Americans use ballot boxes overseas
Americans seeking a change in foreign policy and a new national image abroad flocked to churches in Rome, town halls in England and an Irish...
The Associated Press
LONDON — Americans seeking a change in foreign policy and a new national image abroad flocked to churches in Rome, town halls in England and an Irish pub in Hong Kong on Tuesday to vote in a Democrats Abroad primary.
The voting will determine who gets the 22 delegates allocated to Democrats Abroad at the Democratic National Convention in August. The group is allowing online voting — a first for voters overseas — that will continue for one week. Results will be announced later this month.
Some 6 million expatriates are eligible to vote, but only a fraction have done so in the past. Until recently, their only option was to mail absentee-ballot-request forms to their last U.S. county of residence, then wait for ballots to be delivered in time to vote.
Under party rules, the overseas delegates, selected through a combination of local, regional and worldwide caucus meetings, get half a vote each for a total of 11. That's more than U.S. territories get, but fewer than the least-populous states, Wyoming and Alaska, which get 18 delegate votes each.
Porchester Hall in central London was jammed with high-spirited voters Tuesday evening as rival groups backing Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama chanted and waved banners for their candidates.
Republicans, meanwhile, made their Super Tuesday choices known through absentee ballots.
Republicans Abroad U.K. Chairman Miki Bowman conceded the Democrats seem more energized now but predicted that would change after the candidates are chosen.
"I think our candidates are much less polarizing than the Democratic candidates," she said.
Most Democrats focused on the close contest between Clinton and Obama.
"I'm voting for Hillary. I'd like to see a woman in the White House," said Alison Kurke, who was first in line to vote at the American Episcopal Church of St. Paul's in Rome. "I think she can hit the ground running. She's got the experience, she's got the brains."
But James McGuire, a 24-year-old Web-site developer from Massachusetts who traveled to Rome from the Umbrian town of Orvieto, favored Obama.
"If we do not get Barack Obama in the presidency, then we will have two families for over 20 years in the American political system. And I think that's unacceptable," he said.
The Democrats Abroad voting started at the stroke of midnight in Indonesia, where hundreds of Democrats were registered in the predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million where Obama lived with his mother from the age of 6 until 10.
In Hong Kong, Tim Fletcher, an assistant professor from North Carolina, was among about 200 Americans who cast ballots after work in a downtown Irish bar.
"After the past eight years of total trouble in the U.S., both internationally and domestically, I think it's important [to vote]," Fletcher said, sipping his pint of beer after voting for Clinton.
Dozens of people stopped by a polling both in downtown Tokyo.
"I love that we get to cast the first votes on the Super Tuesday primary day," said Lauren Shannon, a Pennsylvania native and chairwoman of Democrats Abroad in Japan. "I see a significant difference between concerns of voters abroad and at home, and I feel we should have an individual voice."
Americans voting overseas on Super Tuesday said they were particularly influenced by the candidates' foreign-policy credentials. Democrats said they wanted a president who would steer the U.S. away from the Bush administration's foreign policies, which have alienated many allies.
"We need a dramatic change in tone and tenor, and we need someone who truly, genuinely understands other cultures and can project that to the world," said Clifford Aron, 50, a businessman from Brooklyn who lives in Warsaw, Poland.
Robert Bell of Democrats Abroad in Canada said he voted online. He expected a record turnout in Canada, in part because of the online option.
Associated Press reporters Anthony Deutsch in Jakarta, Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila and Michael Casey in Bangkok contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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