AHRC leave was given to support the writing up of a book on electoral rights for non-nationals, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007, under the title Transforming Citizenship? The European Union, Electoral Rights and the Restructuring of European Political Space. The book explores some of the relationships between the contested concepts and practices of citizenship and membership, of nation and nationality, and of states and ‘state-like’ polities such as the European Union. To illuminate these issues, the example of electoral rights given to non-nationals, or non-citizens is used, with a particular focus on the rights granted under EU law to EU citizens to vote and to be elected in local and European Parliamentary elections in the state in which they reside, under the same conditions as nationals. In addition, the research project looked as cases under national law where Member States choose to give or cases deny electoral rights to so-called ‘third country nationals’. That is, those who are not the citizens of the Member States. The usual case is giving rights to vote in local elections to such immigrants. The broader concerns of the book (and the underlying research project which is brought to fruition) were to show how citizenship and citizenship practices have been transformed in the context of legal and constitutional developments in and around the European Union.
This book is concerned with one of the most interesting 'edge' cases in citizenship studies: where non-citizens are given the right to vote in elections in their host states on the basis of their residence. This case illuminates how citizenship is moving away from a legal status based on a singular connection which sees rights given to citizens alone towards a broader relational and transnational concept.
The work found that it was possible to bring together two linked areas of theory about citizenship and membership, namely those theories which look at the distinction between citizen and non-citizen, or alien, and which question whether that distinction is becoming fuzzier, and those theories which surround the boundaries of the suffrage, that is who can vote (and stand) in elections. Having brought these areas of theory together, the project constructed an analytical framework to examine in detail cases in which EU law and national law grant, or deny, electoral rights to non-nationals. One of the strengths of the project's finding thus lies in the blending together of cases grounded in both EU public law and national public law, since all too frequently these areas of law are considered separately, with insufficient attention to looking at the links between them.The research does not make the case, as such, for more ‘alien suffrage’, that is, for there to be more cases in which non-nationals can vote in elections to be extended. It is not useful necessarily to focus on the normative debate, as this can be reductionist. On the contrary, the research piloted an approach which looks at the role of law as both driver and reactive force, in constructing the incremental institutional steps which bring about change at the national and the EU level.