a result, attempts by regional assemblies to directly give voting rights to foreign residents are generally doomed to fail. At the same time, multilevel governance can be used as a strategy to indirectly shape the political inclusion of different groups. Even if they are unsuccessful in giving the right to vote to foreign residents, these discussions can lead to broader reforms of political rights at the national level.
Recent decades have seen a strong trend among democratic countries to extend voting rights at subnational levels to non-naturalized immigrants, creating substantial variation across countries in terms of voting eligibility rules for non-naturalized immigrants. Our knowledge of the consequences of these different systems for immigrant political integration is, however, limited. This article seeks to shed new light on this important issue by using Swedish data to study whether immigrants who face shorter residency requirements for voting eligibility in local elections are more likely to integrate politically. We find little compelling evidence that such is the case. The results suggest that immigrants who became eligible to vote after six to seven years were as likely to naturalize and vote in future elections in both the short and long run as those who received the right to vote after only three years of residency. Thus, although expanded franchise can be of symbolic, as well as practical, value, it is unlikely to be a panacea for immigrant political inclusion. The argument that early voting rights for non-naturalized immigrants is desirable since it helps speed up immigrant political integration should, therefore, be used with some care by those advocating for such reforms.
In the mid-1970s, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia all ceased using “British subject” as a criterion for national voting rights. In all three countries, this represented a decisive step away from the British imperial model of political community towards a nationally constituted one. Unlike Australia and Canada, however, New Zealand did not replace “British subject” with national citizenship criterion; it simply removed “British subject”, leaving the existing residency requirement intact. New Zealand became – and remains – the only country in the world to allocate national voting rights to all permanent resident non-citizens after one years’ residence. This was a radical decision with far-reaching implications for the incorporation of immigrants into the national political community
U.S. citizens against immigration argue that immigrants commit voter fraud and skew election outcomes towards progressive candidates. These arguments have increased in number and severity since the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that states cannot require photo identification from voters. We examine whether the size of the non-citizen population is related to election outcomes. Previous research indicates that non-citizens sway elections in favour of progressive candidates but only in elections where the victory margin is small. We find no evidence of a relationship between non-citizens and vote outcomes. We find evidence that the percent of the population that is non-white is positively related to percent of votes cast for democratic candidates.
This article argues that the widely accepted principle of universal suffrage actually implies endowing children with voting power. The fact that children lack political maturity does not necessarily lead us to the conclusion that they should not have the right to vote. Parents, at least in principle, can act as their electoral custodians. The idea of letting parents vote on behalf of their children, however, raises one important question: are parents in fact able to make a genuine voting decision for their children, independently from their own decision, or will children’s suffrage just lead to a multiplication of parental choices?
Conference Paper
P2P social networks defined by user actions (e.g., P2P discussion forums) are expected to be ideal environments for Sybil and false identity attacks (just as in the case of the similar web based systems: YouTube, etc.). In particular, these attacks are a significant impediment for meaningful electronic petition drives since they render impossible the verification of the eligibility of participants. While many electronic social networks strive for guaranteeing the privacy (e.g., by anonymization) of their users, existing systems for petition drives, like, encourage users to disclose their real identities and are meaningless when users do not follow this request. We describe a framework and investigate techniques for running decentralized peer-to-peer census processes that enable observers to independently verify the identity of participants in a social network.
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In this book, the authors set forth a new model of globalization that lays claims to supersede existing models, and then use this model to assess the way the processes of globalization have operated in different historic periods in respect to political organization, military globalization, trade, finance, corporate productivity, migration, culture, and the environment. Each of these topics is covered in a chapter which contrasts the contemporary nature of globalization with that of earlier epochs. In mapping the shape and political consequences of globalization, the authors concentrate on six states in advanced capitalist societies (SIACS): the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, and Japan. For comparative purposes, other states—particularly those with developing economics—are referred to and discussed where relevant. The book concludes by systematically describing and assessing contemporary globalization, and appraising the implications of globalization for the sovereignty and autonomy of SIACS. It also confronts directly the political fatalism that surrounds much discussion of globalization with a normative agenda that elaborates the possibilities for democratizing and civilizing the unfolding global transformation.
