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European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

(Dis)enfranchising Migrants

On 11 March, the Schuman Centre’s Global Citizenship Observatory (GLOBALCIT) hosted a webinar on the link between citizenship and voting rights in light of global migration.

21 March 2022 | Event


The first part of the webinar focused on empirical perspectives, drawing on a new electoral rights dataset currently being developed by GLOBALCIT. The new dataset will capture the voting and candidacy rights of non-citizen residents and non-resident citizens from 1960 to 2020 in 160 countries across the world. The dataset will cover different levels (national, regional, local) and types (legislative, executive, referendum) of election, as well as the relevant conditions for eligibility and access to electoral rights.

Preliminary analysis presented by Sebastián Umpierrez de Reguero and Klaudia Wegschaider shows that both non-citizen residents and non-resident citizens are now typically granted some form of voting rights across Europe and the Americas. However, there is much greater variation with respect to the right to stand for election, potentially linked to citizenship loss via voluntary renunciation.

The preliminary analysis also suggests that those states which grant local voting rights to resident non-citizens typically also tolerate dual citizenship and provide for the acquisition of citizenship by birth on their territories (jus soli), pointing a polarisation between more liberal and more restrictive approaches to citizenship and electoral rights policy.

The second part of the webinar focused on the corresponding normative debate, prompted by comments questions posed by Rainer Bauböck regarding the relative merits of citizenship- and residence-based approaches to the granting of voting rights. 

Sandra Seubert argued that a plausible case can be made for granting political rights on the basis of residency, drawing on the concept of ‘social membership’ and the idea that people are entitled to have a say over decisions that affect them. She further suggested that the European Union (EU) increasingly resembles a democratic and solidaristic political community and it may therefore soon be inconsistent to exclude mobile EU citizens from voting in national elections.

In her contribution, Luicy Pedroza expressed the view that individuals should be free to choose which political communities they commit to and participate in, noting that their allegiances may also change over time. For this reason, the principle of jus soli should not, in her view, determine an individual’s political rights for life.

Finally, Joachim Blatter emphasised that, in practice, shifting democratic boundaries are primarily driven by states’ toleration of dual citizenship and only secondarily by the expansion of electoral rights to non-citizen residents and non-resident citizens. As a normative matter, he suggested that there is an argument for constitutionalising reciprocal voting rights in national elections for mobile citizens in the EU and in other comparable transnational settings.

Watch the full recording here.

Last update: 24 June 2024

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