‘Diaspora delegates’ helping choose US Democrat Presidential candidate

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about the issue of people living outside their country of citizenship being able to vote, pointing to the example of the system which had just been adopted for the Italian Parliament, which provides specific seats for Italian voters who live in other countries. (As it turned out, those few seats specifically reserved for citizens based outside the country were crucial in the new Italian government being able to hold the slimmest of majorities in the Senate – including one seat held by an Australian based Italian man).

I raise it again now because I read this article in the International Herald Tribune which says that USA citizens living abroad now have direct representation as part of the voting process for determining the Democrats’ nominee for the USA Presidency contest. According to the article, “Americans living abroad have been able to vote in federal elections since 1976, and those who vote in a home state’s primary cannot also vote in the Democrats Abroad balloting.”   However, I think this is the first time that they will be able to vote directly for expatriate or diaspora delegates.  It is only very small representation, but as the Italian Senate result shows, tiny numbers make a difference. And even though the estimated 6.5 million citizens of the USA living abroad only get to vote for 22 delegates to the Democrat convention, which is the same as the USA state of South Dakota with its population of 750 000, I think it is still quite significant for them to have any direct representation, let alone one equivalent to a state.

In another small but significant development, some of the voting can be conducted via the internet. Internet voting was also used for a small number of overseas based Australians in the recent election.

Australians living overseas already have the right to vote in the electorate inside Australia where they are enrolled (which is usually where they used to live before leaving the country) – although it can be hard to stay on the roll the longer you are away. But the notion of having a representative specifically for people who live overseas is quite a different thing and a big step further.  I doubt it will ever happen, and I recognise the many problematic issues involved in such a system, but given the growing number of Australians who live and work in other countries for extended periods of time, and the benefit it brings to Australia to have ex-pats maintain direct interest in and connection to Australia, I think it is still an issue worth talking about from time to time.  This paper by Andrew Leigh from ANU suggests one approach.

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5 Comments

  1. I have a few objections,as a Australian citizen only,with no passport attempt in the foreseeable future.Apart from a unanalysed rage or anger about this area of political rights,I find most people who return, to opiniated in generalities.. of comparison with this country and others.And one part of my rage is because I think these type comparisons end up as a sense of superiority and the dole bludger idiom of discourse, Australians dont want to work stuff gets mouthed off like some contagious sexual disease.My first conscious memory of these comparisons was when a TM teacher opened his mouth and said without much analytical skill that the U.S.A. was much more positive,and there was this positive feeling about the place.Save me from the various brands of American positive feelings please,in case they want to turn generic.But Thordaddy is OK at a distance.And I will continue to eat Baked Beans.There have been other experiences with other countries,and I seem to recall I never invited any of these opinions,they were shared with me for my benefit…undoubtedly.In fact,out of analysed jealousy and loathing almost down to an individual who,have done some sort of stunt overseas..I find myself disingenously disliking much of their attitudes.I find it difficult to be on the end of welfare lines with the tooing and frooing when they come back and land the jobs again.Its unfair dishonest,in the sense of look at the shit coming from government about any work is better than none,and these people overseas are not generating anything from a education system that disadvantages as many as it advantages.It is at most of the time hocus pocus from the educated elite.Sorry for my unresearched and tiresome negativity.It is like the decentralisation argument instead of providing means for locals,its about pleasing the professionals..it stinks.Why have compulsory voting if you can leave,and, the same dickhead professionals think not voting is holding the country back,or,a lack of care!?

  2. Andrew, as you know, I’m a US expat, having lived in Australia since 1996. I became an Australian citizen in 2003.

    I’m entitled to vote in state, county and city elections in the Indiana ward in which I last resided as well as in federal elections.

    It was once difficult to be a well-informed voter at such a distance, but thanks to the miracle of the internet, it’s become much easier in recent years.

    I read your earlier piece on the rights of Australia expats to vote. Your cautions, notably your suggestion to register expat voters in a different class, are fear-based and devalue citizenship. You in effect said that onshore Aussie voters would have to agree that expat voting was a good idea. Since when is popular opinion the right way to define any person’s constitutional rights?

    Citizenship rights should never be diminished simply because of the voter’s physical location or worse, whether or not they are paying Australian income tax.

  3. Citizens Rights are bestowed as a benefit,but when it comes to welfare receiving it is a benefit and not a right,sucks.I have no problem with the opinion immediately above mine,unless he has a a problem unstated about mine.All rights and benefits are the gooblegook of law transformed in attempts at practical bureaucratic action,we have seen a bludgefest of this with refugees under Howard.And the compensation for the stolen Generation has been shot in the neck once again by the ALP.They werent even considered citizens then,and the rest of us then British subjects,now can have our own passport,and the Brits a European one.This will sink in soon,our sense of nationhood is being usurped right in front of our eyes,under what may have been progressive thinking,but the result certainly isnt.And like the competition rules for all entities classed as business the law doesnt protect Australia identity,thus money and people,and intentionally may be fine,in practice,the competition remains unfair and biased to corporations that dont even care about having head offices here,sucks.Give me diplomatic immunity please,I was born in Preston Vic.

  4. Andrew Bartlett:
    What about seasonal workers, itinerants and fishing boat crews inside Australia? In theory, they can enroll at wherever they chose. In practice, far too often they are either not encouraged to enroll or, if they do enroll, they are struck off the electoral roll before the next election.

    People like the Showmans’ Guild and the Australian Workers’ Union might be able to tell you more.

  5. They are probably like me Graham,finding little in voting,and it isnt without some well exercised thoughts,there is almost a disappointing denial that democracy in Australia is dominated by voting intentions rather than the questions relating to what one is actually voting for,if voting actually as a single vote represents anything of value to the voter.And there is ample evidence everywhere every day,those who claim this voting activity means a sort of freedom is plainly nonsense.Major international companies are making decisions that will affect others,without any consent or approval by Australians.{Rio Tinto going to buy larger shipping…what will happen in Queensland ,if they get away with this will be unacceptable to most Australians}.There is in part an excellent critique of Australian attitudes in a video on whaling by a Japanese pro-whaling group, some of the stuff presented is factual and cannot be ignored.Most people steer clear of Singleton who is one of the worst bastards in Australia to support anti-whaling doing this through beer adverts.Paris for me anyday.See todays SMH.There is a contradictory contempt in the video,that needs pointing out..and thats the matter of eating as a representation of barbarism.I wonder if the the chopsticks are as yet environmentally friendly,albeit Japanese ingenuity!?And it unlikely that Aboriginal Australians would eat with chopsticks as a sign of their tradition,but a good stick found almost anywhere.In fact there could be a unusual market for well chosen sticks in Japan.I hope this video will be undermined by applied common sense and humour.And not Singleton gush.

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