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External Voting: Mapping Motivations of Emigrants and Concerns of Host Countries

The paper explores the understanding of external voting in the context of the 2014 Turkish presidential election in which migrants from Turkey were enabled to cast votes abroad. This first experience of external voting provided an opportunity for an inquiry into the motivations, expectations and concerns underlying emigrants’ electoral participation. Drawing from original fieldwork investigation in Germany, this exploratory study finds that citizens’ motivation for voting abroad was largely dictated by the symbolic dimension of citizenship, and desire to formally participate in Turkish politics. Also, evidences demonstrate that external voting led to growing concerns about public security as well as allegiance of immigrants in major hosting countries, particularly in Germany. Focusing on the case of Turkey’s external voting experience as a large sending country, this paper aims to provide a contribution to growing empirical research on the understanding of external voting and the effect of migrant electoral participation.

External Voting Mapping Motivations of Emigrants and Concerns of Host
The Turkish expats casted their votes for the first time during the presidential elections held in July 2014. AA PHOTO / BİLGİN S. ŞAŞMAZ
 

Introduction

External voting denotes procedures which enable some or all electors of a country who are temporarily or permanently abroad to exercise their voting rights from outside the national territory.1 The term is used interchangeably with absent voting, absentee voting, external enfranchisement, diaspora voting or out-of-country voting. Many countries enable external voting through general provisions in their electoral laws. Additional regulations on its implementation are often administered by legislatures or electoral commissions.2 Postal voting, e-voting, voting by proxy, voting in diplomatic missions or military bases, or other designated places are main options utilized by home states. Countries either choose one of these options or use different combinations of them.3

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