The Dynamics of Diaspora Voting

Go Lean Commentary

So you have an opinion? Good! Now here are the facts.

Did that move your opinion? If not, you’re dogmatic. If, on the other hand, the clarification of facts causes you to adjust your thinking then you have been enlightened.

Welcome to the club!

For the movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean, the planners of a new Caribbean, it has always been our position that the Diaspora should preserve their voting rights back in the homeland. Now that we have considered the facts below, our relationship status – assuming the ‘romance between man and his hometown’ – must be changed to:

It’s complicated“; not just “divorced” nor just “separated”.

The primary driver of this position comes from this basic principle of democracy:

No taxation without representation

If this basic principle is accepted then the opposite must also be true:

No representation without taxation.

This may be a fitting analogy for the issue of Diaspora Voting: Imagine a man that divorces his wife, then still tries to dictate who she can subsequently date or marry; that ex-husband’s prerogative should justifiably be revoked.

CU Blog - Dynamics of Diaspora Voting - Photo 2

CU Blog - Dynamics of Diaspora Voting - Photo 3

Can a member of the Caribbean Diaspora leave his/her homeland, stop paying taxes, stop contributing to the community and yet still dictate who should assume leadership in their absence? This would include how to spend the tax dollars that they no longer contribute. (See the Letter to Editor – “Diaspora voting is the people’s rights to decide” in the Appendix below).

Thus, the “complicated” status.

There is a lot of details and complexities associated with Diaspora Voting. See this summary here of this White Paper; (the full White Paper can be accessed at:

Title: The History and Politics of Diaspora Voting in Home Country Elections

Prepared by Andy Sundberg, based on information from Andrew Ellis and others sources in: ”Voting from Abroad”: The International IDEA Handbook, 2007.

The case for external voting is usually presented as a question of principle, based on the universality of the right to vote. In reality, however, the introduction of external voting is enacted or enabled by legislation passed by elected politicians. Although there have been a variety of reasons for the enactment of external voting provisions, almost all have been the result of political impetus, and many have been controversial and even nakedly partisan.

1. A Brief History of Diaspora Voting
… The reasons for introducing external voting also differ according to the historical and political contexts. Thus, in several countries the introduction of the right to vote for overseas citizens was an acknowledgement of their active participation in World War I or World War II. …Outside the military context, New Zealand introduced absentee voting for seafarers in 1890, and Australia adopted it in 1902, although under operating arrangements which made its use outside Australia practically impossible. …
2. Diaspora Voting In Democratic Transition Countries
The importance of political factors in the adoption and design of external voting provisions was accentuated during the democratic transitions of the 1990s. The inclusion of citizens abroad was often seen as a key element in the process of nation-building, for example, in Namibia in 1989 and South Africa in 1994.Diaspora communities may be active in seeking a post-transition role, and may be particularly influential when they play a role in the domestic politics of major donor countries. However, such pressure is not always successful. …The international community frequently plays a leading or significant role in mediating transitions and even in implementing transitional elections. Transition agreements may therefore contain important and sometimes controversial external voting provisions. …
3. Diaspora Voting and Electoral System Design
Political considerations are not only important in determining whether external voting takes place: they are also influential in defining its form. Many decisions relating to external voting are linked to electoral system design, another highly political aspect of democratic reform and democratic transition.Electoral system design is one of the most important elements in the institutional framework of a country, influencing as it does the political party system. Electoral system reform may be on the agenda as a result of vision or a motivation to improve democracy, or for more short-term, sectoral or even venal reasons on the part of some political participants. This is mirrored by external voting, which may be placed on the democratic agenda by those who believe strongly in the equal right of all citizens to participate—or by political forces which see potential advantage in it.The desire to promote external voting may constrain the options for electoral system design. Conversely, the adoption of a particular electoral system may limit the options for external voting mechanisms. This can be illustrated by considering the three basic options for external voting— personal voting at an external polling site in a diplomatic mission, for example; remote voting by post, fax or some form of e-voting; and voting by proxy.
3.1 Diaspora Voting in Person and Electoral System Design
3.2 Diaspora Remote Voting and Electoral System Design
3.3 Diaspora Voting by Proxy and Electoral System Resign
3.4 Diaspora Voting Timing Issues
4. Who Can Vote and How Voting Takes Place
4.1 The Number of National Diasporas Who Can Vote Today
Voting from abroad is now possible for Diaspora communities from 115 home countries. Of these, 28 come from home countries in Africa; 16 in the Americas; 20 in Asia; 41 in Western, Central and Eastern Europe; and 10 in the Pacific. Provisions for voting by Diaspora communities have been adopted by five additional countries, but rules and voting methods have not yet been decided.
4.2 Restrictions on Diaspora Members Who Can Vote from Abroad
Fourteen countries, who allow voting by their Diaspora communities, impose some time restrictions on such electoral participation. These restrictions are summarized in Table 1 below.
4.3 Different Types of Elections During Which Diaspora Voting is Currently Permitted
There are four principal types of elections where voting by Diaspora members can take place so far.Presidential Elections: Diaspora members from 64 countries can participate in their home country presidential elections.

