Dual Residency

Matthew Yglesias has a devious plan for swinging the election to Kerry:

It was recently brought to my attention that my grandparents, strongly pro-Kerry Jews like so many others, who split their time between the great, but decidedly non-swing, state of New York, and the less great, but decidedly more swingy, state of Florida are still registered to vote in New York. I am encouraging them to rectify this situation, and I would encourage other readers who may have similarly situated family members to do the same.

Presumably, this is legal so long as they don’t vote in two states (although there’s essentially no way that they’d be caught if they did). If we’re going to continue to use the Electoral College as a means of electing presidents, however, it would seem reasonable to create federalized rules to govern this sort of thing. No one should have residency rights in more than one state.

Of course, that problem pales with that of non-citizens voting:

When decision time comes this autumn, the real swing votes in the 2004 presidential election may not come from Pennsylvania, Ohio, or even the notorious Florida. The ultimate Bush-Kerry battleground may turn out to be somewhere more far-flung and unexpected—Israel, Britain, even Indonesia. And both political camps say they are getting ready for the fight, courting American voters who are living overseas and taking no chances that the expatriate vote will undermine them at the finish line. Although an official census has never been taken, between 4 million and 10 million American citizens are believed to be living abroad. Those over 18 are entitled to have their absentee votes counted in the state where they last lived—no matter how long ago that was. And many are planning to do just that.

Contrary to widespread belief, it was more likely American voters in Israel, not Florida, who put George W. Bush in the White House four years ago—a phenomenon that has John Kerry’s supporters in Israel vowing to do whatever it takes to make certain that doesn’t happen again in November.

While Allah thinks this is “sweet,” it seems absurd to me to allow expatriates to vote. Obviously, Americans overseas on assignment from their government are an exception. But people who have chosen to abandon the country to live elsewhere should have no say in choosing our government.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Allah says:

    James — I completely agree with you about expatriate voting and would wholeheartedly support efforts to change the policy. What I thought was “sweet” was the fact that it might have been Israeli residents who pushed Bush over the top in Florida in 2000. Follow the link in my post to find out why.

  2. kenny says:

    “no taxation without representation”.

    The US government taxes citizens resident
    abroad on their entire income not just on any income earned in the USA.So it seems only fair that said expats get the chance to vote.

  3. DC Loser says:

    “But people who have chosen to abandon the country to live elsewhere should have no say in choosing our government.”

    The corollary to that statement then should be that those foreigners who’ve abandoned their native countries to live here (i.e., illegals) should have a right to vote here since they’ve decided to make their life in the US?

  4. James Joyner says:

    kenny: I don’t think that’s right. That is, my understanding is that any such burden is offset based on taxes paid to the other government.

    DCL: Well, no. Certainly, illegal aliens should lose their ability to vote in Mexico (or wherever). It doesn’t follow that they’ve earned the right to vote here. One has to satisfy citizenship requirements to vote. People who have abandoned one country and who have not yet established citizenship in another are in a state of political limbo.

  5. kenny says:

    “kenny: I don’t think that’s right. That is, my understanding is that any such burden is offset based on taxes paid to the other government.”

    Oh yes,there are generally treaties between countries to avoid double taxation.However the US still reserves the right to tax the world income of its non-resident citizens and they are required to file a tax return each year.

    If the tax payable to the foreign government is less than the equivalent tax payable (plus a tax credit) in the US then you can be hit with a tax demand for that.

    The US is pretty well unique amongst the developed world in this.

  6. NONAME says:

    Hey, I already thought of this in reverse. I’m a Texan with a second home in FL, and right in the middle of the action — S. FL. Since my W vote in TX probably won’t mean as much as my W vote in FL, I’m planning on voting for W in FL.

    It also crossed my mind that if I voted in both places, how would anyone know?

  7. Randy Paul says:

    But people who have chosen to abandon the country to live elsewhere should have no say in choosing our government.

    That statement is truly odious. Your presumption is that people who live outside the US have “abandon[ed] the country.” There are any number of reasons why people choose to live outside the US: family, career, curiousity, education among others and it doesn’t mean that they have abandoned their country.

  8. James Joyner says:


    I’m talking mainly of people who have emigrated to a foreign land with the intent of establishing residency. Obviously, people vacationing or on a Rhodes Scholarship or some such are in a different category.

