Other Caucus - Democrats Abroad
St. Paul's Within the Walls in Rome, the American Church in
Paris, and the Foreign Correspondents' Clubs in Hong Kong
and Tokyo, to the ABC Treehouse in Amsterdam, the Nueva Posada
in Ajijic, Mexico, the Vinotheque in Bangkok, and the more
mundane Holiday Inn of London Bloomsbury, overseas Democrats
are expected to turn out in record numbers for the worldwide
Democratic caucus this weekend (Friday, Feb. 6 - Monday, Feb.
9). Under the aegis of Democrats
Abroad, Democrats in more than 40 countries will gather
to elect delegates and consider platform resolutions for the
Democratic National Convention.
Democrats Abroad, which represents the Democratic Party
for the estimated six million US citizens living outside the
United States, will send 22 delegates to the convention. That
puts its delegation on a par with those from states like Delaware
(23) and South Dakota (21). Not stellar. But more important
than the number of delegates is the fact that Democrats Abroad
has traditionally been the lone voice at the convention speaking
out on a host of vital - but arcane - topics rarely of interest
to those not living more or less permanently abroad: international
taxation, divorce and child custody; dual citizenship; overseas
voting rights, etc.
Unfortunately, these causes rarely even mobilize overseas
voters themselves. And many overseas voters are discouraged
from exercising their right to vote by the relative complexity
of the ballot application process, or feel their votes are
But Bush has changed the chemistry. And in the mix are sour
memories of how overseas votes were handled in Florida 2000.
"We lost by only 547 votes in Florida. The Florida election
showed that every vote from Americans overseas must count,"
says Gary Suwannarat, Democrats Abroad Chair in Thailand.
Americans overseas apparently share Suwannarat's sentiments.
In the past year, more than a half dozen new country chapters
of Democrats Abroad have been formed. And chapters as far
flung as those in Belgium and Thailand have reported their
membership soaring by the hundreds. Meanwhile, a grassroots
uprising of overseas Americans is generating voter education
and registration drives around the world. Groups like the
Against the War that took to the streets in the run-up
to the Iraq invasion are now organizing town meetings to mobilize
and register voters. American
Voices Abroad, a non-partisan coalition with affiliates
in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the
UK, and Lebanon, has launched an ambitious overseas voter
pledge drive to end the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war and
repeal the PATRIOT Act.
Foreign policy is at the forefront of America's concerns
this year, and overseas voters are saying they know - up close
and personal - what it means to be American in Bush's world.
Or as Suwannarat diplomatically puts it, "Living outside the
country, they feel they bring a realistic perspective on how
America and its actions are viewed abroad."
Chaired by John G. Morris, the Democrats Abroad France (DAF)
platform committee decided to cut directly to the chase and
omitted all mention of "such perennial overseas issues as
double taxation and the census" in its recently released,
900-word draft platform. In straight-from-the-shoulder language,
the DAF committee addressed only eight "urgent" issues - Iraq,
terrorism, peace, the Mideast, the death penalty, women's
rights, twin deficits, and voting rights. A few excerpts:
"The United States was founded upon the principle
that all of us are created equal. As Americans abroad, we
see the people of other nations seeking their political freedom
and trying, often desperately, to provide for their basic
needs. America has grown wealthy and powerful. We should use
our wealth and power to promote international cooperation,
human rights and sustainable development. We cannot impose
our will on everyone, nor should we. There are many paths
to peace and prosperity. We should not be the bully of the
block, but rather work with others to build societies, at
home and abroad, which have internal equity and justice and
renewed respect for international law."
Iraq: "It is now clear that the Administration long
intended such a war and sold it to Congress with false intelligence."
Terrorism: "The Administration's so-called 'war'
on terrorism has been grossly misused both internationally,
as an unjustifiable reason for the invasion of Iraq, and domestically,
to create a climate of fear and insecurity, eroding our civil
rights and liberties... Guantanamo is a national disgrace."
Peace: "We reject the use of preemptive force against
sovereign states without international sanction."
Death Penalty: "Democrats Abroad recognizes that
the continued use of the death penalty is no longer considered
civilized in much of the world, and thus contributes to anti-American
Voting Rights: "Democrats Abroad favors a constitutional
amendment that will establish the right of all American citizens,
wherever they live, to cast a vote for representation at every
level of the Federal government, and to have this vote certifiably
counted. This will guarantee the right of the people of each
state to vote in a binding election for electors for president
and vice-president and will thus prevent state legislatures
from disregarding the will of the people. It will also enfranchise
more than eight million American citizens who are completely
or partially disenfranchised today."
What happens at the caucus?
Democrats Abroad caucuses in all countries will follow the
same basic agenda. There will be a straw poll for presidential
preference; presidential preference groups will be formed;
delegates will be elected; and platform resolutions will be
considered. All caucus rules and procedures are explained
beforehand. You must arrive on time; if you are not present
when the rules are read, you cannot participate.
Where are caucuses being held?
If you can't find out where your country
caucus is meeting via the Democrats Abroad website, contact
your country chairperson or Democrats Abroad.
Who can caucus?
Any US citizen living abroad who will be 18 years old on November
2, 2004, and who supports the principles of the Democratic
Party can participate. You must bring your US passport or
other proof of American citizenship to the caucus with you.
You cannot participate if you have already voted for a presidential
candidate in your state primary or plan to. Participating
in the caucus counts as your presidential primary vote.
Not registered to vote overseas?
If you have not already filled out a Federal Post Card Application
this year to register to vote and/or request an absentee ballot,
you can do so immediately prior to the caucus. Remember, even
if you are "permanently" registered to vote, the Federal
Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) says you must file a
request for absentee ballots or you cannot use a substitute
ballot-the "Federal Write-In Ballot"-should your official
absentee ballot fail to reach you in time for the election.
The FVAP urges overseas voters to file a Federal Post Card
Application every year. An on-line version of the application
that you can download, fill out on your computer, and mail
to your election bureau yourself, is available on the FVAP