Disenfranchisement Report


Currently, five EU Member States (Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Malta) restrict the voting rights of citizens who live abroad. This practice is called disenfranchisement, i.e. the loss of electoral rights. The loss of voting rights should not be taken lightly and raises questions surrounding universal suffrage and democracy in Europe. This is an important area of study as the five Member States that restrict electoral rights are in the minority among their European neighbours. This paper will evaluate the conditions upon which disenfranchisement occurs in each of these countries and will assess the most common arguments made in favour of and against such policies. Solutions to potential issues and recommendations for the smooth extension of voting rights to non-resident citizens in these states are also considered. This analysis leads to the conclusion that non-resident citizens are still impacted by the policies of the government in their home country and by the outcomes of elections there. Therefore, they should have a say and should be represented in their country of origin. 

Before writing this report, ECIT and Voters Without Borders sent a request to the European Commission in August 2021 asking that infringement procedures should be taken against the five Member States — a request which the Commission rejected in its reply of March 2022. With the help of The Good Lobby, ECIT is examining other ways to take up the issue of disenfranchisement linked to freedom of movement. The case for removing this stain on European democracy remains strong.