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    Senator David Norris wants overseas voting rights in presidential elections

    By Noreen Bowden | May 20, 2011

    Presidential hopeful David Norris, who was profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal article as he toured the US on a fundraising visit, has come out strongly in favour of emigrant voting rights – but only in presidential elections. He told the Irish Post in the UK:

    “I definitely and absolutely believe that Irish people living outside of the country should be able to decide who the next President of the country is. The old saying of ‘no representation without taxation’ may apply to a general election but there is no real basis for it in terms of electing a President in this instance.?

    He added:

    “The Presidency is removed from Government, the executive and the area of taxation so giving Irish people abroad a voice would be a great thing, the right thing. It would keep us all organically connected and I feel very strongly that the vote should be extended to all Irish people everywhere whether they’re in Ireland or not.?

    Senator Norris has spoken in the Seanad in favour of emigrant voting rights in the past. His emphasis on the issue of taxation is puzzling, however, given that

    • no other developed nation besides the US taxes its expats on money earned abroad (The US required the payment of taxation on foreign-earned income long before it granted voting rights to expats – and voting is not conditional on the payment of taxes),
    • the payment of taxation is not required for voting rights for Irish residents,
    • some emigrants do pay taxes, and
    • the requirement of the payment of taxes in exchange for a vote is a profoundly undemocratic principle that calls for a return to the time when only men of property could vote.

    There is some irony in the fact that Senator Norris was visiting the US in part to fundraise for his campaign: it’s another indicator of the way Ireland and various segments of Irish society regularly seek economic aid from the diaspora. It might not be taxation, but it’s invaluable.

    If Irish emigrants were given the vote in presidential elections, it would surely benefit the effervescent, high-profile Senator Norris. It’s just a shame to see even a long-time supporter of emigrant voting rights can be influenced by a perspective that would link taxation and voting in a way that  appears to hold no weight anywhere else in the developed world.

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