Huge numbers of Irish citizens are returning from abroad to vote “yes” in today’s constitutional referendum on marriage equality. Is it just because they want to be there for a historical moment?
Maybe, but also, probably because that is the only way they can vote. In Ireland, a voter must vote in person and be named on the official registry of voters.
There are exceptions for military, national guardsman, diplomats and their spouses, whom are eligible to vote by mail. Potentially also eligible are people with disabilities, students studying away from home, people who work abroad, prisoners (yes, prisoners can vote in Ireland), and residents of hospitals and nursing homes.
Those living abroad are ineligible to vote because their names are not on the official registry of voters. Thus, they have to return “home” to vote.
Another tidbit U.S. citizen’s may find interesting, certain categories of non-citizens are able to vote in specific elections. Non-citizen residents can vote in local elections. British citizens may vote at Dáil elections (lower house of Irish Parliament), European elections (such as elections for European Parliament) and local elections. E.U. citizens can participate in European elections and local elections.
If you happen to be reading this and you are Irish, in the U.S., not only don’t U.S. citizens have to vote in person, political parties and candidates actively encourage “early voting” (limited voting stations sometimes open weeks in advance of the official “election day.”) and vote-by-mail, a program which is open to any U.S. citizen and also begins weeks in advance of the official “election day.” The reason for this is it allows political parties and candidates to track who had voted and concentrate further messaging toward those known to have not yet voted. The reason voters like it is because it allows them more flexibility in how and when they vote. Conversely, many political activists wait to vote in person on election day because then they continue to get campaign mailers until the day of the election and thereby know what the opposition is messaging.
Residents of most U.S. territories may also vote in U.S. elections provided they reside in the U.S. at the time of the election. Anybody convicted of a felony may not vote in any election until their civil rights have been restored. In some jurisdictions this happens automatically upon a prisoner’s completion of sentence (including non-incarceration probation and payment of fines and restitution) and in others there is a formalized application process.
Non-citizens are ineligible to vote in all elections without exception. The mere notion of such an idea might make a very socially conservative’s head explode.