Right of foreigners to vote

Right of foreigners to vote

Suffrage, the right to vote in a particular country, generally derives from citizenship. In most countries, the right to vote is reserved to those who possess the citizenship of the country in question. Some countries, however, have extended suffrage rights to non-citizens. Suffrage rights extended to non-citizens are often restricted or limited in some ways, with the details of the restrictions or limitations varying from one country to another.


In some cases, the United States being one such case, some subnational entities have granted voting rights to non-citizens. Conceptions of subnational citizenship have been reasons to grant this right to those normally excluded from it. Other countries have granted voting rights to non-citizens who hold citizenship of a country which is a fellow member of a supranational organization (e.g. members of the European Union). In a few cases, countries grant voting rights to citizens and non-citizens alike.

In a 2003 paper, David C. Earnest (then a graduate research assistant at at George Washington University) surveyed practice of voting rights for resident aliens (or immigrants), concluding that although the practice is surprisingly widespread, the details varied considerably from country to country.cite paper
author =Earnest, David C.
title =Noncitizen Voting Rights: A Survey of an Emerging Democratic Norm
version =
publisher =Old Dominion University
date =August 29, 2003
url =http://www.odu.edu/~dearnest/pdfs/earnest_apsa_2003.pdf
format =pdf
accessdate =
] In another paper, Earnest compared voting rights for resident aliens in 25 democracies, grouping them into five categories as follows:cite paper
author =Earnest, David C.
title =Voting Rights for Resident Aliens: A Comparison of 25 Democracies
version =
publisher =Old Dominion University
date =November 7, 2003
url =http://www.odu.edu/~dearnest/pdfs/earnest_isane_2003.pdf
format =pdf
accessdate =
*0: No rights (Australia by grandfathered franchise after 1984, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark before 1977, Finland before 1981, France, Germany except for 1989-90, Greece, Ireland before 1962, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands before 1979, Norway before 1978, Spain before 1985, Sweden before 1976, the United Kingdom before 1949, and the United States before 1968).
*1: Rights granted only by subnational governments (Canada from 1975 to the present; West Germany in 1989, the Netherlands from 1979 to 1981, Switzerland from 1960 to the present, and the United States from 1968 to the present).
*2: Local rights, discriminatory (Denmark from 1977 to 1980; Finland from 1981 to 1990; Israel from 1960 to the present; and Norway from 1978 to 1981).
*3: National rights, discriminatory (Australia from 1960 to 1984, Canada from 1960 to 1974, Ireland from 1985 to the present, New Zealand from 1960 to 1974, Portugal, the United Kingdom).
*4: Local rights, nondiscriminatory (Denmark after 1980, Finland after 1990, Hungary, Ireland 1963 to 1984, the Netherlands after 1981, Norway after 1981, Spain after 1985, Sweden after 1976).
*5: National rights, nondiscriminatory (New Zealand after 1975; Uruguay for 15 years-resident, since 1952)

After receiving his Doctorate in 2004, Dr. Earnest published a further paper examining the political incorporationof aliens in three European democracies: Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.cite paper
author =Earnest, David C.
title =Political Incorporation and Historical Institutionalism: A Comparison of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium
version =
publisher =Old Dominion University
date =5 March 2005
url =http://www.odu.edu/~dearnest/pdfs/earnest_isa_2005_final.pdf
format =pdf
accessdate =

upranational groupings

A number of separate supranational groupings of countries exist, and membership in some of these groupings may involve multinational agreements and treaties in which member countries agree to some degree of reciprocity regarding voting rights. Some individual countries are members of more than one supranational groupings, and some supranational groupings of countries are members of other supranational groupings of countries.

European Union (EU)

The 1992 Maastricht Treaty imposed reciprocity inside the European Union concerning voting rights in local elections; this already existed for the European elections. In several European states, the public debate on the right of foreigners to vote was therefore renewed, as some foreign residents had the right to vote (European foreign residents) while others, non-Europeans, did not. As a result of this debate, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Slovenia and Belgium extended the right to vote, in different manners, to all foreign residents (which was already the case in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Netherlands).

The European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the Baltic Sea States Conference [ [http://suffrage-universel.be/vo/euvocbss.htm Voting Rights and the Right to Stand for Public Office] , Council of the Baltic Sea States, February 1996] have produced various recommendations in favor of the introduction of the right to vote and of eligibility to all foreign residents in local elections. The 1992 Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level [ [http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/144.htm 1992 Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level] ] from the Council of Europe, is opened to signatures and ratifications.

