Should you retain voting rights if you live in a foreign country?

The background:
I’m British.
I’ve lived in Sweden for around 10.5 years.
I’ve been discussing the upcoming British election with friends and family and have been quite surprised at how little is known about overseas voting. I now know people that didn’t realise you could vote if you live overseas and feel it is somehow wrong that you should be able to (the main argument seems to be along the lines of not contributing/paying tax means you shouldn’t have a say). I also now know people that are surprised that if you live overseas for more than fifteen years then you lose your right to vote (the main argument being that as a citizen you should always have a right to vote, as that is one of the fundamental ideas that citizenship is about).

So I put it to you guys. How do you feel about being able to vote in a country that you are a citizen of but are no longer resident in? Is it right? Is it wrong?

I’m a US ex-pat who has been living in Japan for 6 years. The not paying taxes back home yet still getting to vote is an interesting wrinkle that doesn’t apply to me; US citizens are required to file federal income taxes regardless of residency (albeit with a large income exclusion). Certainly in my case I feel that as a citizen and taxpayer that I’m entitled to a vote. AFAIK the right of overseas Americans to vote never expires; I remember a thread from around the time of '08 elections in which someone (Alessan, I believe) noted that although he had not lived in the US and did not at all consider himself an American that he had US citizenship and could vote.

I would say that an ex-pat who feels a strong connection to his homeland and votes in accordance with what he thinks is the best interest of that land isn’t doing anything wrong.

I don’t know if I can still vote in the UK (15 years out of the country), but I didn’t look into it for this election (or the last one) because I have no one left to vote for. I’d also feel a bit dd voting after so long away.

I do think, on the other hand, I should be allowed to vote in the U.S. I can understand the argument for federal elections, but I don’t see why I cannot vote in state and more local elections, when someone can move here from Alaska and do so.

I can see both the interest in allowing someone resident abroad to vote in the UK (they might move back at some point soon, after all) and in setting a time limit on how long that lasts (no idea whether 15 years is the right limit or not, but in principle, I’m fine with it - at some point you cease to be particularly affected by the result, if you live abroad permenantly).

Where I have problems with it in the EU context is that, while you eventually lose your right to vote in UK general elections, you don’t gain a right, after the same amount of time resident in another EU country, to vote in the general election of the country you do live in, so you can’t vote in anyone’s general election. That doesn’t seem particularly fair - the right to vote should be either citizenship-based, or residency-based, but making it bits of both leaves people without a say.

I think you should be able to vote in the elections of whatever country you’re a citizen of, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve lived abroad for a long time. IIRC Sweden and the UK are both in the EU, so their respective subjects have the automatic right to settle and work in the other country if they wish. Hypothetically–just hypothetically–let’s say the Swedes begin to chafe under this Anglo onslaught, and they want to pull out of the EU. (I don’t know how feasible that would actually be, remember it’s just hypothetical). It doesn’t seem quite fair that non-Swedish-subject residents should have a say in this matter.

Also it seems a great deal simpler just to continue to have people vote only in their country’s elections, as determined by citizenship.

So far as I know, in the United States your right to vote never expires. So if a U.S. citizen moves to China for 20 years he or she will still retain the right to vote when they return. Of course, while they’re a resident of China they won’t be able to vote in U.S. elections. I really don’t have any problem with U.S. citizens who are residents of other countries being unable to vote in local, state, and federal elections here in the United States. If you’re not a resident then you’re not really part of the community. Tough noogies.


The main reason I dont vote in NZ any more is because I simply dont feel I know enough to vote any more. I suspect anyone who did is someone by definition keeping more up to date with things enough to think it was worth doing.

The US solution sounds fine to me, but I dont think its an issue that really needs much fixing either way. I could imagine it being an issue with a country where there were significant numbers of ex-pats actually voting, NZers in Oz would be an example of that in theory, but in practise I suspect most dont bother.

Funny really as I spent years feeling guilty for not bothering to vote while living in Oz, now I find I should have been feeling guilty for considering voting.


I pay taxes up the wazoo on income I earn while living abroad. I don’t get much if any of the benefits of that taxation. I makew too much to qualify for tax rebates or home purchase plans.

At leasrt keep the basic tenent of Americanism of ‘no taxation without representation.’