Legislative Elections: Diaspora members from 92 countries can participate in their home country legislative elections.

Sub-National Elections: Diaspora members from 25 countries can participate in their home country sub-national elections.

Referendums: Diaspora members from 38 countries can participate in their home country referendums.

Diaspora Voting in Different Combinations of Elections: Each country has a different selection of elections that permit vote from their Diaspora members. These elections are shown in Table 2 below.

4.4 Different Types of Diaspora Voting Methods Used
Countries use five different methods of voting for their Diaspora members today.Voting in Person: Diaspora members from 79 countries can vote in person.

Voting by Post: Diaspora members from 47 countries can vote by postal ballot.

Voting by Proxy: Diaspora members from 16 countries can vote by proxy.

Voting by Fax: Diaspora members from 2 countries (Australia and New Zealand) can vote by fax.

Voting by the Internet: Diaspora members from 2 countries (Estonia and the Netherlands) have been able to vote by the Internet so far. (Note: American Diaspora members of Democrats Abroad (DA) were also able to vote in the 2008 overseas primary election by Internet and 48% of the total DA primary votes were cast this way).Different Combinations of Voting Methods: Each country has a different selection of voting methods that are available for their Diaspora members. Some offer only one voting method, but some offer several options. These different options are shown in Table 3 below.

Source: Posted 2007; retrieved May 25, 2017 from:

The book Go Lean…Caribbean – available to download for free – identified the Diaspora as stakeholders in the quest to reform and transform Caribbean society. The book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all 30 member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The failing of these above societal engines constitute one of the reasons why Caribbean people have left their homelands in the first place. This is identified as the “push” factor; in addition there is the “pull” factor, the lure that life may be more prosperous elsewhere, that the “grass is greener on the other side”. The book stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be engaged, and must be a regional pursuit, as the societal challenges are too big for any one Caribbean member-state alone to assuage. This regionalism was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

xxxiii. Whereas lessons can be learned and applied from the study of the recent history of other societies, the Federation must formalize statutes and organizational dimensions to avoid the pitfalls of communities like …. On the other hand, the Federation must also implement the good examples learned from developments/communities like ….

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society. Consider the importance the book (Page 110) highlights as to the aforementioned democratic principle:

The Bottom Line on Taxation without Representation
“No taxation without representation” is a slogan originating during the late-1700s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen American Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution against Great Britain. Many in those colonies believed that as they were not directly represented in the distant British Parliament, any laws it passed taxing the colonists were illegal under the English Bill of Rights enacted in 1689 and were a denial of their rights. – Retrieved September 2012.

Today, the phrase is used in Washington, DC, and in Ottawa, Canada as part of the campaign for a vote in Congress or Parliament, to publicize the fact that Capital District residents pay Federal taxes, but do not have a legislative vote. To alleviate this abuse, the CU intends to add 1 (voting) seat in the Legislative House of Assembly to represent residents of its Capital District.

What was your opinion? How has your opinion been altered based on the facts here? The overall assertion from the Go Lean movement (book and blog-commentaries) is that reforming politics-government alone will not reform Caribbean society – it is part-and-parcel with reforming economic and security engines – but we still do need to reform government. Reforming society is a heavy-lifting task; we must have “all hands on deck”, Diaspora included.

While we cannot just say “give us your money” and then “get lost” from our decision-making”, we must also accept that there is a difference for those that are “here” versus those that are not! The Go Lean book (Page 47) therefore identifies this role for the Diaspora as stakeholders in the Caribbean reform-transform heavy-lift:

Caribbean Diaspora
These emigrated citizens still identify with their homelands. Though they may live abroad, they congregate in pockets in urban areas. The CU will foster the development of this group so as to form them into an organized market; this includes individuals and institutions (for-profit companies, not-for-profit organizations and foundations). There is also the reality of the foreign-born children of the Diaspora, identified here as Legacies. These will be tapped for consumer products only.