Commonwealth of Nations (CN)

The Commonwealth of Nations (CN), usually known as the "Commonwealth" and formerly as the "British Commonwealth", is a voluntary association of over 50 independent sovereign states, most of which are former colonies of the British Empire. A few Commonwealth countries, apart from the United Kingdom itself, allow Commonwealth citizens (formerly "British subjects") voting and/or eligibility rights at all levels, either with or without specific restrictions not applying to local citizens: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malawi (all foreign residents, not only Commonwealth citizens), Mauritius, Namibia (all foreign residents, not only Commonwealth citizens), New Zealand (all foreign residents, before 1975 only Commonwealth citizens), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Individual national cases

Antigua and Barbuda

(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote and are eligible for parliamentary elections, but "allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for ineligibility. [cite web
title=Antigua and Barbuda
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


Article 61 of the Constitution of the city of Buenos Aires states that "Suffrage is free, equal, secret, universal, compulsory and not accumulative. The foreign residents enjoy this right, with the correlative obligations, on equal terms with argentinian citizens registered in this district, in the terms established by the law"." [cite web
title=Constitución de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
date=October 1 1996
publisher=Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires


(CN member) National voting rights were granted to Commonwealth citizens from 1960 to 1984. In 1984, 1947 legislation which had allowed non-citizen voting was repealed, but voters registered before 1984 retained their voting rights.cite web
title=Immigrant Voting Project - Global Resident Voting Timeline


(EU member) In 2002, non-citizens were granted voting rights in state elections in Vienna, but the decision was overturned by the Constitutional Court in June 2004. [cite web
title=La Cour constitutionnelle a annulé fin juin la loi adoptée en décembre 2002
editor=La Lettre de la citoyenneté
Date=September-October 2004
("The Constitutional Court rejected on the end of June the law adopted in December 2002")
] EU nationals may vote and stand for office in local elections (in Vienna only at borough level, because Vienna is a state of Austria not a local municipality). [cite web
title=Explaining the September election
publisher=Austrian Times
date=July 11, 2008


(CN member) As of 1990, Commonwealth citizens may vote for parliamentary elections with a 3 years residency requirement. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(EU member) European Union residents in Belgium were given the right to vote and to be candidates for the 1994 European Parliament election, then for the 2000 Municipal elections. They had however first only the right to be elected as municipal councillors, not at the executive level (schepen/alderman or burgomaster/mayor), the alderman level was only opened for them from the 2006 Municipal elections, the mayor level may not be opened to them because it includes a function of administrative police. In conformance with EU regulations, EU residents are submitted to the same residence conditions as Belgian nationals, i.e. residence in the commune at the closure date of the electoral roll (July 31 for the municipal elections).

In 2004, voting rights in municipal elections were extended to non-European Union foreigners living in Belgium, with certain conditions attached. Non-EU foreigners must have been living in Belgium for at least five years before becoming entitled to vote. Any non-EU foreigner who wants to take advantage of the new legislation must also sign an oath of allegiance to the Belgian constitution, formally agree to respect the country’s laws and sign the European Convention on Human Rights. Also, non-EU foreigners are not allowed to stand as candidates. [cite web
title=Belgium grants all expats local election voting rights
date=20 February 2004

As voting is compulsory in Belgium, and all electors are automatically on the electoral rolls (extracted from a computerized National Register [cite web
title=Des registres de population vers un Registre national des personnes physiques, 05/07/2007
date=5 July 2007
publisher=SPF Intérieur - Registre National
] ), foreign residents have to enlist voluntarily on the electoral roll, then only they are submitted to the compulsory vote. At the 2006 Municipal elections, only 20.9% (110,973 out of 529,878) of the potential EU voters enlisted (17.6%, or 87,858 out of 498,315 at the 2000 Municipal elections [cite web
title=Statistiques pour les Européens
date=14 August 2000
publisher=M.I.B.Z. Direction Elections
] ), and 15.7% (17,065 out of 108,607) of the potential non-EU voters. [cite web
title=Statistiques officielles des électeurs (Situation au 1 août 2006)
month=August | year=2006
publisher=Direction générale Institutions et Population


(CN member) Commonwealth citizens who are domiciled or have resided in the country for at least one year immediately before polling day are qualified as electors, but not for eligibility to the House of Representatives, which requires Belize citizenship. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


In 1994, the constitution was changed to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. As of 2007, this has not been implemented.


Article 12.1 of the states that "The rights inherent to Brazilians "(before 1994 Constitutional amendment, "born Brazilians" [cite web
title=Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil de 1988 (
date=updated 2007 with Constitutional amendments
publisher=Presidência da República
] )" shall be attributed to Portuguese citizens permanently resident in Brazil if Brazilians are afforded reciprocal treatment, except in the events set forth in this Constitution".", article 14 that "Foreigners cannot register as voters", and "The conditions for eligibility, according to the law, are the following: I. Brazilian nationality" (...)". A Treaty of friendship, cooperation and consultation between Brazil and Portugal was signed on April 22 2000 and promulgated in 2001 by Decree nr. 3.927/2001. Practically, the Portuguese citizen regularly residing in Brazil and wishing to enjoy the "Equality Status" ("Estatuto de Igualdade") without losing his original citizenship has to apply to the Ministry of Justice. The conditions to enjoy political rights are: to be residing in Brazil for 3 years, to be able to read and write Portuguese and to enjoy political rights in Portugal. [cite web
title=Estrangeiros "Nacionalidade e Naturalização" Igualdade de Direitos
publisher=Ministério da Justiça


