US Democrats in India also go to polls on Tuesday

February 4th, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) When people in 19 states in the US vote in the Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday, they will be joined for the first time by their comrades living abroad - including party members in India.

A popular seafood restaurant in south Delhi’s Lodhi Colony will be the polling station for Democrats to vote in person for their choice of the party’s presidential nominee. The keen contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is being watched the world over.

Over the weekend, Carolyn Sauvage-Mar, executive president of Democrats Abroad India, has held two workshops to familiarise 15 volunteers with the intricate rules and regulations of the exercise based on an 80-page document called delegate selection plan.

To an outsider, the US election process looks complicated. In a layperson’s terms, a party primary election conducted in the states is the first process in selecting the party’s nominee to fight for the post of president of the United States.

Usually, American citizens abroad can vote by sending in an absentee ballot, but only a small portion of expatriates take the trouble to obtain the ballot paper from their district or county and then send it well in advance of the election.

Therefore, for the first time, Democrats Abroad, as a recognised ’state’ by the Democratic National Committee, will go to the polls as part of a Global Presidential Primary starting from Feb 5 in nearly 100 countries.

There have been some concessions made for American citizens spread all over the world. They may vote via the Internet, fax, mail or in person at the voting centre. The only condition for being a voter is that they be a registered Democrat and a US citizen.

Further, they will have the chance to vote during four days - Feb 5, 6, 9 and 12 - with the polls in New Delhi to remain open for four hours from 4 p.m. “The idea is that we want people from all over India to have a chance to fly in and cast their vote… We also wanted our members to be able to come in after work,” said Sauvage-Mar.

She sees the whole idea of smoothening the process of voting for Americans abroad as allowing all sections of a democratic country to exercise their right to choose. “I believe that the issue about expatriate votes is in the same line as the struggle that women and blacks had to wage to get their voting rights.

Working as a consultant with Unicef, Sauvage-Mar feels that as Americans living abroad they have a greater understanding of the impact of US foreign policy and its reverberations on their country’s reputation - for example, the situation in Iraq.

She pointed out that a quick straw poll among Democrat members in Delhi found that Clinton had an edge over Obama, mirroring the domestic sentiments in US at that period. “But, we found that the number one issue for deciding the candidate was overwhelmingly Iraq or foreign policy. I don’t think that is one of the top priorities for voters living in America,” said Sauvage-Mar. (IANS)

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