Who should be granted electoral rights at the state level?
This paper has a twofold aim in determining who should be granted electoral rights at the state level, one negative and another positive. The negative part deconstructs the link between state-level political membership and citizenship and contests naturalization procedures. This approach argues that naturalization procedures, when coercively used as a necessary condition for accessing electoral rights at the state level, are both inconsistent with liberal democratic ideals and an inexcusable practice in liberal democratic states. The positive part of the paper seeks to establish what – if not the acquisition of citizenship –could determine state-level political membership for non-citizens. In other words, it attempts to explain how and in what conditions non-citizens may become political members of a state without naturalizing. This approach considers the most prominent arguments that base state-level political membership on residency, i.e. residency as a legal status granted by the previous members of the community and residency as physical presence within a defined jurisdiction. It argues that, in a world of increasing human mobility across borders, while the former way of understanding residency might be too restrictive, the latter might be too banal to forge membership ties that form a political community. Domicile is the proposed alternative, introduced as a type of residency that is self-given and remains stable despite numerous changes of residency. Domicile is a legal term that indicates where a person officially registers her permanent home even when residing abroad. In sum, this is an argument against naturalization as the access door for electoral rights at the state level and in favor of defining membership in the political community based on domicile.