(EU member) In February 2005, the Bulgarian Constitution was modified, an article 42, a third paragraph was added to Article 42, stating "The elections for the European Parliament and the participation of European Union citizens in the elections for local authorities shall be regulated by law". [cite web
title=Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria
date=last modified in February 2005
publisher=Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria


(CN member) Voting rights at the federal level in Canada are exclusively limited to Canadian citizens. [cite web
title= Canada Elections Act - Part one - Electoral rights - article 3
date=22 June 2007
publisher=Elections Canada

British Columbia

The 1984 Election Amendment Act (Bill 20) put an end to the faculty of inscription on the electoral rolls of British citizens in British Columbia. [cite web
title=British Columbia, Official Report of Debates of the legislative Assembly (Hansard), Tuesday, May 8, 1984 Morning Sitting
date=20 May 1984
publisher=Hansard Services, Victoria, B.C., Canada

New Brunswick

Fot the 1995 New Brunswick provincial elections, a person qualified to vote had to be a Canadian citizen or a British subject who was resident in the province prior to January 1, 1979. [cite web
title=1995 Provincial Election Voter Information
publisher=Elections New Brunswick
] For the 1999 elections, the qualification was limited to Canadian citizens. [cite web
title=1999 Provincial Election Voter Information
publisher=Elections New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

For the 2003 and 2006 provincial elections in Nova Scotia, to be eligible to vote, a person had still to be either a Canadian citizen or a British subject. [cite web
title=Who, What, Where and Why: Election Fast Facts
date=July 9, 2003
publisher=Government of Nova Scotia
] In November 25 2001, an amendment to the Elections Act removed being a British subject as a qualification for registration as an elector but provided that this change would not be not effective until the second general election that was to be held after this amendment came into force. [cite web
title=Bill n° 29 - Elections Act (amended)
date=November 22, 2001
publisher=Government of Nova Scotia


The 1985 Equality Rights Statute Law Amendment Act put an end to municipal and scholar elections voting rights for British citizens in Ontario. Those who could vote before the Act kept their voting rights up to July 1 1988, the legal waiting period for the introduction of a request for naturalization. [cite web
title=Equality Rights Statute Law Amendment Act] , Legislative Assembly of Ontario L005 - Tue 11 jun 1985 - Mar 11 jun 1985


British subjects (other than Canadian citizens) are entitled to vote if they were qualified electors at the time of the Saskatchewan provincial general election held on June 23, 1971. [cite web
title=Electoral Process
publisher=Elections Saskatchewan

Cape Verde

Article 24 of the Cape Verde Constitution [cite web
title=Constituição da República de Cabo Verde
] states that
*alinea 3.: "Rights not conferred to foreigners and apatrids may be attributed to citizens of countries with Portuguese as an official language, except for access to functions of sovereignty organs, service in the armed forces or in the diplomatic career."
*alinea 4. "Active and passive electoral capacity can be attributed by law to foreigners and apatrids residents on the national territory for the elections of the members of the organs of the local municipalities."

The website of the governmental Institute of Cape Verde Communities states that such a measure was adopted "to stimulate reciprocity from host countries of Cape Verdian migrants". [cite web
publisher=Instituto das Comunidades de Cabo Verde

A law nr. 36/V/97 was promulgated on August 25 1997 regulating the "Statute of Lusophone Citizen", concerning nationals from any country member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (article 2), stating in its article 3 that "The lusophone citizen with residence in Cape Verde is recognized the active and passive electoral capacity for municipal elections, under conditions of the law. The lusophone citizen with residence in Cape Verde has the right to exercise political activity related to his electoral capacity." [cite web
title=Lei n°36/V/97 - Estatuto de Cidadão Lusófono - Cabo Verde
publisher="Boletim Oficial", I Série, N°.32, 25 de Agosto de 1997, Cabo Verde
] .


The 1980 Chilean Constitution states in its article 14 that "Foreigners residing in Chile for more than five years and who comply with the requirements prescribed in the first paragraph of Article 13, may exercise the right to vote in the cases and in the manner determined by law.". Article 13 states that "Citizens are those Chileans who have reached the age of eighteen years and who have never been sentenced to afflictive punishment." [cite web
title=Constitution of the Republic of Chile Adopted 21 October 1980 (does not include the 2005 amendments).
publisher=University of Richmond, Constitution Finder|format=PDF
] . A 2005 constitutional reform introduced a second alinea to article 14, by which eligibility rights of naturalized citizens only occur 5 years after being granted a naturalization card. [cite web
title=Constitución Política de la República de Chile de 1980 - Incluye Reformas de 1989, 1991, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003 y 2005. Actualizada hasta la Ley 20.050 de 2005.
publisher=Georgetown University Political Database of the Americas


In 1991, the constitution was changed to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, but the changes were not immediately implemented. On July 31, 2006, Colombia approved voting by foreigners for mayors and city council elections. To vote, foreigners must have been residents of Colombia for 5 years and must register with the electoral authorities. Voting is not compulsory and voting aliens have the same voting-related privileges citizens would. [cite web
title=Por medio de la cual se reglamenta el voto de extranjeros residentes en Colombia
(" By means of which the vote of resident foreigners in Colombia is regulated ")