The Dominion of Canada came into being in 1867, when the United Kingdom Parliament united pre-existing colonies by enacting the British North America Act 1867,1 since renamed as the Constitution Act 1867.2 This statute divides legislative authority over specified subject matters between the Parliament of Canada and the provincial legislatures. Section 91(25) grants to Parliament authority over ‘Naturalization and Aliens’, while section 95 grants concurrent authority over immigration to both the federal and provincial legislatures. However, this latter section also provides that provincial law on immigration will be operative only as long as it is not repugnant to federal law. Over the years, the test of how to determine repugnancy has changed and is, to this day, somewhat controversial.
Every country has its own unique history of migration policy and a specific context within which migration has taken place. For example, some countries have had colonies (Japan, France, UK and the Netherlands) and some countries have themselves been colonies (Australia, New Zealand and the USA). In the past some countries have been emigration states (Japan, Germany, Sweden and the UK). In recent times, we can classify states into classical immigration states (Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA),1 European immigration states (France, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany) and states with only modest levels of immigration (Japan). Table 11.1 shows the size of the foreign populations and foreign-born populations in the countries analysed in this book. Generally, foreign populations and foreign-born populations grew in the 1990s except in the Netherlands, where the foreign population fell due to high rates of acquisition of citizenship after the amendment of the administration of naturalisation practice.
For over 30 years, "CCW" has distinguished itself as the gold standard for full-text, integrated versions of 192 country constitutions, translated into English by constitutional scholars familiar with the legal systems, judicial language, and official language of the foreign jurisdictions they cover. Complementing the official documents are Introductory and Comparative Notes that examine recent amendments and highlight pertinent historical, political and economic factors. Where especially useful, a summary of topics treated is provided as well, helping the reader zero in on the most relevant articles of the constitution quickly. In some cases a chronology is also provided. Its clear and easy organization makes this set a pleasure to use. Constitutions are arranged alphabetically by country name, with each country housed in a self-contained pamphlet. Painstakingly translated, comprehensively annotated and clearly organized, this collection provides lawyers, scholars and students with an ideal tool for comparative research in constitutional law, history, and politics. It is updated approximately eight times per year.
“Alienation” was one of the buzzwords of the 1960s, coming into fashion with the “counterculture” and the neo-Marxist philosophy that was loosely associated with it. It became so overused that it suffered the subsequent fate of most intellectual fads, fading from popular discourse as the Zeitgeist moved on while also largely losing its brief and limited appeal in the scholarly community. It is arguable, however, that it deserved neither fate, and that it may turn out to have an intellectually respectable future, along any of several lines picking up on strands of its many uses.
In this Article, I will argue that the current blanket exclusion of noncitizens from the ballot is neither constitutionally required nor historically normal. Moreover, the disenfranchisement of aliens at the local level is vulnerable to deep theoretical objections since resident aliens-who are governed, taxed, and often drafted just like citizens-have a strong democratic claim to being considered members, indeed citizens, of their local communities. Although democratic theory cannot resolve the foundational political question of who belongs to "the people," the ideological traditions of both liberalism and republicanism make available compelling arguments for the inclusion of noncitizens as voters in local elections. The bedrock hostility of the liberal rights tradition to taxation and governance without representation makes noncitizen voting a logically unassailable, if not clearly mandatory, democratic practice. Republicanism presents a somewhat more complicated picture given its historic compatibility with exclusionary practices, but a progressive commitment to dialogic politics and the constitutive value of participation is arguably vindicated by defining universal suffrage without regard to nation-state citizenship. These arguments are deepened by evolving international norms of community-based democracy and human rights and strengthened by important instrumental considerations relating to the surge in immigration which the United States is currently experiencing.Part I sketches the role alien suffrage has played in American history. Part II provides a constitutional analysis concluding that state enfranchisement of noncitizens is neither forbidden by the Constitution, as is commonly assumed, nor compelled by it, as wasargued by Gerald Rosberg in an important article published in 1977. Part III presents the normative argument for reviving alien suffrage at the local level. Part IV canvasses the current status of noncitizen voting in the United States and describes in some detail the experience of the City of Takoma Park, Maryland, which in 1992 became the first American municipality in decades to amend its charter specifically to extend the franchise to noncitizens in local elections.