A number of Latin American countries have created absentee voting systems to allow their expats to vote in national elections. But what if an election is decided by voters abroad, asks a blogger.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
With more than 220,000 registered Dominican voters in the US eligible to vote in the May 20th election, Dominicans in the US make up more voters than 27 of the 31 provinces in the country. The total number of Dominicans registered to vote overseas stands at 5 percent of the total voting population of 6.5 million. The polls in the Dominican Republic are quite close right now. Most polls have shown Danilo Medina leading by a few points, but some recent outliers have given the edge to former President Hipolito Mejia. Based on the data I've seen, the election appears to be heading for smaller than a ten point margin and could be much closer.
This sets up a potential scenario in which voters overseas, most in the US, play a decisive role in the DR presidential election. That's not likely as the overseas voters will turnout in lower numbers than those at home and probably aren't voting overwhelmingly for one candidate. But it's possible.
The DR is also an interesting case because the foreign voters in this election will also have the opportunity to vote for several members of Congress to represent their community. Nobody expects the expat representatives to be the tie breaker on congressional coalitions this time around, but it could happen at some point in the next few election cycles.
A number of Latin American countries have created absentee voting systems to allow their expat communities to vote in national elections. Up through now, it has never been the decisive factor in an election.
If May's Dominican election or any other future election is decided by voters abroad, or even if it's close enough to make it a question, what happens next in the region? Could any country backtrack on the voting abroad rules they have created? Is it actually fair for a portion of the population who live outside the country to overturn what would otherwise be the majority result by the domestic population? Those are all fun questions to consider as the DR race comes down to the wire.
– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.
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