The “Age of Migration” and Democratic Choice

I was reading this fascinating story on Cape Verde in Sunday’s NY Times, and the first two paragraphs highlighted an issue that I think will become increasingly important for comparative election scholars:

Virtually every aspect of global migration can be seen in this tiny West African nation, where the number of people who have left approaches the number who remain and almost everyone has a close relative in Europe or America.

Migrant money buoys the economy. Migrant votes sway politics.

There are more Cape Verdeans living outside of the country than inside. As the article makes clear, many other countries, primarily poorer nations in Africa, similarly rely on remittances from expatriates for a substantial portion of their national income.

But what does the age of migration mean for the politics of these nations? What does it mean when more than half of your citizens–many of whom have no intention of ever returning==cast their ballots absentee, from locations thousands of miles from their homeland?

Many of the readers here will remember the 2006 presidential election in Mexico. The Mexican government tried to get Mexican citizens living in the US to vote, but Mike Alvarez (among others) described the program as a “bust.”

Absentee voting by citizens living abroad is only going to increase, however, and for some nations, may turn out to be decisive.

Sounds like a good dissertation topic …