Franchise reforms in the age of migration: Why do governments enfranchise noncitizens?


This article examines the enfranchisement of noncitizens and seeks to explain governments' decisions about whether to include or exclude them from the vote. By focusing on the incentives behind incumbents' decisions, the article argues that partisanship, inequality, and immigration are the factors driving the (dis)enfranchisement of noncitizens. The theory leads to a number of testable hypotheses that are then subjected to regression analyses using an original dataset of 33 democracies in the period 1960-2010. The results indicate that while franchise reforms to include noncitizens are more likely to be passed by left-wing governments, noncitizen voting rights are highest at intermediate levels of immigration. The findings are relevant for an emerging literature of quantitative studies of immigrant rights, as well as for the literature on franchise extensions along lines of class and gender.

MIT Working Paper 2015-12

Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference (MPSA, Chicago, 2015), and the Developments in Contemporary Citizenship Conference (King’s College London, 2011)

Guillermo Toral
Guillermo Toral
Assistant Professor of Political Science