National Voting Rights for Permanent Residents: New Zealand's Experience
Diego Acosta Arcarazo and Anja Wiesbrock, (eds), Global Migration: Old Assumptions, New Dynamics, (Praeger, Santa Barbara, 2015, 791 pp.)
27 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2014 Last revised: 22 Jul 2015
Date Written: April 24, 2014
New Zealand is widely recognised as having the most liberal approach to voting rights for noncitizens in the world. One of only four countries to permit noncitizens to vote in national elections it is by far the most inclusive of those four, extending voting rights to permanent residents after only one year’s residence. As such, analysis of the New Zealand experience has much to contribute to international debates about the benefits and risks associated with the provision of national voting rights to noncitizens. It offers a unique empirical case with which to examine questions such as whether enfranchising noncitizens leads to better integration outcomes for immigrants or, less positively, allows immigrant minorities to exercise a political influence incommensurate with their understanding of, or commitment to, their country of residence. Such questions are of more than academic interest to the vast number of migrants around the world disenfranchised by electoral rules based on an exclusively or largely national understanding of political community. For citizenship theorists too, the New Zealand case should be of interest. Its extension of voting rights to non-resident citizens in addition to noncitizen residents has created a model of political community flexible enough to accommodate New Zealand’s current experiences of high immigration and emigration and rapid diversification. In this chapter I look to the New Zealand experience with non-citizen voting in national elections to see what it tells us about the risks and benefits of granting such rights.I argue that although much more empirical research is needed, to date the New Zealand experience of noncitizen voting is reassuring rather than alarming.
Keywords: Noncitizen voting, political rights, New Zealand, citizenship, immigrant integration, political community
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