16 and foreign? Argentina wants their vote


A Bolivian who lives in Argentina votes in her home country's election. If a new law gets approved, she would have to vote in Argentina's, too.


Alejandro Pagni

Much of America is enacting laws critics say will place new hurdles for voters come November. That seems odd for a country that already complicates its electoral process and where turnout rates lag behind other countries.

Now there’s a nation far south that’s actually looking to attract more voters, by redrawing the lines that dictate who's included in the electorate.

That country is Argentina. Its lawmakers are mulling radical changes, reports The Associated Press, that include lowering the voting age to 16 and letting foreign residents vote for president.

Radical, indeed, particularly from a US standpoint. More than 30 US states have considered laws to counter voter fraud that rights advocates figure will put a further crimp in turnouts.

Republicans say they want measures to crack down on voter fraud, but have taken heat for failing to prove that fraud is a threat. Right-wingers counter that with: “voter fraud is a serious problem that needs to be taken seriously,” writes Kevin Mooney of the libertarian New Orleans-based Pelican Institute.

Measures include requiring government-issued photo ID in order to vote — but 11 percent of US citizens lack such an ID, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. “Voters are under attack in this country,” the ACLU says on its website, denouncing the "voter suppression."

Or, as The Daily Show's host Jon Stewart recently called it, “Democalypse 2012: Cockblock the vote.”

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of advocacy group Advancement Project, wrote of a recent ID law in Pennsylvania in Huffington Post: “The citizens most likely to be disenfranchised on account of it are disproportionately veterans, seniors and people of color.”

All that’s in the United States, where 61.6 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2008 general election, according to a tally by Michael McDonald of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Now look at Argentina. A year ago, nearly 80 percent of Argentine registered voters participated in the election that kept President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in office, according to data collated by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an inter-governmental pro-democracy group in Stockholm.

That’s partly thanks to compulsory voting. Like some of its neighbors, and Australia, Argentines must vote by law in general elections.

Allowing foreign-born non-citizens to vote would add 1 million voters and lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 would add 2 million more, reports AP.

The proposal comes after the capital Buenos Aires began obliging foreign non-citizens to vote in local elections, Argentine newspaper Clarin reported.

However, Argentina’s new plan has detractors. “Opponents call it a naked attempt to prolong the power of a decade-old government that has showered public money on migrants and young people,” the AP article said.

It’s possible that the initiative could go through, although it’s not exactly clear how badly its beneficiaries — teens and immigrants — would want it to.

On the matter of voter inclusion, whether this law goes forward, north and south could not be farther apart.