12 March 2021

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Let Italian Students Vote!

The Good Lobby has assisted Io Voto Fuori Sede (I vote off-site) to fight for the right of students to vote from the place where they are studying instead of having to embark on costly and long trips back to their hometowns.

by The Good Lobby

It is common for students in most EU countries to move out of their family home during their studies and rent a room in the city where they are attending university. In Italy, many students from the south decide to move to the northern regions where most top universities are located.

However, this rite of passage for many young people often compromises their basic political rights, as in Italy you are required to vote from your place of residence. As a result, millions of votes are lost for every round of voting, thus undermining the representation in the political arena of the challenging socio-economic issues that often characterise the southern regions of Italy. 

 

The Case

 

To exercise their right to vote, for 350 000 students, but also workers, this means long and costly trips to their hometown, which is made even more complicated by the lack of effective rail infrastructure and expensive flights characterising Southern destinations. Understandably, many of them eventually refuse to invest entire days and even hundreds of euros into such a trip.

The campaign Io Voto Fuori Sede seeks to change this reality, claiming it is a direct breach of Article 3 of the Italian Constitution. The article does in fact require the government to remove all socio-economic barriers for the effective political participation of citizens, which, under the current legislation, already allows other categories of citizens such as inmates and hospital patients to vote, but still excludes students and workers.

The Good Lobby has been assisting the Io Voto Fuori Sede campaign since February 2020 to ensure that students and workers can vote even if far from their place of residence, and thereby be represented in Italian politics. To achieve this goal, The Good Lobby used a dual advocacy strategy of  (1) political pressure through a petition to move the issue into the agenda of the Parliament  and (2) strategic litigation strategy  through the Italian courts. 

 

The Outcome

 

The petition has collected over 20 000 signatures and is still ongoing to ensure continuous pressure on the Italian parliament to revise its election laws to include off-site voting for students and workers. The petition is run in tandem with closed-door meetings with parliamentarians to convince them to fight for the political rights of citizens in mobility. In parallel, a strategic litigation suit has been launched in Palermo, Sicily by a group of students who were unable to return home to vote or were seeking compensation for their travel expenses, and a first court hearing was held on January 28th, 2021.

While the campaign has not resulted in a definite revision of the Italian election legislation as of yet, the political pressure is high and legal pressure will continue. In the meantime, The Good Lobby, alongside the German Guerrilla Foundation, will continue supporting Io Voto Fuori Sede to ensure that it can keep fighting for the political rights of students and workers across Italy. The Io Voto Fuori Sede Petition is still ongoing, and everyone, non-Italian citizens as well, are encouraged to sign it. 

If you are a civil society organisation fighting for political rights of marginalised groups across Europe, and looking for legal, strategic, advocacy or communications assistance, reach out to us via email or fill in this form on our website with your specific request!