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National elections go global

On the Sunday between the two rounds of voting for the French presidential election, a curious thing happened in North-West London. Two Frenchmen rang the doorbell of my parents’ house and asked to speak to my mother (who is French). They wanted to know if she would be supporting Nicolas Sarkozy next Sunday, and if she had any doubts, would she like a leaflet outlining the President’s agenda for his second term. Naturally, not a word of English was spoken.

As it happens, I have never been canvassed in France for a French presidential, or any other kind of election. I was under the impression it was not done the same way as in the UK (privacy laws and so forth). Yet here were a couple of party activists, one white, the other of likely South-East Asian origin, wandering around London looking for swing voters. With about 400,000 votes cast by French citizens in the first round outside France (a turnout of nearly 40% of the registered overseas electorate), I can see why this get out the vote operation [GOTV] would exist. But even in London, where most of the UK’s half million French people live, it is not a case of calling door to door.

Before recent changes to French election law which create constituencies outside French territories that are represented in the National Assembly, presidential elections in the Fifth Republic (since 1962) were already a worldwide affair. Citizens in such French territories of Wallis and Futuna, Tahiti and Mayotte would cast votes at polling stations in Mata’utu, Papeete and Mamoudzou respectively. Unlike American elections, these are organised so that people in one territory do not get to see the results in others (or worse, a biased media’s reporting of a bad exit poll’s forecast, as happens quite often in the case of the US states of Georgia and Florida) before deciding if it is worth bothering to pop down to the polling station. Proof of identity is required to register (four months in advance), making vote rigging harder than in, say, any of the US states Barack Obama will win in November this year. It is also needed to collect the ballot paper (no rigging the machines either, how could Chicago cope?). No one seems to think this is racist in France, though there was a complaint that not enough publicity was given last December to the registration deadline and that this would hit turnout (it did not, in the event).

What is new is the scale of French citizens living outside the government’s jurisdiction but able to claim voting rights. London has more French voters than any French city other than Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse. Most do not register to vote in the UK, but many are also registered in France and prefer to have their ballots counted in their place of origin.

In June, the (French) people of London will elect a member of parliament to sit in the National Assembly in Paris. He or she will, when referring to “my constituency” be talking about Northern Europe, but the main concentration will be the inhabitants of what is sometimes called “Paris-on-Thames”.

It makes the regulations of the UK’s Electoral Commission look even more daft than before. This bureaucratic monster was established to restrict the GOTV operations of UK political parties and favours the British Labour Party’s arrangements [it is illegal for a Northern Ireland branch to have equal rights with a mainland one and separate accounts have to filed].

On a positive note, this will drive xenophobes nuts. I wonder how it would go down if the Mexican Parliament had representatives from “Nuevo México” “Misisipi” or “Pensilvania” who could only be elected by Mexican nationals?

It could get interesting if large numbers of people living in one-party states get to vote in foreign elections for the candidates of their choice. Stopping foreign media coverage of a foreign election campaign in China or Cuba is something I can see giving some headaches to the aparatchiks.

12 comments to National elections go global

  • Alsadius

    Wait, do the French actually have a constituency that is located entirely outside the geographic limits of France? Because that’s really amusing.

  • Paul Marks

    Leaving aside the last couple of paragraphs (the Mexican conquest of the United States which, supposedly, only “xenophobes” would object to – as for the China thing, why should overseas Chinese be given the vote in Chinese elections and contested national elections do not happen in China anyway – overseas nationals in China having the vote in their own elections, too few of such people to be important ) there are two serious points here.

    Firstly that Sarky is clearly not giving up – he has a well organized campaign and is doing all he can. I would say it is a bit late (he should have hit the television people on his first day as President, not kept the leftists in place just as Chirac had done). However, Sarky made the mistake of trying to win over the left (giving them the health ministry and so on).

    However, there is also a more important point.

    France simply organizes its elections better than the United States or Britain do.

    Fraud has happened in French elections (for example in overseas islands and so on).

    However, the United Kingdom is wide open to fraud – for example in postal votes.

    Also the election authorities here are a joke….

    I am sitting in a council ward where a person called Maggie Don is one of the three members – and this person makes her presense felt.

    For example, by not voting for even a fellow Labour Party member to be Deputy Mayor (because the Mayor and Deputy Mayor represent the Queen and the Queen is evil….), and by standing outside whilst the East Anglian Regiment is given the freedom of the town (then walking into the Council chamber half way into the meeting – to show contempt).

    “Good this Maggie Don person sounds like anarchocapitalist….”

    Errr that is about a likely as the illegals from Mexico (who vote via “motor voter” laws) supporting reduced government spending.

    Anyway how did Maggie Don become a member of Kettering Council?

    By every ballot paper that had a hostile comment about Conservatives being counted as a “Labour vote”.

    The comments could have been written by Fascists, or by Liberals, or by Greens (or by people with no real political opinions).

    But it a comment said something nasty (or obscene) about Conservatives that was another “Labour vote”.

    Till Maggie Don had a majority of one.

    “But surely these are just spoilt ballot papers…”

    “You are a politician – WE decide these things…” (actually that at least an honest comment – politicians are like the star on the top of a Christmas Tree, we may be “on top” but we CONTROL nothing).

    And unless you want to spend tens of thousands of Pounds on a court case……

    This is actually a minor thing – other places are much worse than Kettering.

    And the United States….