(EU and CN member) Article 8 of the 2004 Local Elections Act (Nationals of Other Member States) (Ν.98(Ι)/2004) allows EU residents to vote at local elections. Voters have to register, once registered they are submitted to compulsory voting like Cyprus citizens. EU voters may not stand for election as mayor or chairman of the council and, if elected to the local council, they may not hold the office of deputy mayor or deputy chairman. [Citation
title=Local elections (Cyprus)
publisher=Your Europe portal (by the European Commission)
] Article 9(2) of the 2004 Law on Election of Members to the European Parliament (N.10(I)/2004) allows EU residents to vote and be candidate at the European Parliament elections. [Citation
title=EU Parliament elections (Cyprus)
publisher=Your Europe portal (by the European Commission)

Czech Republic

(EU member) In December 2001, voting rights in local elections were approved for "any natural person who has reached the age of 18, is a citizen of a foreign country and has permanent residence registered in the municipality, if an international treaty by which the Czech Republic is bound and which has been promulgated so stipulates." [Citation
title=ACT of 12th April 2000 on Municipalities (Establishment of Municipalities)
] In November 2002, only EU nationals benefited from such a treaty. [Citation
title=foreign residents and voting rights for the municipal elections - mail exchange with an official of the Czech Ministry of Interior
] An Act on elections to the European Parliament was adopted in March 2003.


(EU member) Voting and eligibility rights were granted to Nordic Passport Union country citizens with a 3 years residence condition for municipal and county elections in 1977. These rights were extended to all foreign residents in 1981. In 1995, the 3 years residence requirement was abolished for EU residents, in conformity with the European legislation, and also for Nordic residents.Citation
title=Electoral rights for foreign nationals: a comparative overview of regulations in 36 countries
author=Harald Waldrauch
publisher=European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research (Vienna)
journal=National Europe Centre Paper
issue=No. 73


(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote for parliamentary elections. They are not eligible for direct elections to the House of Assembly, but may be appointed or elected as senators (9 members of the parliament who may either be appointed by the president or elected by the other members of the House of Assembly). "Allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for ineligibility. [cite web
title=Dominica - House of Assembly
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(EU member) Article 156 of the 1992 states that "Any person who has reached the age of 18 and resides permanently in the territory of that local government will have the right to vote in accordance with the Constitution and the law.". In 1996, all foreign residents were granted voting, but not eligibility, rights, for municipal elections with a 5 years residence condition. In March 2002, a new Local Government Elections Act was adopted to conform with European legislation, granting EU residents the same voting and eligibility rights for municipal elections.Citation
title=Towards the first European Parliament "enlarged elections" : participation of a further one million EU citizens living in outside their home country successfully guaranteed
date=January 2 2004
publisher=The European Commission (Press release)


(EU member) Voting and eligibility rights were granted to Nordic Passport Union country citizens without residence condition for municipal elections in 1981. These rights were extended to all foreign residents in 1991 with a 2 years residence condition. In 1995 (Law 365/95, confirmed by Electoral Law 714/1998), the residence requirement was abolished for EU residents, in conformity with the European legislation. Section 14, al. 2 of the 2000 Constitution of Finland states that "Every Finnish citizen and every foreigner permanently resident in Finland, having attained eighteen years of age, has the right to vote in municipal elections and municipal referendums, as provided by an Act. Provisions on the right to otherwise participate in municipal government are laid down by an Act." [Citation
title=The Constitution of Finland
date=June 11 1999


(EU member) EU nationals may vote in local elections since 2001, and also stand as candidates in EU Parliament elections.

In France, the Socialist Party has been talking about it since the early 1980s, it was the 80th proposition of the 110 Propositions for France electoral program of 1981, but as it needed a Constitutional change it would have been blocked by the Senate, the alternative would have been a referendum, but as it was generally assumed that a majority of the public opinion was against it, it could have resulted in a defeat of the government. On May 3 2000, a law proposal was voted by the National Assembly by the Left and 2 centrist Union for French Democracy deputies, but it was blocked by the Senate.

Polls suggest that a narrow majority of the public opinion is now favorable to it and even Nicolas Sarkozy and a few other prominent right-wing politicians like Philippe Séguin (candidate to the mayorship of Paris in 2001) Gilles de Robien and Jean-Louis Borloo let know they supported it as a personal opinion, but that they would respect the overlarge majority negative position of their parties. In January 2006 the left-wing senators tried again tu put the law proposal on the agenda, but the right-wing majority blocked it again.

