dimanche 22 avril 2012
I have to confess something:

I am not entirely sure why, but whenever I vote in person (as opposed to mail-in) I get all choked up. It happened when I voted in the US in 2004 (went back to my car and cried) and it happened this time.

A few weeks ago, both Alain and I received packets containing every candidate's flyer and ten slips of paper, one with each candidate's name on it. Instead of having one paper with all the names and you select one, you get all the names and put the one you want in the envelope.

The flyers were interesting- set forth each candidate's campaign. I spent a few nights reading them all and making my choice. We also received our electoral cards, with the name and address of where we are supposed to vote, and our name and address.

Our voting place was the local high school, a few blocks away. I wasn't sure what time it opened, as it wasn't listed on the card. I wanted to go right away when we woke up this morning, but we went running first, had our coffee and croissants, then headed on over around 11. There were actually two voting rooms in the high school. We waited about ten minutes before getting into the voting room, where you could take the slips of paper if you hadn't brought yours with you. Technically, you are supposed to take all slips with you behind the curtain, not just the slip corresponding to the candidate you wish to vote for.

I went behind the curtain and the tears started. I had warned Alain beforehand that I might cry.
I selected my candidate and came on out, waiting in another line, about twenty minutes this time, before getting to the ballot box. I handed the woman my passport and electoral card, she uncovered the hole for the box, I slipped in my envelope, and she said "A voté!" I then signed my name and they stamped my card, and that is it until the next round.

Some people were complaining about the wait, but seriously? 30 minutes is too long every five years? 30 minutes is long, I grant you, when standing in line at McDonalds with screaming children popping balloons all over the place, but really, it wasn't that bad. I thought the wait would be much longer as we are in the city and went late in the morning.

So that is that. Now we wait to hear which two candidates advance to the next round, in two weeks.

lundi 9 avril 2012
Leading up to France's presidential election in a few weeks, one of the candidates announced the possibility of giving foreigners in France the right to vote at local elections. This of course, has caused an uproar and probably won't be passed.

I am sure many Americans would be against a similar measure in the US.

Initially, I wasn't sure how I feel about it, either in France or in the US. I can see that the right to vote is one of the fundamental privileges of citizenship. That and perhaps running for elected office. Because really, pretty much everything else you can do (at least in the US and France) as a foreigner. Buy property, get a driver's license, open a bank account, get a job, get thrown in jail if you break the law, heck even join the armed forces if you want.

Having citizenship might make the above easier, less hoops to jump through, but still, no huge advantages, other than perhaps going through the citizens line at immigration rather than the foreigners line.

But yesterday, at Easter meal, Alain's aunt asked my opinion on it.

I admitted that I wasn't sure how I felt about it. On the one hand, I can see how citizens would be against it, and that my initial reaction would be against it in the US. What, illegal immigrants getting to vote!?

But having lived as a foreigner in France until just recently (and honestly, still feeling like a foreigner) I feel that:
- I have a job
- I pay taxes (oh boy, do I)
- I have to obey the laws
- I have stood for hours in line at the Prefecture to get this card or that card
- If we had tadpoles, they would be in day care or school
- We own property and pay our mortgage

And let's face it, France does not make it easy for foreigners to be in a regularized situation. Plus, to get my nationality, what did I have to do? Take a test on France's history? Have a discussion about Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité? Heck no!
- Prove that we have paid all our taxes for the past three years
- Show that I have a full-time job
- Prove that we pay our mortgage in full every month
- Show my educational level
- Supply a copy of my police record from the US
- List my parents and siblings
- Provide notarized copies of my parent's and my birth certificates

What about poor foreigners from less-developed countries who don't have a higher education degree? Who can't find a job? Who don't pay any taxes?

Do you really think France is bending over backwards to give them citizenship so that they can vote?

No way. Sure, they might eventually get their citizenship, but they certainly aren't on the expedited track.

A few years ago I received a ballot to vote for the judges of the Prud'hommes tribunal, a sort-of court that deals with disputes between employers and employees. I was surprised, but Alain said that as I had a job in France, I had the right to vote for the court.

So hell, I can pay my taxes but I can't vote for the mayor of Marseille? Give me a break.

They are happy to take my money but I can't express my opinion about school funding (on behalf of my kids, who would be themselves mini French?), whether a new bypass should be built so that the traffic in front of our apartment is reduced, and all the rest?

When you think about it, most people are affected every day by decisions made at the local level. Schools, roads, police force, hospitals, firemen, building of a new bypass road for the nearby autoroute, etc. The big issues- death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, don't affect most of us regularly.

After having thought this over, I think that foreigners who are permanent residents (i.e. not just students, or temporary-stay workers) should be able to vote at the local level. This is of course assuming they are legally in the country, and do everything they need to do, such as pay taxes if they have a job, aren't in legal trouble, etc. If they are getting financial assistance, then I think they should still be able to vote because hell, enough citizens are getting assistance anyway. And you can't very fairly draw the line at "permanent residents who have a job and pay their taxes".

After this discussion with Lydia, she did admit that she saw my point and it was something to reflect on, as it was the one point holding her back from voting for said candidate.

What about you? Do you think foreigners should be able to vote? At what level? Under what conditions?

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