Overseas constituencies of the Parliament of Italy
The Italian Parliament is one of the few legislatures in the world to reserve seats for those citizens residing abroad. There are twelve such seats in the Chamber of Deputies and six in the Senate.
The Overseas Constituency (Circoscrizione Estero, or "Foreign district") consists of four electoral zones, each of which elect at least one Deputy and one Senator:
- Europe (including Russia and Turkey)
- South America
- North and Central America
- Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica
The remaining seats are distributed between the same overseas electoral zones in proportion to the number of Italian citizens resident in each.
Italian citizens living outside of Italy have always had the right to vote in all referendums and elections being held in Italy (provided they had registered their residence abroad with their relevant consulate). However, until late 2001, any citizen wishing to vote was required physically to return to the city or town in Italy where he or she was registered on the electoral roll. The only exception to this rule was for the Italian elections to the European Parliament, in which voters could cast their ballot at their nearest consulate, but only if they had their residence in one of the other EU countries.
Until 2001 the Italian state offered citizens living abroad a free return train journey to their home town in Italy in order to vote. However, the only portion of the train journey that was free of charge was on Italian soil. Any costs incurred in getting from their place of residence abroad to the Italian border had to be covered by the citizen wanting to vote. Therefore, a free return train journey was hardly an incentive for the large Italian communities living as far away as in the United States, Argentina or Australia. For this reason very few Italians abroad made use of this right to vote, unless they lived in cities and towns that bordered Italy, such as in Germany, Switzerland, France and Austria. Various Italian minorities living abroad (notably in the United States) protested frequently at this lack of political representation, especially if they paid taxes on property owned in Italy.
After numerous years of petitioning and fierce debate, the Italian government, in late 2001, finally passed a law allowing Italian citizens living abroad to vote in elections in Italy by postal ballot. Italians wishing to exercise this right must first register their residence abroad with their relevant consulate. The first vote by Italians living abroad by postal ballot was for 2 referendums in 2003 and for both chambers of the Italian parliament in 2006.
- "Presentazione delle candidature per la circoscrizione estero" [Submission of nominations for the constituency abroad]. Ministry of the Interior of Italy. (Italian)
- The diaspora fights back Inside Story, 4 December 2008