    No effective check on voting – and any effort to ask for I.D. (even I.D. provided FOR FREE by the taxmoney of States) is denounced as “racist” by the “Justice Department” and forbidden.

    Personally forbidden by Mr Holder – the same man who thought that people with clubs shouting threats outside polling stations in 2008 (to keep away people they thought might be McCain voters) was fine.

    The Bush Administration (in its usual half hearted way) launched an investigation of that voter intimidation (by the “New Black Pather Party” and other groups), but Mr Holder shut it down.

    Voter intimidation is fine, and voter fraud is fine – according to Mr Holder.

    And the media…..

    Well the msm support him of course – any complaints are “racist”. Perhaps only made by “xenophobes”.

    By the way forget corrupt Illinois for a moment (the land where the promises made to unions, on pensions and so on, are bigger than the entire output of everyone and everything in the State) turn to next door Indiana.

    Indiana has the reputation for being a honest State – no “think of a number and then times it by one hundred” promises for pensions and other benefits there (although its State employee pension funds did find themselves on the wrong end of Barack Obama’s order for the General Electric to cheat its creditors, in order to pay the U.A.W).

    In Indiana investigation has now shown that the signitures on Barack Obama’s nomination papers were forged.

    People “signed” who did not sign – indeed did not even support Barack Obama.

    So forget who really won Indiana in 2008.

    Barack should not even have been on the ballot.

    And the media?

    See above.

  • Antoine Clarke

    The claim of overseas fraud dates to the Maastricht Treaty referendum, in 1992 IIRC. I’ve looked into those results and am not convinced there was fraud (at least not in the mechanics of the voting). The ‘No’ campaign failed to make an impact in Guadeloupe and Nouvelle Calédonie etc, but the ‘Yes’ campaign was strongest in Socialist strongholds.

    Where the fraud did come was in such threats as “a No vote is a vote for war with Germany” and other crude lies. The late intervention of Jacques Chirac, who decided that he could claim credit for a Yes vote winning by switching sides in the last week of the campaign, was another factor. There was no need to fix the voting, I reckon.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Alsadius, there are constituencies now covering the entire planet.

    Like I said, that’s got to annoy some people.

  • MajikMonkee

    The council from my hometown in the UK informed me recently that the UK bars you from voting after 12 years out of the country so the last general election was my last one. Not that it matters the Welsh town I’m registered to vote in would elect a chimpanzee if it represented the Labour Party.

    I get the feeling that a lot of ex-pats tend to be independent, and fairly successful financially and therefore more likely to vote against the Labour Party. Makes you wonder who made that rule? No representation without taxation if you’re out of the UK but oddly not the same set of rules if you’re in it!

  • Mendicant

    At least a Frenchman living in the UK sees some benefit from the energy taxes paid to the French government.

  • paulvmarks

    I stand corrected on the island voting.

  • paulvmarks

    I stand corrected on the island voting.

  • Antoine Clarke

    The 12 year rule (I thought it was 20) didn’t exist until the 1992 general election. It was brought in with a useful loophole for the Conservative Party: you could contact the constituency electoral office and ask to be registered from somewhere like the Coasta del Sol, but, “if you couldn’t remember” the constituency, you could ask the Conservative Party to “find a place” for you to register.

    At 10:10pm on election night in Westminster North (covering Marylebone, Paddington and Fizrovia) the Labour Party was convinced they’d won that seat. The actual result was a 3,000 majority for the Conservatives. I heard that about 5,000 foreign based votes were registered in Westminster North, but they might not have shown on canvass cards that are printed street by street.

    In 1997, I gather the ex-pat vote was for Tony Blair.

    So the rule to allow ex-pats to vote was a Tory plan, if it was amended from 20 to 12 years that could have been Labour.

  • MajikMonkee

    “It was brought in with a useful loophole for the Conservative Party: you could contact the constituency electoral office and ask to be registered from somewhere like the Coasta del Sol,”

    They seemed pretty adamant that you need a UK address but I’ll look into it! Cheers

  • Rich Rostrom

    One possible benefit of electronic voting: it is impossible to scribble semiliterate extraneous comments on a touchscreen.

    BTW – I am a Republican living in Chicago, where I have served as a judge of elections for over 30 years, off and on. (most recently in February).

    I can testify that there is no vote rigging to speak of here. The Democrats don’t need to steal votes in the general election in Chicago or Cook County. (The Republicans could not find even token candidates to stand for county offices this year.) The Board of Elections is very diligent about providing the equipment, and very scrupulous about election-day practice. No one is allowed to distribute or display partisan material in or near the polling place., and these rules are enforced by roving agents of the Board and lawyers from the State’s Attorney office. (The SEIU canvassers and a small forest of lawn signs are just outside the minimum radius of 200 feet.) There was a box of donuts for the judges, with a sticker reading “Compliments of [Democrat] Committeman John Smith”; a Board visitor removed the sticker.

    We have both a touch screen station and a paper ballot counter. Both are verified zero at the start of the day.
    (Ironically, the machines are from Sequoia Voting Systems, which was and may still be owned by a Venezuelan company which provides voting machines to the Chavez government.)

    I won’t say there no hijinks in other parts of the city, or that the Democrats would stay honest even if they could lose by it. But from what I’ve seen, Chicago is much less affected by election fraud than Wisconsin.

  • Paul Marks


    I think what you are saying is….

    “Where the Democrats do not need to rig the election (because they are going to win anyway), they do not rig the election”.