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Immigrant Voting Rates Drop

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Immigrant Voting Rates Drop

Reykjavík City Hall.

Reykjavík City Hall. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Voting rates among immigrants dropped significantly between 2006 and 2014 according to a task force charged with improving them, RÚV reports. In 2006, 40 percent of immigrants exercised their right to vote while in 2016 the percentage dropped to 21.

Immigrants are granted the right to vote in municipal elections after 5 years of residence in Iceland, while citizens of Nordic countries are granted the same rights after 3 years.

The task force presents its findings to Reykjavík City Council today and will discuss how to increase electoral participation among immigrants.

“A big part is that it isn’t going well enough disseminating information. Neither about people having the right to vote nor what falls under the jurisdiction of municipal governments to therefore increasing interest in exercising voting rights. Nor about the parties and their policies. So our dissemination of information is failing somewhat,” stated Unnur Margrét Arnardóttir, the task force’s chairperson. RÚV morning radio spoke with her and former MP Pawel Bartoszek about the issue.

Unnur points out that immigrant numbers in Iceland increased by 57 percent in the 12 years between 2004 and 2016. “Immigrants have become a big portion of the city’s residents but we are not talking to them and we aren’t disseminating information in their language enough,” she states.

Pawel points out that in Iceland it takes longer for immigrants to receive voting rights than in the other Nordic countries. He has observed through his work that immigrants start to have an interest in politics after three years in the country. “Then people have gotten settled and become interested in the society,” he states.

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