Giving votes to the vote-less in France

When I got to France, one of the things that interested me most is the idea that immigrants serve as the central scapegoat for the National Front’s Marine Le Pen — and yet, the vast majority of them are unable to vote in the election. (In France, you can only vote in presidential elections if you’re a French citizen — and there are an estimated 4.4 million people living in France who aren’t citizens.)

That’s part of why, when I heard about a group called Alter-Votants — which aims to help non-citizens have a voice in the election by connecting them with a French voter who’d been planning to abstain — I really wanted to write about it.

The group seems to be an answer to two undercurrents of the campaign: the first, this idea that immigrants don’t get a say in an election that very much affects them; and the second, that pollsters are estimating a record number of abstentions in this election, a dynamic which could benefit Le Pen.

In the course of reporting this story, I met some truly fascinating people: for example, Hamze, an Iranian political refugee who was imprisoned after working for the Reformist candidate in Iran’s 2009 election. There was also Natalia, who moved to France from Colombia 13 years ago and cares so deeply about having a say in French politics after watching her home country vote narrowly against a peace deal last fall.

You can read the piece here at Politico Europe.

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