Denied the vote

voto estero.jpg

I receive many letters from Italians abroad who cannot vote. They would like to vote, they have been putting effort into getting the vote, but they cannot vote.

And having waited in hallucinating queues, encountering incredibly unpleasant officials and a total lack of computer power (STANCA WHERE ARE YOU??? STANCAAAAA!!!!), they make the wise decision to not come back to Italy and if they can, to take on a new nationality.

I'm publishing letters from an Italian family in Great Britain and from a student in Australia, the fabulous country of OZ.



Dear Beppe,

My name is Riccardo and I’m an Italian citizen who has been resident in Great Britain for over a year. I’ve written “resident” but the term is not well used as my status as resident and the consequent rights that result from that status, has not yet been recognised by the authorities.

In July 2005 I and my companion have sent off the documentation needed to sign up to the register of Italians resident abroad (AIRE), in the knowledge that the time frames needed can be very long since there is a good number of my compatriots who are emigrating.

I never imagined finding myself, in the middle of February 2006 and with the national elections on the horizon, to be an actor in a paradoxical situation. In December 2005 I was contacted by an official at the Italian Embassy in London, asking me (in English) for new documents needed to conclude the matter. This was 5 months after I sent the original documentation. These new documents for both of us were sent during the Christmas holidays.
Today, after a silence of nearly two months, after many telephone calls to the switchboard that went unanswered and in spite of emails to the relevant address, an official replied to a phone call. I would have preferred that she hadn’t answered. Our documents are in a limbo of uncertainty. The official (paid by the State and one of the most discourteous people I have ever had to deal with) accused me of having waited until the last moment to sign up to AIRE (7 months ago?) and when I replied, could only respond with a generic “we have lots of requests to deal with”. She also told me that she shouldn’t have answered the telephone since the Embassy is open to the public in the mornings and they don’t have time to answer the telephone. I leave you the pleasure of reflecting on this statement!

When we contacted the registration office in my previous place of residence in Italy (Cagliari), they confirmed (five minutes after our email was sent!) that they had been contacted neither by the Embassy nor by the Consulate.

Now, at roughly two months from the elections, I find I am denied the right to vote or at least obliged to return to Italy to use the right, with the related cost of the journey, which as you will know well is not easily affordable. All this a good seven months after my “signing up” with the Register of Italians abroad.
It’s enough to make you think that someone in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to slow down the registration of people like myself so that potential uncomfortable votes can be avoided.
Once more, in spite of my profound love for the country where I was born and where I have lived for many years, circumstances make me think that I have done well to leave Italy and its client-based spider’s web that is a confused mess of bureaucratic black holes.”
Riccardo Cocco, Great Britain


Dear Beppe,

I’m writing to you to object to the situation of Italian students abroad. They are being denied the right to vote abroad. In fact it has been explained to me by the Italian Consulate in Sydney that in order to vote abroad you need to be recognised as “resident abroad” and thus registered on the list of AIRE.

However this is impossible if you don’t have a permanent “permission to Stay” in the foreign country, whereas obviously most students have a simple student visa. In other words, the vote is guaranteed to those who have no intention of returning, while it is denied to those who will probably return within a few months or a few years and are abroad to gain knowledge that one day could be useful to our country.

Even though there are numerous exceptions (diplomats, teachers, employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can vote abroad even though they are resident in Italy), the law has “forgotten” students.

I have been living in Australia for 3 years so that I can complete my doctorate. To come to Italy to vote I would have to travel for 24 hours each way and spend about 1,500 euros. Thus I am, in fact, obliged to renounce my “right” to vote and I will have to make do with watching and listening to absurd interviews and statements from politicians on Rai International.

Long live democracy!”

Francesco Ricatti, University of Sydney, Australia


If you want to ask for information about voting (particularly if you live abroad) send an email to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (with a copy to Fini) at this email address: relazioni.pubblico@esteri.it

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 07:51 PM in | Comments (17)
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I was born in New York; my grandparents came from Italy in the early 1900`s. I value the rich Italian culture and recently I became an Italian Citizen. It took me about six years to gather all of the documents required and then finally last April I received my Italian Passport. Sono Italiano vero. I was told at the Consulate in New York that I would be able to vote in the upcoming elections in Italy; however I`m not so sure because I have heard some people say that I will not be able to vote in the upcoming April elections in Italy.Do you have any information regarding this matter?

