Research page

Timeline: 2021-2022

Partner: European University Institute (EUI), Florence

Keywords:  Electoral rights; non-resident citizens; non-citizen residents; enfranchisement; citizenship 

Funding Organisation: EUI-Graduate Institute Programme

A major challenge in contemporary democracies is to ensure that elections remain representative in contexts of international migration where the territorial and membership boundaries of the electorate have shifted and have become contested.

Most democracies now grant voting rights to their citizens residing abroad, a trend that constitutes a dramatic reversal from earlier territorial conceptions of the universal franchise. Like previous extensions of the franchise to propertyless classes and women, the inclusion of non-residents and non-citizens in the demos is strongly contested. While proponents advocate expansion in the name of democratic inclusion, opponents regard moves to widen the electorate as a manipulative strategy of incumbent governments “electing their own voters”.

Non-citizen and non-resident voting rights have been documented by separate datasets and studied in disconnected literatures. By contrast, this project considers these phenomena together, as they concern the same population seen from the perspective of different states. A key question is how the expansion of voting rights for non-citizens and non-residents are associated with each other and whether they have common causes. We consider both their connection in domestic policy contexts as well as international processes of diffusion and interaction.

The project uses a two-stage multi-methods design combining cross-case comparisons and within-case analysis. We will first collect data on the expansion of voting rights to non-citizens and non-residents in selected world regions in order to identify patterns and associations between them. Second, we will study decision-making political processes within cases in which proposals for franchise expansion were either approved or rejected in order to estimate the chain of events and factors that better explain each outcome.

We are interested in finding out which political interests and actors have driven either kind of franchise expansion/restriction and will put a particular focus on how political polarization and democratic backlashes or deconsolidation affect the politics of the franchise for migrants.

Project leads:

Rainer Bauböck

Christine Lutringer

Maarten Vink



Lucy Dubochet

Matias López

Maria Mexi

Lipin Ram

Sebastián Umpierrez

Klaudia Wegschaider

Yanina Welp