What appears to be an honest mistake from the Independence Party’s campaign manager underlines the importance of knowing your voting rights as an immigrant in Iceland.
Fréttablaðið reports that a British woman living in Reykjavík received a phone call from the Independence Party last weekend, where she was asked if her son was home and whether he was an Icelandic citizen. When the woman asked what the meaning of this question was, the caller said that city elections were coming up and that her son could not vote unless he was a citizen.
This, for the record, is completely wrong.
As outlined on the government’s own website, non-citizen immigrants can vote in municipal elections. Those hailing from Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Finland can vote in city elections after three years’ continuous residence at the time of elections; everyone else can vote after five years. Furthermore, registration is automatic. You need only show up at the voting place for your neighbourhood with a valid photo ID, give the volunteers working there your kennitala, and you’re good to go.
When Fréttablaðið reached Sandra Hlíf Ocares, the campaign manager for the Independence Party, she was herself under the impression that only citizens could vote. After familiarising herself better with the law, she then told reporters that the question asked by the aforementioned volunteer was a beginner’s mistake.
Sabine Leskopf, who is running for the Social Democrats in Reykjavík city elections, told reporters that unfortunately, many immigrants are not aware of their rights in this area.
“I made a lot of calls to immigrants for the 2014 elections,” she said. “The majority of those that I spoke with just a few days before the elections had no idea that they could vote.”
Municipal elections will be held on May 26.