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Primaries, 2.0

Feb
12
2008

Though I was knee deep in fried treats last Tuesday and about 6,000 miles from California, I still voted in the Democratic primary.
Probably before you did, thanks to the time difference. As I wrote last week for Wired, Expat Dems cast a preference online, for the first time ever, instead of just sending absentee ballots that never get counted.
Democrats Abroad reckons that by now 20,000 party members abroad have voted (today’s the last day for overseas e-votes); the expat bloc brings what may be a tie-breaking 22 delegates to the August convention.
The party woke up to the fact that the democratic diaspora exists and, though these scattered citizens have often opted to live without dryers, Walmart and beef jerky, they do want to vote. (Republicans Abroad opted out of the RNC and can’t gather primary votes).
I voted for the first time in all my years abroad in the 2004 presidential elections.
Friends warned me it was like a heavy gym session on the day of a party: it won’t make any difference, but you feel better about yourself for having made the effort.
Each state has different rules, time tables, procedures for requesting an absentee ballot, all of which must be deciphered months in advance.
Sometimes, the ballot and instructions arrive on time, more often they are waylaid by U.S. officials clueless about postage outside borders and proverbially lousy postal systems abroad.
Back then, I exercised my right at a faux Cajun restaurant in the fashionable Brera district. Polling stations on foreign soil often have a convivial air (Barcelona’s Mardi Gras/Super Tuesday mash-up or New Delhi’s restaurant get-together) but are unable to guarantee that votes will actually be counted. (Though if you’re not interested in privacy or accuracy, one does have the option of faxing the vote in).
I clinked the ice around in a Negroni sbagliato, voted on a piece of paper, handed it to some guy who put it in an envelope and promised that the mail would go through the consulate system and thus, my voice would be heard.
The next morning listening to the outcome on the radio, I could be heard sniffing “whatever!” into my cappuccino.
Online voting definitely gets my vote, though the security is no where near perfect. It’s still better than no vote at all.
There were some kinks in the registration process — after which I still couldn’t tell whether I had signed up for online voting or not — and then a cryptic email that said I could vote anytime from GMT + 13 onwards from February 5th. (Basically, when the day turned in the farthest outpost, Jakarta, voting commenced).
Lori Steele, from the optimistically-named Everyone Counts which runs the e-primaries, told me that some states are already considering going digital for November.
It’s the kind of empowerment that just might convince some of us it is time to come back home.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 12:37 PM | Permalink

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