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Special Issue on "The Quality of Elections in Italy"

Esclusi per legge. “Non-eligible voters” come categoria negletta delle democrazie contemporanee

Dario Tuorto
University of Bologna

Published 2023-05-12


  • Non-Citizen Residents,
  • Eligible Voters,
  • Turnout,
  • Electoral Exclusion

How to Cite

Tuorto, D. (2023). Esclusi per legge. “Non-eligible voters” come categoria negletta delle democrazie contemporanee . Italian Journal of Electoral Studies (IJES). https://doi.org/10.36253/qoe-14082


The inclusive nature of the electoral moment (for all adults) is one of the fundamental criteria of the modern democratic process based on universal suffrage (Dahl 2000, 37-8). However, there is always a more or less significant difference between the number of individuals theoretically entitled to vote based on age (VAP, voting-age population) and the number of those who can effectively do so (VEP, voting-eligible population), meaning those who are legally authorized to participate in elections. Although it is lower compared to the United States case (McDonald 2001), where certain social groups are dissuaded from voting due to mandatory registration procedures (Avery and Peffley 2005; Delwin 2013), the gap between different measurements of turnout is also observed in Europe (Geys 2006; Tuorto 2022). This article aims to compare the countries of the EU-27 (+ United Kingdom) regarding the criteria that regulate inclusion/exclusion and the low participation of social groups most susceptible to temporary or permanent limitations in their participation in voting, in relation to specific conditions and/or public behavior. In particular, the article examines the situation of four categories of voters: individuals with psycho-physical disabilities, convicted offenders, non-resident citizens (natives abroad), and non-citizen residents (immigrants). The heterogeneity of situations found within the European common area highlights significant differences on a legislative and cultural level, attributable to dominant social representations and the normative translation of these representations. The systematic alienation or exclusion of certain social groups from elections raises a legitimacy problem for the quintessential moment of exercising democracy, in the presence of legal, administrative, and symbolic barriers that make electoral results imperfect and at least partially distorted.


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