In total, these stakeholders import foods and drink from the homeland; they demand expressions of Caribbean culture and they consume media produced by Caribbean artists targeting a Caribbean consumer-base. The number constituting the Diaspora is estimated between 6 and 8 million people – for some member-states, a majority of their citizenry lives abroad – this population is not to be ignored. A CU mission is to repatriate this group, for their time, talent and treasuries. Where this repatriation cannot be full-time, the CU proffers a part-time commitment: vacation homes, time-share condominiums, youth mentoring, community coaching, and season-ticket holders for sports and artistic events – in the islands or abroad for touring companies’ performances.

The CU will establish Trade Mission Offices closest to Diaspora pockets (for example: Flatbush in Brooklyn, NY, Jamaica Hill in Lauderhill, FL and Notting Hill, London) to allow efficient trade, visitor/convention promotion & planning and CU federal government interactions.

Yes, the Diaspora can help to make our homeland a better place to live, work and play. We urge them to lean-in to this effort.

Consider some previous blog-commentaries here, that elaborated on the role of the Diaspora in the Go Lean roadmap: ‘Black British’ and ‘Less Than’ ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ … Miami: Dominican’s ‘Home Away from Home’ Stay Home! Outreach to the Diaspora – Doubling-down on Failure A Lesson In History – Ending the US Military Draft Accelerated Diaspora ‘Time to Go’ – American Vices. Don’t Follow! Proclaim the Same ‘International Caribbean Day’ for All Diaspora Government Referendum Outcome: Exacerbating the ‘Brain Drain’ Caribbean Diaspora Image: ‘Less Than’? The Caribbean is Looking for Heroes … ‘to Return’ Immigrants account for 1 in 11 Blacks in the US Learning from Ireland about the Past, Present and Future of the Diaspora Miami’s Success versus Caribbean Failure Remittances to Caribbean Increased By 3 Percent

But should these Diaspora members vote while still residing in their foreign abodes?

It’s complicated!


Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix – Letter to Editor – Diaspora voting is the people’s rights to decide

Dear Sir:

It is indeed one step closer to complete freedom of the Jamaican people the unshackling of the last vestige of slavery; a direct challenge to the ruling class who have openly opposed ordinary Jamaicans gaining significant political and economic power.

CU Blog - Dynamics of Diaspora Voting - Photo 1If you agree with me that ever since independence no government has actually sought to empower the people except under Michael Manley to some degree, then you must conclude that the country is not been governed in the interest of the ordinary people. Diaspora voting right is not an imposition of our will on the Jamaican people but rather the embodiment of the common man’s vision of the future for Jamaica outside of the colonial construct created to perpetuate the economic enslavement our people. 

Crime in Jamaica is an instrument of social control to deplete the rising power of a middle-class by forcing them to “fly-out ” and oppress a captive underclass by using them as the dominant electorate subverted by criminal gangs and their “Don” leaders.

We, therefore, cannot assert our political and economic rights from within, our influence on transforming Jamaica can only be achieved under the protection of foreign democracies in which we live. There is no other solution to Jamaica’s crime problem than a political one. Diaspora Jamaicans must demand a vote and end the violence once and for all. This will strengthen our democratic institutions and shift the political dynamics away from garrison politics to allow for the repatriation of economic and human capital to Jamaica for economic development. Economic integration cannot be achieved without political and social integration.

One of the most frequent arguments against Diaspora voting is “they don’t have to live with the consequences”. But I say this, you are right! cause we don’t want to live with the consequences of continued poverty and crime, we want live with the consequences of Jamaica’s prosperity that is why we are demanding the vote.

We are not asking to change the laws, we are only demanding what the constitution guarantees us pursuant to the rights and duty of a citizen under the UN Charter of Rights and Freedom which Jamaica is a signatory. It is an agenda for change through the creation of a cooperative democracy (a real partnership) in which the poor is afforded a safety net, and government projects, programs, and policies are evaluated for sustainability goals.

Silbert Barrett

Source: Posted May 16, 2017; retrieved May 25, 2017 from:


Appendix – Reference Tables

CU Blog - Dynamics of Diaspora Voting - Table 1

CU Blog - Dynamics of Diaspora Voting - Table 2

CU Blog - Dynamics of Diaspora Voting - Table 3

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