In the late 1990s-early 2000s some symbolic local referendums on the subject were organized either under the auspices of the Ligue des droits de l'homme or of the municipal authorities, one of them in Saint-Denis, at the initiaive of the Communist Party mayor. The Cergy administrative court ruled in 2006 that the referendums were not legally binding. Other communist or socialist-led municipalities organized such referendums, including Le Blanc-Mesnil (PCF), Bondy (PS), Stains (PCF), La Courneuve (PCF) and Aubervilliers (PCF) [cite web
title=Local Elections: The municipality
publisher=Embassy of France in Washington
] [cite web
title=Noncitizen voting around the world: - France
date=27 march 2006
] [cite web
title=Les habitants de Saint-Denis favorables au droit de vote des étrangers aux élections locales
date=27 March 2006
publisher=Le Monde


(EU member) In February 1989, the state of Schleswig-Holstein approved local voting rights for Danish, Irish, Norse, Dutch, Swedish, and Swiss 5-year residents; the state of Hamburg approved local voting for 8-year residents. Both were struck down as unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in October 31 1990 (Ruling 83, 37), considering that the Basic Law, when stating in its article 28 that for districts and municipalities "the people" must be represented by election, only meant by "the people" the German citizens resident on the territory of that administrative unit. [Citation
title=Contentieux constitutionnel: Introduction - B. II. Compétences de la Cour constitutionnelle fédérale
author=Dr. Gotthard Wöhrmann
date=last modified on September 25 2006
publisher= [http://www.inter-nationes.de/ Inter Nationes e.V., Bonn] and [http://www.jura.uni-sb.de/BIJUS BIJUS]

Between 1995 and 1999, all states were complied to change their legislation in order to comply with the December 19 1994 94/80/CE EU directive over voting and eligibility rights for EU residents for local and district elections. [Citation
title=Polyrythmie européenne : le droit de suffrage municipal des étrangers au sein de l'Union, une règle électorale entre détournements et retardements
publisher=Presses de Sc. Po.
journal=Revue française de science politique
volume= Vol. 53

In 1998 the coalition government agreement between the social-democrats and the Greens for the first Schröder cabinet including voting rights for all residents at the municipal and district level, ["Zur Förderung der Integration sollen auch die hier lebenden Ausländerinnen und Ausländer, die nicht die Staatsangehörigkeit eines Mitgliedsstaates der Europäischen Union besitzen, das Wahlrecht in Kreisen und Gemeinden erhalten." Citation
title=Aufbruch und Erneuerung – Deutschlands Weg ins 21. Jahrhundert, Koalitionsvereinbarung zwischen der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands und BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN
date=October 20 1998
] but the right-wing opposition led a harsh campaign for the February 7 1999 regional elections in the state of Hesse, mostly centered against both the planned reform of the German nationality law and the perspective of noncitizen voting rights, won these elections and so got a majority in the federal Upper House, where it blocked any initiative on voting rights and forced the government to adopt a less far-reaching reform of the nationality law. [Citation
title=Germany: Dual Nationality Change
date=March 1999
publisher=Migration News Vol. 6 No. 4


(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote and are eligible for parliamentary elections, but "allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for ineligibility. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(CN member) Commonwealth citizens with domicile and residence in Guyana for a period of at least one year (same condition apply to Guyanese citizens) may vote but the Guyanese citizenship is required for eligibility to the National Assembly. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Voting is a relatively recent right in Hong Kong, initiated only towards the end of the British colonial period (1842-1997) and enlarged somewhat after the handover to the People’s Republic of China. For this “special administrative region” of China, the right to vote is not tied to citizenship. Chinese citizenship, after all, does not entitle persons to cross the border from the mainland and settle in Hong Kong, which controls its own borders and immigration policies independently from Beijing. Instead, the right to vote arises from a person’s permanent residence in Hong Kong, which is a distinct concept from the person’s citizenship.

Non-citizen eligibility to vote, then, is closely related to Hong Kong’s immigration laws and cannot be separated from the movement for universal suffrage and direct election of the chief executive. While voting by persons holding foreign passports has gone largely unchallenged, there is some indication that increasing appeals to patriotism may make non-citizen voting an issue of debate in the future. [cite web
title=Non-Citizen Voting in Hong Kong
author=Sonia Lin


(EU member) In 1990, permanent residents were allowed to vote in local elections. This was revised in 2004 to limit non-citizen voting to EU nationals.


Voting and eligibility rights were granted to Nordic Passport Union country citizens with a 3 years residence condition for municipal elections in 1986. These rights were extended to all foreign residents in 2002 with a 5 years residence condition.


On April 18, 2008, Conor Lenihan, the Minister for Integration, announced that full voting rights including for the President and Dáil Éireann would be extended to all EU migrants. This has yet to come in to force. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/18/ireland.eu "EU migrants living in Ireland to be allowed to vote"] ]


In 1960, non-citizen voting rights in local elections were granted for holders of a permanent resident card ("blue card"). Most permanent residents, a status created by the 1952 "Entry into Israel Law", are migrants, but other groups fall into the same category.

Following the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel conducted a census on June 26, 1967 in the annexed territory and granted permanent Israeli residency to those present at the time of the census (those not present lost the right to reside in Jerusalem). They can still vote in municipal elections and play a role in the administration of the city. At the end of 2005, 93% of the Arab population of East Jerusalem had permanent residency and 5% had Israeli citizenship. [cite web |url=http://www.cbs.gov.il/hodaot2007n/11_07_084b.doc |title=Selected Statistics on Jerusalem Day 2007 (Hebrew) |date=May 14, 2007 |publisher=Israel Central Bureau of Statistics|format=DOC]

In the annexed Golan Heights, fewer than 10% of the Druze are Israeli citizens, the remainder hold Syrian citizenship and have the status of permanent residents.

