Now that the Trinidad and Tobago general election has been called for August 10, parties rushing to complete their manifestos should put in something for the half a million strong TT diaspora abroad.
What we the diaspora abroad want is to be considered for a place in TT elections, not for this one as it’s obviously too late for that, but for future elections. To put it bluntly, we want a promise that political parties will consider overseas voting for TT citizens during the new term and implement in time for the 2025 elections.
We have two strong reasons for this request, our numbers as 30% of the total Trinis, and the state of overseas voting worldwide with at least 115 countries allowing it.
That half million Trinis abroad number is not wishful thinking. We know of 150,000 plus Trinis in Canada, double that number in the USA or 300,000 and there we have 450,000 in just two countries. It should not be an issue to find a further 50,000 in Britain and other countries outside TT. A good majority of them would be dual citizens of TT and their new countries, my estimate being at least 250,000 having dual citizenship or retaining TT citizenship and easily 200,000 of voting age. When you consider that registered voters for the last election in 2015 numbered 1,099,279 and 734,792 actually voted, the significance of the overseas vote can’t be ignored.
Secondly, an enormous number of countries right at the moment allow overseas voting by their citizens living abroad and to my knowledge none have reported special problems with it. Most of the developed countries have been doing it for years. A short list of the countries that allow overseas voting includes Australia, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey United Kingdom and the USA. Wikipedia notes that a research study done seven years ago out of 214 countries, 115 countries have provisions for external voting. If Namibia could do overseas voting why not Trinidad and Tobago?
Some may be fearful that overseas voting would benefit one of the major parties PNM and UNC over the other, but common sense would dash that fear. Trinis abroad who left as adults generally retain the old political loyalties in the new country, and their children in the new country would usually follow the leanings of their parents. Children born in the new country may not be TT citizens and not qualified to vote in TT elections but all those who came as young children would generally retain TT citizenship.
As far as I can determine, there is a small majority of Indo Trinis over black Trinis (meaning African and mixed race) in Canada, but this is balanced by the USA pattern where black Trinis have a majority. In the end it could end up even steven.
At least 60 countries allow dual citizenship, including Canada, United States and United Kingdom where most of the TT diaspora are located.
From what we can see the overseas process is very simple on foolproof, nothing like the bogus overseas voting that Guyana exercised in the in the recent past. The high commissions or embassies in the foreign countries have a list of all the TT citizens who are resident in that country and when the time comes for them to vote they send out a notification those individuals and give them the documentation and information so they can vote, either in person or by mail-in vote and recently I believe they would allow online voting.
There is no question of people voting twice because the computers only allow a single vote for each name to be counted. The cost of such voting is negligible; all it means is having a small staff manning voting booths at the designated places on the election date. Issues like what constituency an overseas voter should be placed in, and parliamentary representation from the foreign countries can be worked out using models from highly successful overseas voting nations.
I hope somebody responds to my humble request on behalf of the TT diaspora. If nothing happens I warn that the already minimal interest from the diaspora in TT politics will decline away to nothing. Children who came here young or who were born in places like Canada and the USA have very little or no interest in TT affairs, but a chance to vote and have an influence on the old country could reverse that.