Democrats have many ways to vote in primaries overseas
January 15, 2008
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Registered Democrats living abroad on U.S. military bases and in European towns will have multiple ways to vote for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or the candidate of their choice as a far distant part of Super Tuesday.
Voting in the overseas Democratic primary — from Feb. 5-21 — will be possible either online, by mail or fax and at local polling locations. It is the first time that Internet-based voting is expected to be used on such a large scale for a primary election, according to the Oxford Internet Institute.
It is the “first global primary ever!” according to Democrats Abroad.
The party also has agreed to allow expatriates to choose 22 delegates to send to the national convention.
“Democrats Abroad is like a small state, like Rhode Island,” said Charles Keen, head of the Heidelberg chapter.
Prospective Democratic overseas voters must be members of Democrats Abroad, a mostly volunteer organization that is a part of the Democratic National Committee, which is responsible for the convention that chooses a candidate.
To vote in the overseas primary, Democrats should register with Democrats Abroad at www.democratsabroad.org or at www.votefromabroad.org by the end of this month.
The overseas Democratic primary begins Feb. 5, which is Super Tuesday, when 21 states will hold primaries in the U.S., and will be taking place in 34 countries, according to Democrats Abroad.
“This global primary gives individuals a chance to take part,” Keen said.
Republican voters, however, will not have the same opportunity for an overseas primary — Republicans Abroad is not part of the Republican National Committee. But Republicans can vote by absentee ballot in the primaries in the state where they were last a resident.
Democrats who vote in the overseas primary will not be able to vote in their home state’s presidential primary.
U.S. military voting assistance officers are not involved in the overseas primary.
“The Voting Assistance Program provides application materials for the soldier, civilian or family member to send back to their county election commission, which in turn would send the appropriate absentee ballots,” said Lt. Col. Richard Spiegel.
In Heidelberg, the voting will be held Feb. 9 at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies at Hauptstrasse 120. The polls, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will be in the lobby.
For times and places of polls in other military communities, go to www.democratsabroad.org.
The online voting will be handled by Everyone Counts, a San Diego-based company that specializes in online voting, according to the International Herald Tribune. Everyone Counts handled the voting by Internet for local elections in British cities in 2003 and 2007 as well as the online voting for the Australian election in November, handling voting by soldiers stationed in Iraq and other spots overseas, the newspaper said.
In the past, overseas voting has sometimes been a complicated affair. The e-voting, according to Democrats Abroad, will make voting easier and increase participation in both the primary and in the general election in 2008, especially among overseas Americans living in remote rural areas.
The Democrats’ convention begins Aug. 25 in Denver; the Republicans’ convention begins Sept. 1 in Minneapolis and St. Paul.