When we discuss the claim to political representation, we normally do not differentiate between the executive and the legislative (and the judicative). Looking at the claim to representation for immigrants, I believe that perhaps we should. There’s some tension between citizenship as an exclusive right and ‘no taxation without representation’. Interestingly, in many places immigrants can now vote at the local level, and the literature seems to focus on this extension of rights rather than the ability to access full political rights via citizenship.
Here is a possible approach. We could argue that the claim to representation in the executive may be restricted to citizens, while the legislative should be opened to the entire resident population (irrespective of citizenship). Opening the legislative could be defended by deliberation in the chamber(s) and the aforementioned principle of ‘no taxation without representation’. Neither of these requires access to the decision-making in the executive, which could be retained as an exclusive right. Put differently, we would focus on the legislative as law-makers, and then argue that everyone affected should have a possibility in shaping the rules that affect them (i.e. the entire resident population). Citizens, with a stronger claim to the in-group will then decide how to put these rules into place. Not fogetting the judicative, is it the judicative that should be restricted to citizens?
Irrespective of these, I never understood giving access at the local level, though. If non-citizens should have a right to participate because they are affected by the rules of the game, then shouldn’t they be allowed to participate (and be represented) at any level? Let’s throw in trustees and delegates to the mix, and the impossibility of future generations to represent themselves, and nothing seems that clear anymore…
Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.
Ruedin, Didier. 2018. ‘Participation in Local Elections: “Why Don’t Immigrants Vote More?”’ Parliamentary Affairs 71 (2): 243–262. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsx024.
My blog post at Democratic Audit UK:
There are relatively few cases where non-citizen immigrants can vote in municipal elections, but where they can participation tends to be low. Didier Ruedin assesses the case of Geneva, where he finds that, even accounting for social origin, engagement, civic integration and socialisation, there is a gap in participation that needs further explanation.
Read remainder: Why don’t immigrants vote more?
My paper on the political participation of immigrants in the local elections of Geneva is now properly published at Parliamentary Affairs. In the article, I present a new representative survey on participation in the 2015 municipal elections in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, and predict electoral participation with logistic regression models (predicted probabilities all around). Most immigrant groups vote less than the majority population. Social origin (resources), political engagement, civic integration and networks, as well as socialization are associated with differences in electoral participation, but contrary to some recent studies, substantive differences between nationalities remain.
The paper has its origins in a commissioned report Rosita Fibbi and I did (in French, executive summary in French). The research question is summarized in the (abbreviated) quote in the title: the sentiment that “we” have given “them” the right to vote in local elections (after 8 years of residence in the country), and yet they “don’t” vote (well not as often than “we” do). Quite fortunately we managed to convince the office of integration of the Geneva to allow us to make the survey data available to the academic community (cleaned version). The survey deliberately re-uses questions from the Swiss Electoral Study to enable a direct comparison, but Rosita and I added questions relevant to the research question and participation at the local level. The article is an independent analysis from the report, having spent more time on the topic that the rushed context of commissioned research allows.
Ruedin, Didier. 2018. ‘Participation in Local Elections: “Why Don”t Immigrants Vote More?’’. Parliamentary Affairs 71 (2): 243–262. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsx024.
My paper on the electoral participation of immigrants in local elections is now available online (Parliamentary Affairs). As part of this research, I spoke to a politician who exclaimed: ‘Why don’t they [immigrants] vote now that we have given them the opportunity?’. It’s the expectation that all ‘we’ have to do is enfranchise immigrants, and they’ll flock to the ballot boxes. But, they don’t.
In the paper I present a new representative survey of participation in the 2015 municipal elections in the Canton of Geneva. The cleaned data (and replication material) are available at IQSS Dataverse; the raw data at FORS.
In Geneva, foreign citizens who have lived in Switzerland for at least 8 years have the right to vote in local elections. In 2015, the chancellor wrote a personal letter to each of them to invite them to vote, yet most immigrant groups vote less than the majority population. In the paper I test four common explanations for this difference in electoral turnout: social origin (resources), political engagement, civic integration and networks, as well as socialisation. Individually, all these explanations are associated with differences in electoral participation, but contrary to some recent studies, substantive differences between nationalities remain in the local elections in Geneva.