Does Irish confusion over EU voting rights contribute to our lack of emigrant vote?

17 Feb

One of the arguments often put forward in Ireland against emigrant voting is that Irish expats “should vote where they live”. This argument, of course, ignores the fact that many emigrants simply don’t have the choice to do that.

I’ve come across a statistic that helps to explain why this argument comes up repeatedly: A Eurobarometer survey has found that most Irish people are misinformed about voting rights in the EU, and believe that EU nationals have more rights than they do when they move to another EU state. About 74% of them, in fact, believe that non-Irish EU citizens residing in Ireland can vote in Irish national elections.

Of course, they can’t – EU nationals living in another member state can only vote in local and European elections. And with only 26% of Irish-based respondents answering correctly, they were far less likely to know this than nationals of other European nations – only the citizens of Malta were less likely to answer the question correctly. In contrast, 58% of those in Denmark and 57% of those in Austria, and 55% of the French were aware that EU citizens don’t have the right to vote or stand as a candidate in national elections in their EU host countries.

More encouraging, however, is the fact that Irish people are most likely to state that EU citizens living in another member state should have the right to vote and stand as a candidate in national elections. 68% of Irish people believed this, while Spaniards were next most likely to agree, with 62%. Only 32% of those in Denmark answered the same.

The survey also found that when it comes to European MEP elections, 45% of Irish nationals would prefer to vote for a candidate in their Member State of residence, while 48% would prefer to vote in their Member State of origin. Irish nationals living outside of Ireland, however, have no option to vote for MEP candidates in Ireland.


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