  9. Randy Paul says:

    Still, I plan to retire to Brazil (my wife’s home country), but plan to visit the US at least once a year. It doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my country any more than my wife abandoned hers. I will not naturalize as a Brazilian, but I enjoy the climate, the culture and the cost of living. Anyone who doesn’t renounce their citizenship or who is not a fugitive from justice should be allowed to vote.

    My wife, by the way will vote in Brazil’s elections this year at the Brazilian consulate here in New York. Do you really believe that the US policy on suffrage to its citizens should be less favorable than Brazil’s?

  10. James Joyner says:

    I think Brazil’s policy is a poor way to go for a sovereign country, let alone a superpower. If you move to Brazil and come here only as an occasional visitor, you have for all intents and purposes renounced your citizenship. That doesn’t make you disloyal (my mother did the same when she moved from Germany after marrying my father) but it takes away your stake in our society. Certainly, you should have no say in how we govern ourselves once you leave.

  11. Randy Paul says:

    If you move to Brazil and come here only as an occasional visitor, you have for all intents and purposes renounced your citizenship.

    Nonsense. To renounce your citizenship you have to meet certain criteria.

    I’ll continue to pay taxes on my pension income and file a 1040 every year. The exemption you get is for the first $70,000 of income earned abroad. Most countries, in fact do provide for expatriate voting for their citizens living abroad. I have British friends who live here and vote at the consulate. I have Irish and Colombian friends who do the same.

    My stake in society is my citizenship regardless of where I live. Your opinion doesn’t take it away, nor does it take away my right to vote.

  12. Hal Duston says:

    So you’re basically saying that the twelve years from age 12 to age 24 my wife spent living in overseas should have cost her U.S. citizenship? When she returned to the U.S. in 1984 should she have been required to be naturalized? She was not overseas due to parents in the military, or any other overseas work, but rather just a parent deciding to live abroad. That seems to me to be a rather absurd position to take.

  13. James Joyner says:

    Randy: I’m not arguing that the law as it now stands says that you’re not eligible to vote if you emigrate. Obviously, as the story I excerpt demonstrates, it doesn’t. My argument is that people who move overseas with the intention of setting up residence there SHOULDN’T be permitted a say in U.S. affairs.

    Hal: I don’t argue that your wife-to-be should have had her citizenship revoked; merely that, until she returned stateside and set up residency here, she shouldn’t have been permitted to vote.

  14. Jay Solo says:

    Usually I agree with you, which probably has a lot to do with why you’re one of my top few reads.

    Sometimes you’re confused and say amusing things, which adds entertainment value, enhancing your appeal even more.

    This is probably the thing I have disagreed about most vehemently with you. At least as a blanket, either-or statement. One of those “what is James thinking” things you sometimes write, only more so.

  15. Paul says:

    Matthew Yglesias has a devious plan for swinging the election to Kerry:

    Yeah- A devious plan stolen from Michael Moore. He’s been encouraging people to do this for months. Hardly original.

  16. nick says:

    James shows a common ignorance among a certain section of insular Americans: the inability to distinguish between ‘residency’ and ‘citizenship’.

    The fact is, James, that you flat-out lied in your post by talking about ‘non-citizens voting’, when the story is explicitly about non-residents voting. And moving abroad is not an ‘abandonment’ of one’s home nation, and it’s a pathetic insult to suggest so. In a world that’s ‘smaller’ thanks to air travel and the mobility of labour, such attitudes are frankly medieval: a throwback to the days of being ‘subject’ to the local ruler.

    I’m a British citizen. I live in the US as a legal resident with my US citizen wife. I have no intention of taking US citizenship, and accept ‘taxation without representation’ by doing so. I fully intend to vote in the next British election because I believe it’s a responsibility that comes with citizenship, regardless of residence: government being vested in the people and all that stuff. And I suspect that Americans abroad feel the same way.

    What total crap, James.

  17. Randy Paul says:

    James, you said that if I take up residence in Brazil that I “have for all intents and purposes renounced [my] citizenship.” That’s utter crap.

    Nick is right. Living in another country, even setting up residence in that country is not grounds for disenfranchisement. It’s patently absurd that living in another country “takes away your stake in our society.”

  18. Attila Girl says:

    To go back to the original topic for a minute, I think that any American with two homes in this country should declare one of them his/her primary residence, and this should determine where he/she votes.

    We shouldn’t be able to vote from either our primary homes or our vacation homes, based on strategy or whim.

    Though if I had a second home in FL I’d probably vote from there, since the opposition is clearly taking advantage of this loophole. But we should remove it for everyone.