Posted by: John Mango | February 25, 2006 06:32 PM


I was born in New York; my grandparents came from Italy in the early 1900`s. I value the rich Italian culture and recently I became an Italian Citizen. It took me about six years to gather all of the documents required and then finally last April I received my Italian Passport. Sono Italiano vero. I was told at the Consulate in New York that I would be able to vote in the upcoming elections in Italy; however I`m not so sure because I have heard some people say that I will not be able to vote in the upcoming April elections in Italy.Do you have any information regarding this matter?

Posted by: John Mango | February 25, 2006 06:19 PM


I know this is an old post but I just wanted to say that for the Italian Consulate in London ...there may be hope! Yes, I was shocked too. I have had extremely unpleasant experiences with the Consulate staff on several occasions. Not to mention all the anecdotes and stories I heard from other people. But I am not going to rant about all the bad things 'cause everyone knows them already. Instead, I want to tell you that for once they actually provided the correct information and in no time!!!

Last week, after having read this post, I got quite worried about my voting rights due to a recent change of address for which I had duly informed the A.I.R.E. over six months ago without ever receiving a reply. So I decided to double-check that they actually had my correct address.

Miracle 1.
I received an almost immediate automated reply which informed me that my email had been forwarded to the appropriate department and that they will reply as soon as possible.

Miracle 2.
Two hours later they indeed replied to my email and even confirmed that my details had already been updated in the register!!!

I was gobsmacked!
Now I have to wait and see whether I ever receive the actual voting papers. We'll see....

Posted by: Sara Donetto | February 24, 2006 05:39 PM


Giovanni,

If you're not going to vote because some uncivilised person writes on the blog that we shouldn't have the right to vote, then you're letting this kind of people win. No matter what their political party is.
As other people has said, we are living abroad, so we're not brainwashed and with the web we can get all the information we need to be able to make a political choice.
I live in the UK and I've been registered with the Aire for two years now. They didn't send me the papers to vote for the referendum but I really hope this time they will give me the opportunity to exercise my RIGHT!
People has died to obtain this right. My grandad has fought a war for our country. Why do people whant history to go backwards instead of progressing? The rate of civilization of a country is given by the way its citizens are treated. I am afraid Italy has to do still a lot of work before we can reach the same standard of other European countries.
Please go to vote if you can!

Posted by: Concetta Iannone | February 22, 2006 02:25 PM


Dear Francesco,

I have actually to say that the service that I got from the Consulate of New York (I have been living in US for two years so far) wasn't too bad. I am changing my Status from Student to worker abroad and changing the papers wasn't this big of a deal. They politely told me that if my goal is to stay in US I should sign for AIRE, but in that case I would loose the Italian health insurance granted for Italian citizen. Therefore, I WON'T SIGN ANYWAY. You gain a right, you loose one.

Posted by: Alessandro Bernini | February 19, 2006 02:16 AM


I heard something earlier about this but then all the Olympics hype killed the story. I am glad you got this out here for people to once again become aware.
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

Posted by: Raymond B | February 18, 2006 01:11 AM


Beppe - The situation for italians living abroad is ridiculous! I have moved to Seattle (US) 5 years ago and since then I have basically gave away my right to vote.
The Italian consulate in San Francisco does not work at all. There is no assistance from the consulate, if you try to call you only get an answering machine, and when the electoral paperwork for voting comes to my house is usually well after the election.
Something else that should be said is that the famous law for the right to vote to the Italians abroad resulted in abolishing the right to vote for those italians (like me) that moved and live abroad, and gave unnecessary voting privileges to people that are no longer italians.
In fact, numerous people can claim now their right to vote thanks to the bright idea of the Fascist Tremaglia, but the italian parliament does not want (rightly so!) to have the italian election influenced by millions of "foreigners" former italians voting; so they created electoral colleges that actually diminish the importance of voting for these groups. You should be aware that the millions of Italians (real and fake) that live abroad only elect few representatives for each continent (I believe the total is 12); this process is not proportional and does not follow any democratic criteria. Our share of representatives is a very small share of the several hundreds representatives that form the parliament, thus making their vote totally worthless in the electoral process.

I have been an italian for 36 years. The italian government and politicians do their best every day to remind me that it is about time to take the American citizenship and delete this shameful record from my past.

Thanks
Alex

Posted by: Alex Buccilli | February 17, 2006 09:28 PM


Ciao a tutti...