In 2003 the Black Hebrews were granted permanent residency status by the Israeli government. [cite paper
author=Kaufman, David
title=Quest for a Homeland Gains a World Stage
publisher=New York Times
date=April 16, 2006


(EU member) In 2004, an Associated Press story reported that Immigrants living in Rome had voted to elect city and district representatives from their own ranks in the first such election there. [cite web
title=Noncitizen voting around the world: Italy


(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote and are eligible for parliamentary elections, with a condition of residency in the country during 12 months prior to the compilation of the register of electors (only for British Commonwealth citizens), but "allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for ineligibility. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


In 2000, legislation to supersede a 1995 supreme court ruling against non-citizen voting rights was considered , but did not pass.


The right to vote in Jersey is determined by residency, not citizenship, citizens of any state may vote in Jersey elections provided they fulfill the other requirements for electoral registration. A person is entitled to have his or her name included on the electoral register for an electoral district if the person has been ordinarily resident in Jersey for a period of at least 2 years, or ordinarily resident in Jersey for a period of at least 6 months, as well as having been ordinarily resident in Jersey at any time for an additional period of, or for additional periods that total, at least 5 years. [cite web
title=Public Elections (Jersey) Law 2002
date=Revised Edition showing the law as at January 1 2007
publisher=Jersey Legal Information Board


(EU member)


(EU member) In 2002, EU nationals were granted local voting rights. In order to achieve this, an amendment to the constitution was adopted in June 2002 and an amendment of the Law on elections to municipalcouncils was adopted in September 2002. A Law on elections to the European Parliament was adopted by the parliament in November 2003.


(EU member) In 2003: local voting were granted with no nationality restrictions.


(CN member) Non-citizens who have been ordinarily resident in Malawi for seven years may vote for parliamentary elections, but only Malawi citizens are eligible. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(EU and CN member) Since 1993, United Kingdom residents in Malta enjoy the same voting and eligibility rights as Maltese citizens at the local and regional council elections. A Bill to make provision for participation of EU citizens to local elections and a Bill to make provision for holding of elections to the European Parliament were adopted in November 2003.


(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote and are eligible for parliamentary elections, with a condition of residence in Mauritius for not less than two years or domiciled in the country on a prescribed date (also compulsory for Mauritius citizens), but "allegiance to a State outside the Commonwealth" is a criterion for ineligibility and "ability to speak and read English with a degree of proficiency sufficient to allow for taking an active part in Assembly proceedings" is a condition of eligibility. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(CN member) Voting and eligibility requirements include citizenship of Namibia (by birth) or child of at least one parent born in Namibia or residence in the country for at least 4 years prior to the date of registration as elector. [cite web
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(EU member) In 1979 non-citizens were allowed to vote in local elections in Rotterdam. This was expanded nationwide in 1985. (though necessary reforms meant aliens did not vote in local elections until 1986).

New Zealand

(CN member) National voting rights were granted in 1853 to all British subjects who met the other qualifications (eg property), to some non-citizens from 1960 to 1974, and to all permanent residents from 1975 onwards, see History of voting in New Zealand.

One cannot, however, gain election to parliament unless one holds New Zealand citizenship. One party-list candidate in the 2002 election, Kelly Chal, could not assume her position as a member of parliament because she did not meet that criterion.


Voting and eligibility rights were granted to Nordic Passport Union country citizens with a 3 years residence condition for municipal and county elections in 1978. These rights were extended to all foreign residents in 1983. The voters enrolment is automatic. As a consequence of the 1983 extension, a 1990 bilateral treaty between Norway and Spain granted voting rights in Spain for Norwegian citizens. Currently, residing citizens of Nordic Passport Union countries may vote in local elections on the same basis as Norwegian citizens without any length of residence condition. [http://www.lovdata.no/all/tl-20020628-057-002.html#2-2]


In 1971, Brazilian residents were granted voting and eligibility rights in Portugal for municipal elections with a 2 years residency requirement and 4 years for eligibility. In 1982, this provision was extended to Cape Verde residents in the frame of reciprocity between Community of Portuguese Language Countries. It was again extended in 1997, under a general rule of reciprocity but with a 4 years residency requirement, to Peruvian and Uruguayan residents with eligibility (after 5 years of residency) and to residents from Argentina, Chile, Estonia, Israel, Norway and Venezuela without eligibility.

