The role of local voting rights for foreign citizens – a catalyst for integration?
We study the short- and long-term impact of local enfranchisement of foreign citizens born outside the EU on political integration outcomes. Local voting rights for foreigners were introduced in the Swedish electoral system in 1976. This right to vote is conditional on having spent at least three years in Sweden prior to the election. Until 1998 Swedish elections at all levels were held every three years; since then they have been held every four years. The wait time before the first opportunity to vote thus differs substantially for immigrants immigrating just before this cutoff date versus just after. Our analysis shows that immigrants whose timing of arrival makes them eligible to vote after slightly more than three years in the country are not more likely to naturalize or vote in later elections compared to immigrants whose timing of arrival means they must wait six or seven years to vote. The results suggest that earlier opportunities for political participation do not improve subsequent political integration of immigrants as measured by naturalization and voting.