I live in Israel,and since a couple of years I've been voting for Referendum and elections.. It's a pity I hate politics, so it doesn't really matter that much to me... :)

Just my cent :P

Posted by: kamal masarweh | February 17, 2006 04:20 PM


Italian bureaucracy is bad in the homeland and simply insane abroad. Kafka would have drawn inspiration for a few stories had he spent (like I had the misfortune of doing) hours queueing only to be then told "now you can join this other queue", by some annoyed, bored, rude and incompetent clerk...
The spectacle you get at the Embassy here in London is borderline with a violation of people's human rights... People have to travel for hours from places all over the UK to join hopeless queues and more queues.
I have lived for many years in the UK and I have kept as far as possible from the Italian bureaucracy. I always fly back home to vote.

Posted by: Giulio | February 17, 2006 11:30 AM


I'm not Italian but I'm living, working and paying taxes in Milan since 1972. I think it's ridiculous that I can vote in Switzerland (by letter) but not in Italy.

Posted by: Hans Suter | February 17, 2006 11:12 AM


Ciao a tutti!!
my name is Angelo Grillo,It's been seven years since i left Italy to live abroad.
I used to live in Scotland(Edinburgh) i was regulary inscripted in the AIRE(at that time it took about two weeks), i voted for the last referendum and last elections no problem.
then i came back to italy for few months and now i live in barcelona since two years ago.
Regarding those elections in a first place I thought was some kind of spanish burocracy problem.which is very like the italian one!
at the consulate in barcelona,unbelivable cueues, hours waiting for nothing, confusing and misunderstandable information and now too late to vote here..
if i'll go to italy to exercise my right to vote who is gonna pay for it? do i have to use my holydays to go there?
to me, looks like florida and the black people...
Strangely of all the hundreds of italian people that i met living abroad no one liked berlusconi at all...
Beppe omonimus friend!What should we do!?!?
Agelo Grillo

Posted by: Angelo Grillo | February 17, 2006 11:01 AM


Hey There, funny how this morning I am going to the norwegian police to clarify my situation as a student, and I came across this article while checking the newspaper on the net. Weird. Anyways, i'm thinking of applying to get a resident permit, I hope that then I can get to voite in April.

Have a great day everybody!

Posted by: Emanuele | February 17, 2006 09:57 AM


Thanks for the quotation, Emmanuele!
For clearness: I don't want to take away the vote right to anybody!
I find paradoxical that, only for bureaucratic reasons, the vote is easier for someone who has lived abroad for 40 years, than for italian students in abroad! I think that this procedure should be simpler, and above all not in the hands of incompetents!

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | February 17, 2006 09:33 AM


Dear Francesco Ricatti, I've been living in Australia (Perth) for 2 years without ever going back to Italy. I had several visas (student,business), but now I have just a tourist visa, though my intention is to stay in Australia.I have been able to be registered with AIRE at the Consulate in Perth even if I am a temporary resident,as they told me it is compulsory to be registered as a resident abroad if living in another country longer than one year.However,if you don't get registered,there is not any fine.So this year I'll be able to vote.I just think employees at the Consulates don't know the rules appropriately. My problem is now...who am I going to vote?There is not a great choice.Good luck. Emanuela

Posted by: Emanuela Canini | February 17, 2006 02:21 AM


So... I wouldn't like to spend much time raging agaist the ones who look pissed off at the possibility of voting for Italians abroad, they certainly and acutely lack of civilization. As a matter of fact, most civilized counries give this essential right to their citizens.
In the italian version of this blog, Raffaella support the vote for Italians that only temporarily are abroad -as I actually am at the moment- and I totally agree with her. As to the vote for the ones who permanently reside abroad, I believe they too ought to have the right to vote. This does not automatically entail that they are going to vote for a country they no longer know, namely, they would not vote randomly. I think that ONLY the ones that still follow Italian reality would feel the sense of duty to express their vote.
Also, it might look like a paradox but, until proved wrong, it is abroad that Italians may know what really goes on in Italy, abroad you have seriuos media + journalists, no censorship, etc...!!!

Posted by: Emmanuele Da Iglesias | February 17, 2006 02:15 AM


i just want to say Rocco that if he wishes to vote for the good of his country or he may slightly think that somebody doesn't want him to vote, it is better for you to go to Italy as this is cheap compare to what you do for your country

Posted by: leonardo | February 17, 2006 01:10 AM


I wish you English-speaking only guys could read on the Italian version what a lot of our Italian fellows think about us Italians living outside Italy.
Those people think that we shouldn't be allowed to vote because we don't live there anymore: at this point they deserve the politicians that they voted.
I think I will get my US citizenship and get on with my life here.

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | February 16, 2006 11:10 PM


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