Undocumented Georgians Face Trouble Voting Back Home
Some Georgian activists set up a table in Brighton Beach to register people to vote in time for the Oct. 1 parliamentary elections back home. But the task was not simple, as the Georgian government wants its citizens to show a U.S. green card or a utility bill in order to vote back home, reports the Russkaya Reklama. The article was translated from Russian.
Who are the people seen every day on the corner of Brighton Beach and Coney Island Avenues wearing blue t-shirts featuring a seven-pointed star inside a sun and the words “Georgian Dream”? What are they doing under a Georgian flag waving above their heads?
Some of them are seated at a table and busy writing when a passerby stops to talk. “What’s going on?” She curiously asks.
A tall bearded skinny man wearing the blue shirt explains: “Our goal is to register American residents of Georgian descent to vote in the parliamentary elections in Georgia. The country has adopted a new governing system in which the president is no longer the top leader but the prime minister is.”
A young woman who has just been registered added
I had been wondering when the registration of voters became mandatory. A political activist named Ana Asanidze answered that the new voting rules became effective this year and compared to the past, the current elections are very complicated. Undocumented immigrants can no longer vote.
“Wait a minute! We are talking about people who are undocumented in America but are still citizens of Georgia, aren’t we?” I tried to understand why Georgians can’t vote in their own elections. As Ana explained, it was possible in the elections of 2008 when all citizens of Georgia could vote regardless of their current residency. But a new law went into effect on July 11 of this year. According to the law, to register at the Consulate, Georgians have to present a green card or a utility bill (gas or electric). Unfortunately, most undocumented immigrants have neither.
“Does this mean that all Georgian citizens who are in America, Israel or Europe without papers are not considered Georgians?” I simply couldn’t believe it. “Unfortunately, they don’t have the right to vote,” said Ana.
It seems so strange to me. Russians who live in the U.S. illegally can vote in Russian elections as long as they have their Russian passport. Ana thinks that no other country has a law similar to the one in Georgia. Why was it accepted by the Georgian government? Simply put — precaution. Those who left were forced to leave because they couldn’t find work in Georgia and therefore are not happy with the current government. They lean towards the opposition, she said. By Ana’s estimates, up to 80% of Georgians living abroad won’t be able to vote.
The group of political activists, wearing the logo of the new opposition party, the Georgian Dream Coalition, were helping register Georgians to vote before the Sept. 13 deadline, hoping that they will be able to vote for the Oct. 1 elections. They managed to register about 6,000 people.
Ana thinks that there are about 200,000 Georgians in America including those undocumented. In New York, there may be as many as 50,000. But it’s only a rough guess…