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Definitions of Expatriate Voting

In most democratic countries, voting is a civil right and the very foundation of society. The process of voting is a valuable commodity and influences the outcomes of elections and therefore, the future of a country. As such, voting should be of utmost importance to those it is available and should be exercised from wherever a voter may be. The Center for Civic Justice values every student's right to vote, regardless of nationality, and is committed to facilitating the right to vote overseas. 

“Even though only a relatively small proportion of eligible electors abroad vote, the strength of the external voting provision lies in the facts that 

  1. it guarantees the political rights of the citizens and
  2. that it includes those who, whatever their geographical location, decide to maintain a close bond with their country.”

- ACE Project: The Electoral Knowledge Network

While a majority of countries have some form of expatriate voting, there may be some terms or conditions that confuse voters. The following is a list of clarifications to facilitate your voter experience overseas: 


Commonly Used Terms



An expatriate is a person who resides or is currently located outside of their native country. Therefore, an expatriate voter is a person who will be voting for their home elections overseas. 

Rights of Expatriates to Vote in Home Countries:  

Whether an expatriate is entitled to vote overseas depends on the legislation of their country of origin. Some countries grant unlimited voting rights, identical to domestic citizens, while other countries limit the types of expatriates that qualify to vote overseas, in addition to the types of elections they are eligible to vote in. 

Disenfranchisement of Expatriates:  

Some countries lack the legislation for or legally prohibit overseas voting, therefore taking away voter eligibility from expatriates. Only citizens within the country’s borders are allowed to vote. 

Restrictions to Voter Qualifications:  

A country may limit an overseas voter or bar them altogether if they do not meet the requirements of being a military personnel, which is an individual serving in the armed forces of a country whether it be a simple soldier or an officer of sorts. A country may additionally restrict overseas voting to only diplomatic staff, who are government employees dealing with foreign affairs between nations. 

Restrictions to a Voter’s Place of Residence: 

A unique requirement that some countries demand from expatriate voters is that they require a place of residence in said nation, as well as a time frame of when an overseas citizen must return home in order to be eligible to vote. 

Proxy Voting:  

Proxy voting is a form of voting (not allowed in all countries) where an expatriate voter can delegate their voting power to a chosen representative, more often than not a domestic voter. It is important to note that an expatriate voter should fully trust their chosen representative in fulfilling their interests. (Governments and/or electoral commissions provide expatriate voters with the necessary documents to ensure that their vote of choice will be accounted for.) 

Compulsory Voting: 

Some countries have laws which require eligible citizens to register and vote in elections, and failure to do so, without an acceptable excuse, may result in a penalty. (Most countries accept international status as an acceptable excuse.)


E-voting is a form of voting done online on an official government or electoral commission website. According to a country’s laws, this may be done from wherever at the voter’s convenience or only at the embassy or consulate. 


A referendum is a direct vote on a particular proposal from the electorate which can result in a new adopted policy or a specific law. Some countries allow expatriate voters to participate. 

Electoral Commision:  

An electoral commission is a nonpartisan organization independent from a country's government which supervises the elections in said country. 

Embassy or Consulate:  

An embassy or consulate is a given country's representatives, or diplomats, abroad in another country. The purpose of the diplomatic mission is to ensure a positive relationship with the host country and to provide services to citizens abroad, such as visas, passports, and voting (if permitted by the country's laws). While embassies are a country's main base for services abroad, and therefore, there is only one for a given country in a host, there are usually multiple consulates across the host country, usually located in highly populated cities. 

Elections in the European Union:  

In some countries part of the European Union, an expatriate does not have the right to vote in their national elections but is able to vote in European Union elections (and vice versa). 


Stony Brook University International Student Data:


International vs Domestic Students at Stony Brook University 

International vs Domestic Students


International Students by Continent at Stony Brook University 

International Students by Continent


International Students by (Top 5) Countries at Stony Brook University


International Students by (Top 5) Countries at Stony Brook University