Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 October 2020
Since 1990, nearly 100 countries extended voting rights to citizens living abroad, including 32 in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the actual ability for emigrants to vote in subsequent elections varies widely. Whereas others view diaspora enfranchisement as a signal to emigrant and international audiences, I argue that incumbent parties expand or restrict emigrant voter access depending on party perceptions of political support abroad. I first leverage the multiple reversals over emigrant inclusion in South African elections since 1994 to illuminate how changing dynamics between an incumbent party and citizens abroad shape emigrant voter access. I further test my argument with an original dataset covering multiple dimensions of external voting in every African election where emigrants had voting rights from 1990 to 2015. I find a robust relationship between emigrant voter access and diaspora support for the incumbent party.
The author thanks Susan D. Hyde, Elisabeth Wood, Susan Stokes, Kate Baldwin, Loren Landau, Hannah Alarian, Nathan Allen, Claire Adida, Robert Blair, Carles Boix, Sarah Bush, Stuart Craig, Amaney Jamal, Nicholas Kerr, Jean-Michel Lafleur, David Leblang, Will Lowe, Rachael McLellan, Gareth Nellis, Benjamin Nyblade, Molly Offer-Westort, Emily Sellars, Jeremy Spater, Dawn Langan Teele, Beth Elise Whitaker, and Jennifer Wu, for helpful comments and conversations. Additional thanks to participants from numerous conferences and seminars, especially the 2017 and 2018 meetings of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the 2018 meeting of the International Studies Association (ISA), and the Fall 2017 meeting of the Contemporary African Political Economy Research Seminar (CAPERS). Special thanks to Marlyse Manga for translation assistance and to Ingo Rohlfing and three anonymous reviewers at APSR for their careful reading and suggestions. Research was conducted under Yale University HSC Protocol #1406014245, with support provided by the Social Science Research Council, The MacMillan Center Dissertation Research Grant for International Fieldwork, the Lindsay Fellowship for Research in Africa, and the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Princeton University. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/SWSY7T.