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Fear, Exclusion Prevent Haitian-Americans from Voting

Cyril Josh Barker | 9/9/2010, 8:59 a.m.

As Wyclef Jean continues to criticize the Haitian government for not allowing him to run for president, questions are being raised about the Haitian government's attitude toward Haitians not living in the country.

Unlike in the United States, Haitians who aren't living in their country at the time of an election are not able to vote. There's no system set up to submit a votes from another country. This is due to the stigma that spending time away from the country leads the Haitian government to give the label of those not in the country as uninvited.

"Haiti has gone through a lot of changes since the overthrow of the old government," said Haitian-American and political candidate Rodneyse Bichotte. "The constitution was revamped, and it takes time for a country such as Haiti, which has been under in dictatorship so many years, to grab the meaning of democracy."

Involving herself in American politics, Bichotte is running for state committee leader of the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, which has the largest number of Haitian immigrants in the state. None of those living in the district can vote in Haiti's presidential election.

"If you look or sound American with Haitian roots, then you are not invited," she said. "Sometimes, people get backlash for being away so long. I'm not sure why they make it so difficult."

But along with the stigma that Haiti has against those not living in the country, many also fear being involved in Haitian politics at all because of the history of corruption.

Bichotte said, "Some people are afraid and they feel that anything having to do with Haitian politics is bad karma. Having that sense of independence seems unreachable, but everyone wants the best for the country."

Haiti was supposed to hold an election this February, but it was postponed due the January earthquake. Elections in Haiti will be held in November with 38 candidates running for president of the country.