I have no problem with citizens being able to vote in their country of citizenship, regardless of how long they have lived outside it. After all, they can move back anytime they want, and most likely they still have family and/or property in their home country. And even if they don’t, they are still going to be affected by their home country’s foreign policy, and potentially tax policy.

You should be able to - I mean, if citizenship is that tied to location, what’s it really worth in today’s global society? If my country would disenfranchise me when I’m busy making money for it in foreign lands, I’d be that much more likely to switch to a country that won’t. Free market and all that.

Then if I am not part of the community, I should not have to pay US taxes, right?

I have been overseas 8 years, but will have to pay US taxes till I die… but I do get to vote in Federal elections… yet my Congressmen do not consider me a resident of their state so I effectively have no representation.

I would differentiate between citizenship and residency. As a citizen of the United States I feel I should have an equal say in who will govern our nation even if I live elsewhere. America projects itself througout the world. But I have no problem with losing the franchise in state and local elections since I don’t reside in any particular state or whatnot. I would assume that if I were into State’s Rights I would feel myself a citizen of Pennsylvania instead of merely a resident here then I would include those elections in the inviolate right category.

My view, possibly marred by some of the awful expats with extreme and outdated views that I’ve met, is that if you’re not resident here and aren’t paying taxes here (UK) then you shouldn’t get a say in how my home is run. You would obviously get the vote if you moved back home or made any remote contribution to the country’s economy.

Non-resident US citizens can still vote via absentee ballot.

Only if they have a claim to state residency. I have an acquaintance who is a US citizen (both parents are citizens) but he was born abroad and never lived in the USA. He has no claim to the citizenship of his birth country (Saudi Arabia). He can’t vote in US elections (no state residency) but has to pay US taxes.

I’d have no problem not being able to vote if I also didn’t have to pay tax.

That doesn’t stop many US citizen living here from voting.

That’s a bit more problematic, but if either of his parents last U.S. residency was in one of these eighteen states, he can vote.

As to the question in general, yes, I believe that citizens of a nation should be allowed to vote in national elections no matter where they live or how long they’ve been away, or, yes, even if they’ve never actually resided in that country. I think it’s safe to assume that someone with the interest and desire to vote is going to have kept up on the issues, at least at a national level. Elections at a lower level than national I’m not so certain of.

I’m going to go against the consensus in the thread so far and say “No, if you aren’t living in a country, then you shouldn’t be voting in it”.

To me, “being able to vote” is a little way down the list of “Benefits of Being A Citizen” (An absolute right to live and work in the country, social security, and a passport are higher up the list IMHO), but even so, I take the view that if you’ve moved overseas for more than, say, five years then you’re A) Not likely to be coming back and B) Likely too out of touch to be making an informed decision on things, and C) Politics in your previous country doesn’t really affect you anyway now.

Not long after I moved to Australia I got a letter from the electoral commission in NZ informing me that I was eligible to cast a postal vote on whether or not a neighbouring council area should be merged with my former City Council area, and I was thinking “Why are they asking me? I don’t live there any more. I don’t care.” The same is true of National elections, IMHO- if you don’t live there, then it really doesn’t matter who you think should be MP for Little-Dunny-On-The-Woad, because it doesn’t affect you any more.

Which non-residents? I know members of the military can still vote because they’re still technically residents of a particular state. U.S. citizens who are abroad or even in another state during election time can still cast absentee votes but they’re still residents of a state so far as I know.

About myself -

I’m a dual Israeli-U.S. Citizen from birth. Of my 35 years, I’ve lived in the U.S. for 5 years as a child and 2 years as an adult.

I voted in the U.S. elections via absentee ballot in 1992 and 1996; in 2000 I was living in New York, and voted like a regular citizen. Since then, I’ve refused to vote in U.S. elections, despite the fact that I have the right. While I love America, my first obligation is towards Israel. However, to vote with Israel’s interests in mind instead of America’s would be a betrayal of my obligations as a U.S. citizens, even if the end result is the same. In my eyes even the appearence of dual loyalty is is to be avoided. So I don’t vote.

I don’t pay U.S. taxes (except when I’m living there), mainly because no-one has ever asked me to. I use my U.S. passport for travel to the U.S., but it’s a convenience only; if they asked me to give it up, I probably would.