However, in 2005 [cite web
title=Declaração n.° 9/2005 - Países cujos nacionais gozam de direitos eleitorais em Portugal
publisher=Secretariado Técnico dos Assuntos para o Processo Eleitoral - STAPE do Ministério da Administração Interna.
journal=Diário da República n° 130 SÉRIE I-A
date=July 8 2005
] this list of countries was reduced to
*voting rights: the EU countries (now including Estonia), Brazil, Cape Verde, Norway, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile and Argentina, plus Iceland, thus minus Israel and Peru
*eligibility: the EU countries, Brazil and Cape Verde, thus minus Peru and Uruguay

Some Brazilian residents "with special status" ("cidadãos brasileiros com estatuto especial de igualdade de direitos políticos") enjoy voting rights, but not eligibility rights, even for parliamentary and regional elections. [cite web
title=Direito de Voto dos Cidadãos Estrangeiros
publisher=Secretariado Técnico dos Assuntos para o Processo Eleitoral - STAPE do Ministério da Administração Interna.
date=February 18 2003
- [http://suffrage-universel.be/vo/ptvo.pdf French version of the same document]

There is a political debate going on as to whether voting rights should be extended to all noncitizen residents, as the reciprocity clause excludes 50% of noncitizen residents. In May 2007, the High Commissioner of Migrations and Ethnic Minorities publicly advocated the abolition of the reciprocity clause and the extension of voting rights for foreign residents to all elections, including parliamentary and presidential elections. [cite web
title=Direito de voto igual para todos
journal=O Primeiro de Janeiro
date=May 22 2007
( [http://www.portugalvivo.com/spip.php?article1461 French translation] )

aint Kitts and Nevis

(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote, but are not eligible, for parliamentary elections, if born in the country before independence; "allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for voting rights disqualification. [cite web
title=Saint Kitts and Nevis
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union

aint Lucia

(CN member) Commonwealth citizens may vote, but are only those born in Saint Lucia are eligible, for parliamentary elections, if born in the country before independence; "allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for ineligibility. [cite web
title=Saint Lucia
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union

aint Vincent and the Grenadines

(CN member) Commonwealth citizens able to speak and read the English language may vote and are eligible for parliamentary elections, if born in the country before independence; "allegiance to a foreign State" is a criterion for voting rights disqualification. [cite web
title=Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
publisher=Inter-Parliamentary Union


(EU member) On May 29 2002, the Slovenian Parliament passed amendments to the Law on Local Elections which gave voting rights in local elections to all foreigners with a permanent residence in Slovenia. In addition to electing local council representatives and mayors, foreigners with a permanent residence are also enabled to run for the position of local councillor. [Citation
title=Constitutional Watch - Slovenia
date=Summer 2002
publisher=East European Constitutional Review, Volume 11 Number 3
] The voting rights of foreigners are based on Article 43 of the Constitution of Slovenia which states that a law may be used to determine the cases and conditions in which foreigners may vote.

The persons who are entitled to vote and to be elected as members of the National Council (upper house of the Slovenian Parliament) as a representative of employers, employees, farmers, small businesses and independent professionals, and non-profit making activities (functional interests) are those who perform a corresponding activity or who are employed. National Council members belonging to these interest groups may be elected by foreigners under the same conditions as the citizens of Slovenia, i.e. that they are performing a corresponding activity or are employed in Slovenia. However, they may not be elected as National Council members. People with permanent residence in a constituency are entitled to vote and to be elected as members of the National Council, representing local interests. [Citation
title=The National Council Act (Off. Gaz. RS, No. 44/1992)
publisher=The National Council of the Republic of Slovenia
] [Citation
title=Election of the National Council
publisher=The National Council of the Republic of Slovenia


(EU member) In 2002, local voting rights were granted for 3-year residents.

outh Africa

(CN member) Only South African citizens may vote in elections, whether national or local. Article 19(3) of the 1996 South African Constitution states that "Every adult citizen has the right - a) to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution...". [Citation
title=Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996
publisher=South African Government Information website
] No law provides voting rights for non-citizens.

Up to 1996 article 6 of the 1993 South African Constitution stated that "Every person who is- (a)(i) a South African citizen; or (ii) not such a citizen but who in terms of an Act of Parliament has been accorded the right to exercise the franchise; (b) of or over the age of 18 years; and (c) not subject to any disqualifications as may be prescribed by law, shall be entitled to vote in elections of the National Assembly, a provincial legislature or a local government and in referenda or plebiscites contemplated in this Constitution, in accordance with and subject to the laws regulating such elections, referenda and plebiscites". [Citation
title=Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 200 of 1993
publisher=South African Government Information website

outh Korea

Revisions to voting laws in 2005 allow foreign nationals aged 19 years and older who have lived in South Korea for more than three years after obtaining permanent resident visas to vote in local elections. 6,746 foreign residents (out of more than 1 million) were eligible to vote in May 31 2006 local elections. [cite web
title=Foreigners Cast Ballots for 1st Time
author=Kim Rahn
date=31 May 2006
publisher=The Korea times, quoted by immigrantvoting.org


