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Global dataset: StFX political science professor releases paper on non-resident voting practices 

September 7th, 2022
Dr. Nathan Allen

With some 300 million people today living outside their country of birth, and a world where emigrants are increasingly connected to their home countries, what does this mean for democratic citizenship?

That’s a complicated question StFX political science professor Dr. Nathan Allen has been tackling for the past five years, and a question he and co-authors Elizabeth Iams Wellman (Williams College) and Benjamin Nyblade (UCLA School of Law) examine. Their newly released global dataset on emigrant voting rights has just been published in Comparative Political Studies, a top political science journal. 

The Extraterritorial Rights and Restrictions dataset (EVRR) is a global time-series dataset of non-resident citizen voting policies and procedures. No existing data source simultaneously captures the scale (195 countries), time frame (1950-2020), and level of detail concerning extraterritorial voting rights and restrictions. This includes over 20 variables covering such details as the option to vote by mail, eligibility restrictions on the number of years abroad, and the existence of designated seats for non-residents.

“We wanted to get a good sense of the evolution of these things. We are trying to track the voting rights, the laws and practices, and to do that it takes a lot of work,” says Dr. Allen, who notes the paper has already been well received since its release, including a short feature on the popular data analytics website FiveThirtyEight.

It’s an important issue, particularly due to the way people are living today. They are more mobile and more likely to stay connected to their home country after they move. Across the world, countries are trying to figure out how to respond to these new demands and capabilities, including looking to see what others are doing around the globe.

“We’ve been doing a scan of where things have been, where they’re going and where innovations are happening,” Dr. Allen says.  

As countries include their emigrant population, he says there is a wide gap between what franchise means  in principle and what occurs in practice.

OPPORTUNITY FOR STFX STUDENTS 

With the help of funding from SSHRC, Dr. Allen has been able to involve 11 StFX students as research assistants. Many join the project early in their undergraduate years at StFX, gaining valuable experience that helps prepare them for law or grad school.

“It’s an opportunity for undergraduates to get involved in policy-relevant research,” says Dr. Allen. “The tasks they complete are relatively close to what they will do working as lawyers or in the public service.

“The students here are really good and their work on the project has been well done. StFX attracts very talented students.”

Dr. Allen says it feels great to have the dataset now out in the world. 

“This is a dynamic project. We plan to keep it updated regularly. I hope to have students working on this project for years to come.”

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