Truly Universal Franchise (Or, A World Wanting to Vote)

by Peter Spiro

As everyone gets a little weary from the blizzard of last-week polls in the lead-up to the election itself, it’s not surprising that pollsters have widened their scope to measure the preferences of non-Americans outside the United States. The result: overwhelming for Obama. (The only country in which Romney bests Obama is Pakistan.) Though perhaps not exactly rocket science, Joseph Stiglitz explains the lopsided numbers here.

But why should foreign preferences be limited to meaningless polls only? The rest of the world is deeply affected by who sits in the presidency after all. Basic democratic theory holds that anyone affected by governance should have a say in its making. As Frances Stead Sellers pointed out in an elegantly argued 2004 piece in the Washington Post’s Outlook section, there is an “irony inherent in a situation where the president of the world’s greatest democracy exercises so much power internationally and so few people have a say in choosing him.”

Not going to happen anytime soon, and not very practical (though one might play around with the notion of allowing foreigners to make campaign contributions, a practice permitted in Australia, Germany, France, and Israel). But the disenfranchisement of the world points to another pathology of state-based institutions.

One Response

  1. Ohio don’t play!

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