The Disenfranchised Expat

Vote_800x1200It’s probably the last thing you think of when heading off on an expat assignment, and perhaps many don’t care, but you will probably be losing your right to vote, if not immediately then within a short period of time depending on your citizenship.

An article in today’s Telegraph points out that most British expats don’t register to vote, even though they can do so for 15 years after leaving the country.  Big deal, you may say, if you don’t live in a country you ought not to be able to vote and in some circumstances I would agree.  When I emigrated from the UK 30 years ago I continued to vote there for a while, but soon realized that my allegiance was to my new home in Canada and it was inappropriate for me to vote in a country where I no longer had strong ties. 

But most expats don’t take up citizenship in the countries in which they live either because they’re ineligible or intend to return home at some point, so like it or not they can easily become disenfranchised.  It’s not just a matter of how long you’ve been away, it can also be due to logistical difficulties or even a reluctance to impact your tax status.  They say you only long for things you can’t have so perhaps that’s why I found I missed being able to participate in the political process when we started the expat life.  Now that I’ve returned to Canada I can add being able to vote to my “positives” list for repatriation.

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