Imagine a country with high immigration/refugee rates but also strong resentment towards these immigrants (like the southern United States and their grudge against illegal Mexican immigrants).

Imagine this country didn't want to close immigration completely or reduce the immigration quotas, but still wants to reduce the immigrant flow into the country. The government proposes creates a subtle way to do this, through a new set of laws: the weight of your vote depends on how long you've been a citizen:

  • For the first four years you've been a citizen, your vote is weighted 0.16 times.
  • After four years after citizenship, your vote is weighted 0.32 times.
  • 0.48 times after eight years
  • 0.64 times after twelve years
  • 0.8 times after sixteen years
  • and 1 time after twenty years or longer. Also, if you were born in this country, you bypass this whole system and your vote automatically counts one whole time. Voting age is 18.

Would this be an effective way to discourage immigration while rewarding loyal citizens? On the flip side, would this encourage immigrants to stay in this country for a longer period of time?

Edit: Voting is required for all citizens, immigrant or not, over the age of 18. First year immigrants cannot vote.

  • $\begingroup$ Oh sorry that was an accident $\endgroup$ – fi12 Jan 26 '16 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ I do not get the point, generally (at least in Europe), being a citizen (and thus being allowed to vote) means that you actually have the nationality of the country. It means also that immigrants simply do not have right to vote. Note as well as the process leading to naturalization can take way more than 20 years. Not also that some countries (as Switzerland) do not even apply the Jus Soli, meaning that sometimes children or even grandchildren of immigrants does not have the right to vote. $\endgroup$ – Kolaru Jan 26 '16 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ Are you saying that Mexicans go to the USA just to get the privilege to vote? $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jan 26 '16 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ No, I'm saying that Mexicans come to the US to get better job economic opportunities. As a side benefit, they also get the privilege to vote. Also, is there a reason my question was downvoted? $\endgroup$ – fi12 Jan 26 '16 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site fi. THe downvote is likely due to the fact that the question is overly broad (I am guessing, it wasn't mine). If you could narrow your "what are the impacts" question I think this would make a good question. $\endgroup$ – James Jan 26 '16 at 2:28

Honestly, it probably wouldn't help slow down immigration in the slightest.

I would argue that in many cases, politics in a new country is one of the least of an immigrant's concerns. Consider the waves of immigration into the USA during the 1800's -- most of the time they were coming with the hope of making a better life (more money, less hunger, etc). Having a political voice is just a bonus.

For a more concrete (and yet also more extreme) example, think about the current refugee crisis. They're trying to escape a war zone, risking their lives trying to get somewhere safe. Now imagine you went up to them and said "You can come into $My_Country, but your vote won't count for as much as the people who already live here. Don't worry though, your kids' votes will count normally." I can't imagine many of them would pass up on the offer.

In fact, there's evidence that the benefits of a voting system isn't a priority for immigrants. As the OP mentioned, there are lots of Mexicans coming to the US, both legally and illegally. However, Mexico's voting system is arguably better than the US's. A lower impact of voting doesn't necessarily scare people away.

As far as implications of the system, I'd say the big thing is that it would likely require a rewrite of quite a few laws in order to not cause contradictions. For instance, for this to be enacted in the USA, there would have to be a new amendment to the Constitution which overrules the part of the Fourteenth Amendment which specifies that people have to count as whole people when they're voting. That, in turn, would likely lead to revisiting of Supreme Court cases where the ruling involved the Fourteenth Amendment, and any decisions/laws based on those cases, etc etc. Long story short it just wouldn't be worth it. And you'd probably end up with human rights activists upset with you as well.


If voting is not required by law, the schema can actually help the immigrants: if the natives don't care for voting, but the immigrants do (an Outsider Party, for example), immigrants have a chance to influence politics. If the country is rich enough, this can create a wave of immigration.

Now, a system of increased income taxes for immigrants would be a deterrent. For instance, 20% for the first year, lowering year by year to, say, 5% for the 20th year onwards. Children of immigrants, born in the country, are exempt.

  • $\begingroup$ what if voting was required for all citizens 18 and over? how would that change your answer? sorry for not clarifying in the question. $\endgroup$ – fi12 Jan 25 '16 at 23:27

So I only need to bring in 6 immigrants/current voter to outvote all the residents in my town and get elected? Excellent!

My victory is guaranteed - bring in the boats!

  • $\begingroup$ It's a win win situation. Stop the boats, get the votes, bring more boats, get more votes. You win the election either way. Of course, you would have to have those people be willing to come in the first place. $\endgroup$ – timuzhti Jan 26 '16 at 2:45

Looking at the US situation, then no, it won't.

People choose to go to the US illegally and have no vote (unless they illegally participate). Even some people who come legally have no vote. For example, H1b workers can't vote in federal elections but come anyway. So why would having some vote be an incentive against immigration? If anything, it would encourage immigration.

This also would encourage people from over the border who have some interest in US elections to temporarily immigrate to vote. Sure, their vote only counts a sixth as much as a full citizen's, but that's still more than it counts when they are outside the country. Of course, it isn't difficult to tweak the system such that it doesn't happen (e.g. first year gets no vote), but it's a problem with the system as described.

Finally, you mention the immigration quotas. What you don't mention are the waiting lists. If people dropped applications, it wouldn't mean fewer immigrants. It would mean shorter waiting lists. If the waiting lists shorten, then it is easier to immigrate. Unless your disincentive were huge, it would just mean that different people would immigrate.

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer! This was exactly what I was asking for $\endgroup$ – fi12 Jan 26 '16 at 11:18

Most likely immigrants would still come, because voting isn't the real incentive, but with a strong message from the government that their political engagement is not welcome, they'd be demotivated from integrating into society.

Fundamentally, why should somebody make any effort to abide by a system that specifically excludes or devalues their input to it?

You would increase marginalisation and all the social problems that are known to go with that.


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