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The Possibility of Dominicans Voting
From The Dominican Time

By Christina Jones

For the past several years, citizens from many Latin American countries have been able to vote from abroad in their mother country's presidential elections, but Dominicans who are living abroad, may not be permitted to share in this benefit. They may be prevented once again, from being able to cast their ballots in the Dominican Republic's upcoming elections.

A recent story in New York Times reported that Dominicans, even those who enjoy dual citizenship, were supposed to be able to start voting from abroad during the 2000 election. However, the funds were never allocated to conduct voter registration abroad. Today, Dominicans who have worked for years outside the Dominican Republic are fuming over what they consider new "excuses" being used to prevent an absentee vote in the 2004 elections.

The United States, allows dual citizenship, which means holding more than one citizenship or nationality at the same time, but it does not encourage the practice. A person may have all or many of the rights and responsibilities that belong to a citizen in each of the several countries in which he or she is a citizen, regardless of the length of time or actual residence in a country, its geographical proximity, or the nature of his or her economic, cultural, or political ties. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an American could not be stripped of his or her citizenship for holding citizenship in another country.

Michele Wucker, author of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola, and a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School, believes that having dual citizenship or being able to vote abroad can be more than symbolic. It encourages communities of people, such as Dominicans, to set down firmer roots in their new country, while still feeling connected to their country of birth or origin.

The controversy over Dominicans being able to vote abroad started before the 1994 Republic's presidential elections. Until then Dominicans where not "supposed to" be able to vote, if they lived outside the Dominican Republic. However that idea apparently changed during the 1996 presidential elections. In those elections, both candidates, the late José Francisco Peña Gomez, representative of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) and Leonel Fernández, representative of Partido de la Liberación Dominicano (PLD), both stated that they lived favored legislation legalizing dual nationality and permitting Dominicans living abroad to vote wherever they resided. Fernández, in his campaign said he planned to establish a "Ministry of Diaspora," and Peña Gomez, promised to allow the election of congressional duputies to represent Dominicans living abroad. Since then however, permitting voting abroad changed. Provisions where made to prevent presidents from running two concurrent elections, or to have votes legally recognized from those Dominicans, who had become foreign citizens. This, of course, led politicians from all political parties in the Dominican Republic to court their constituencies living in the United States and Canada. They organized charter flights to bring them back to vote.

Since Dominicans are one of the largest immigrant groups living abroad, they can have a huge impact on their presidential elections. Many believe that the vote from abroad is likely to become the swing vote in future elections, and that corrupt politicians in the Dominican Republic are afraid that they will not be able to sway the elections using the usual and customary unsavory methods. Peña-Gomez strongly believes that the role Dominicans play in New York alone, would change or control the politics on the island.

At present Dominican politicians, continuosly make trips to cities such as New York, to hold fund-raisers for their political campaigns back home, a fact, which by itself, emphasizes the ties between the two communities. They have even set up political offices in the United States for the Dominican community. These campaigns have increased, as the Dominican community in the United States has become larger, more established, and more prosperous. Dr. Rafael Lantigua, President of the PLD Office in the United States, agrees that there needs to be a push to get offices established in Dominican neighborhoods, so Dominicans can vote in future presidential elections. He says that all political parties feel very strongly about this issue.

There has been progress in establishing Junta Central Electoral (JCE) offices for Dominicans in the United States. In order for a city to be considered a potential location to host a JCE office, which would allow Dominicans to vote in that area, three criteria need to be met. First, does the area have a high concentration of Dominicans? Second, is there a diplomatic or consular representation for that community? Third, are there a significant numbers of groups and individual Dominicans requesting the office? As of now, registrations centers have been set up in a New York, Miami, and Boston as well as outside the United States in cities such as Madrid, Caracas, Montreal, and Panama City. But there is still a long way to go.hatic in restating that what he does with the order has to comply with federal law. “There is a federal law that now says: you may not order your employees not to report. I am not going to violate the law. Thank you. You go to jail, I am not going to go to jail,” said Bloomberg. “This is the law and we have to comply,” he said.

Translated from Spanish by N. T. Mckenna

 

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