(EU member) Municipal voting rights are granted to citizens of countries which reciprocate by granting voting rights to Spanish citizens when reciprocity is enshrined in a bilateral treaty ratified by Spain, i.e. since 1997 the EU member states and Norway, but already since 1989-1990 Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. Bilateral treaties with Argentina (1988), Chile (1990) and Uruguay (1992) have never been enacted as voting rights are not enshrined in a specific law in Chile, and for the two other countries the instruments of ratification have never been exchanged, [cite web
title=Le droit de vote des étrangers aux élections locales
month=December | year=2005
journal=Les documents du Sénat - Série Législation comparée
volume=n° LC 154
publisher=Senate of France
] there are also similar "friendship treaties" with Colombia and Venezuela. [cite web
title=Los extranjeros de la UE podrían decidir con sus votos al menos un par de concejales de Barcelona
author=Anna Cabeza
date=August 27 2006
] [cite web
date=Mayo-Agosto 2002
author=Miguel Ángel PRESNO LINERA
publisher=Boletín Mexicano de Derecho Comparado, Número 104
] There is an ongoing debate in Spain about either ratifying existing bilateral treaties or changing the constitution in order to grant all residents voting rights without reciprocity, but some Catalan parties are opposed to it. [cite web
title=Los partidos catalanes, divididos ante el derecho de voto de los inmigrantes
author=Josep Garriga
date=August 19 2006
publisher=El País
] [cite web
title=España sale a buscar el voto de los residentes latinoamericanos
author=Gabriela Calotti (Agence France-Presse)
date=August 20 2006
publisher=La Nación


(EU member) Voting and eligibility rights were granted to all foreign residents with a 3 years residence condition for municipal and county elections in 1975. The 3 years reside condition was suppressed in 1997 for residents from EU (in conformity with the European legislation) and the Nordic Passport Union. The voters enrolment is automatic.


Some voting rights have been granted to non-citizens by subnational governments, the first being Neuchâtel in 1849, then Jura in 1978 and several others afterwards.

Because Switzerland is a federal state with three different levels – the Confederation, the 26 cantons and their local communes – non-citizen voting rights vary greatly depending on the individual entity. Foreigners may not cast ballots on the national level, but they may be entitled to vote and, in some cases, to run for office on the cantonal or communal level. Five cantons have already recognized the right of foreigners to vote (Neuchâtel, Jura, Vaud in 2003, Fribourg in 2004, Genève in 2005), plus three, Appenzell Ausserrhoden (1995), Graubünden (2003) and Basel-Stadt (2005) which accords to each municipality the authority to decide on the subject. Some referendums unsuccessfully took place in other cantons [cite web
title=Jura et Neuchâtel : L’extension du droit d’éligibilité des étrangers se poursuit
author=Jean-Luc Gassmann
publisher=Institut du fédéralisme, Université de Fribourg
month=June | year=2007
] [for a more complete view, including sections for every Canton, see ]

United Kingdom

(CN and EU member) Since 1949, the United Kingdom, citizens of the Commonwealth countries and of the Republic of Ireland have had full voting rights at all levels and can be candidates, as they could before 1949 as British subjects; they are not regarded in law as aliens.

For local, supralocal (Greater London Authority) and regional (Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly) elections, EU citizens, enjoy the same rights as Commonwealth citizens. [cite web
title=Electoral franchise: who can vote?
author=Chris Sear
publisher=Parliament and Constitution Centre
date=March 1 2005

Under Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Act 1989, local electors in Northern Ireland were either Commonwealth citizens or citizens of the Republic of Ireland, the Representation of the People Act 2000 replaced that section by "a Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union". [cite web
title=Representation of the People Act 2000 - SCHEDULE 3 Registration: local elections in Northern Ireland
publisher=Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI)

The Representation of the People Act 2000 also introduced a new system of electoral registration, with 2 electoral registers, one for parliamentary elections, one for local elections: [cite web
title=Representation of the People Act 2000 - Electoral registration and franchise
publisher=Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI)
*"A person is entitled to vote as an elector at a parliamentary election in any constituency if on the date of the poll he (...)(c) is either a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland"; "A person is entitled to be registered in the register of parliamentary electors for any constituency or part of a constituency if on the relevant date he (...) (c) is either a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland"
*"A person is entitled to vote as an elector at a local government election in any electoral area if on the date of the poll he (...)(c) is a Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union"; "A person is entitled to be registered in the register of local government electors for any electoral area if on the relevant date he (...) (c) is a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union"
*"In this section “qualifying Commonwealth citizen” means a Commonwealth citizen who either"
**"(a) is not a person who requires leave under the [1971 c. 77.] Immigration Act 1971 to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, or"
**"(b) is such a person but for the time being has (or is, by virtue of any enactment, to be treated as having) any description of such leave"

United States

More than 20 states or territories, including colonies before the Declaration of Independence, admitted foreigners' right to vote for all elections. Some voting rights at a local level have been granted to non-citizens by State governments from 1968 onwards.


Since 1952, 15-year residents have had national voting rights.


In Venezuela, the right to vote in municipal, parish (county), and state elections extends to foreigners over the age of eighteen who have ten years’ residency or more in the country. The provision for non-citizen voting appears in Article 64 of the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999, and has its constitutional roots in a 1983 Amendment to the previous Constitution of 1961. [cite web
title=Immigrant voting rights in Venezuela
author=Ellen Van Scoyoc


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