NZ unusual in allowing non citizens to vote


But today I wanted to focus on the one chapter that really caught my attention, by Kate McMillan, a senior lecturer in politics at Victoria.  Her chapter bears the title “Fairness and the borders around political community”, and isn’t really about immigration, per se, at all.   Rather she focuses on something I’d never known before, that New Zealand is very unusual internationally in when we allow new arrivals to vote.

Only five countries in the world have provisions allowing resident non-citizens to vote: Malawi, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay –  none known these days for taking many immigrants –  and New Zealand.   In most countries, only citizens get the right to vote in national elections (there is a much wider range of rules for local elections in many countries). 

Pleased to see someone else highlight this. I have blogged on this from time to time over the last decade. I am a strong believer that we should only allow citizens to vote (but grandfather in all existing eligible voters).

The reasons for doing so is to in fact promote . There are so few differences between the rights of permament residents and citizens creating weak incentives for residents to become citizens.

I think citizenship is important. It makes a country your home, rather than just the place you reside. We should promote it more. It increases social cohesion. Restricting the right to vote in national elections to citizens would be a good step along the way.

McMillan highlights further how unusual our voting rights rules are.  In those other four countries that allow non-citizen residents to vote in national elections all require residents to have lived in the country for at least as long as they would have to have lived there to be entitled to take out citizenship before they are allowed to vote.  (Unless you are Peter Thiel or Gabs Makhlouf), people have to spend five years here before they are entitled to apply for citizenship. 

So we actually have the most liberal regime in the world for allowing non-citizens to vote. You can qualify to vote after just one year in NZ.

If you aren’t prepared to go to the modest effort of becoming a citizenship, and swearing allegiance to New Zealand and its sovereign, we might be quite happy to let you live here permamently, but why should you get a say in how this country is run or governed?  You’ve chosen to remain at arms-length from us.

I agree.

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