June 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

Biden Administration Allows Iran to Run Absentee Voter Stations on U.S. Soil

June 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

Biden Administration Allows Iran to Run Absentee Voter Stations on U.S. Soil

Latest Developments

The Biden administration is permitting Iran to set up absentee voter sites for its upcoming presidential election on U.S. soil, Voice of America (VOA) reported on June 22. Iranian citizens will reportedly be able to cast ballots at one of 30 voting stations across the United States, including at the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC, in the June 28 election to replace the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May.

Despite allowing absentee voting, the U.S. State Department told VOA that “it has no expectation” that the June 28 Iranian elections “will be free or fair.” By contrast, Canada — which, like the United States, does not maintain diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic — will not allow absentee voting. The Trump and Biden administrations similarly permitted absentee voting for the 2017 and 2021 elections, respectively.

Expert Analysis

“It is an own goal of moral and strategic proportions for Washington to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to set up polling stations across America. For almost a decade, Iranians have been taking to the streets not for reform but for wholesale revolution against the structure of power in Tehran. This phenomenon is coterminous with historic lows in presidential and parliamentary election turnout. Rather than helping imbue the regime and its sham elections with legitimacy, Washington should be using this opportunity to stand with the Iranian people and showcase the brittleness of their authoritarian overlords.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Under both the Trump and Biden administrations, the Islamic Republic has been permitted to operate ballot boxes for its presidential elections on U.S. soil. Washington should follow Ottawa’s example and refuse to allow this mockery of elections to be conducted in the United States.” — Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

“Calling out the Islamic Republic’s rigged elections while also permitting it to take place on U.S. soil is not only contradictory but also sends the wrong message to the Iranian people who have boycotted the regime’s sham elections. Instead, the United States should join Canada and Iran’s civil society in curbing the regime’s effort to falsely portray itself as legitimate and popular amongst its people.” — Janatan Sayeh, FDD Research Analyst

Iranian Elections

Elections in Iran, though neither free nor fair, have been common features of the Islamic Republic since 1979. Regime officials take advantage of electoral participation, however limited, to feign legitimacy abroad, discourage street protests, and bolster deterrence against foreign pressure. The 2020 parliamentary election and 2021 presidential election notched the lowest-ever official turnout rates in the history of the Islamic Republic.

A poll of more than 77,000 Iranian voters conducted by a Dutch research group suggested that at least 65 percent of Iranians will boycott the election —  68 percent of whom said that their position was rooted in opposition to “the entire Islamic Republic system.”

Six Candidates Vie for Presidency

Iran’s Guardian Council — a 12-person clerical body overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — vets all presidential candidates. Out of the 80 individuals who registered to run in the June 28 elections, the Guardian Council approved just six names: five hardliners and one so-called reformist lawmaker, Masoud Pezeshkian. The hardline candidates include former Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf and the mayor of Tehran, Alireza Zakani. Rounding out the list of candidates are Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and former Justice and Interior Minister Mostafa Pourhmohammadi. Ghalibaf, Jalili, and Zakani are subject to Western sanctions. Polling data from the regime-affiliated Iranian Students Polling Agency, meanwhile, revealed that some 75 percent of Iranian viewers did not even watch the televised presidential debates between the six candidates.

Why Does Iran Hold So Many Elections?” by Saeed Ghasseminejad

Iran’s Presidential ‘Election’ Seeks to Consolidate Regime’s Control,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Janatan Sayeh

Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad Vying to Succeed Raisi,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

Iran Iran Politics and Economy