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Democrats Abroad is the official organization of the Democratic Party for United States citizens living permanently or temporarily abroad. The organization is given state-level recognition by the Democratic National Committee.
Democrats Abroad currently has members in more than 200 countries, with more than 60 organized country committees. There are chapters in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. These committees are formally represented by the Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA). Some countries with particularly large concentrations of Democratic expatriates even have local chapters. Young Democrats Abroad represents Democrats Abroad in the functions of the Young Democrats of America.
Democrats Abroad was started with two small committees in London and Paris after Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in the 1964 U.S. presidential election. Its original leaders, Toby Hyde and Al Davidson, raised funds and formed committees, and pushed for state-level recognition of Democrats Abroad. DNC Chairman John Bailey allowed Democrats Abroad to send nine non-voting representatives to the Democratic National Convention in 1972; in 1976, the group was granted the status of a state committee, with voting delegates in the Convention.
Over the years, Democrats Abroad has worked for securing the full citizenship rights for Americans living abroad. In particular, the group worked for overseas voting rights issues, supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1975, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act in 1986, and the Federal Emergency Write-In Ballot. Democrats Abroad switched the method of determining convention delegates from a primary to an open caucus in 1992. Former President Jimmy Carter is the current and first ever honorary chair of Democrats Abroad.
Democrats Abroad sends a delegation to the Democratic National Convention every four years and has done so since 1976.
In 2008, Democrats Abroad launched the first-ever global primary.
For the 2008 Democratic Primaries, Democrats Abroad enabled millions of U.S. citizens living overseas to have the chance to vote in the first-ever online global primary to choose the Democratic nominee for President.
The Democratic global primary allowed for voting by Internet, fax, and post. Traditional drop-in Voting Centers were also open in more than 30 countries around the globe.
The worldwide election results determined the 14 delegates who joined eight DNC members in Democrats Abroad’s delegation of 22 to the Democratic National Convention. These delegates were elected at a combination of regional and global meetings held during early 2008. These meetings also provided an opportunity for Americans abroad to shape the party's election platform.
American citizens living overseas who wanted to vote in the Democratic global primary had to have joined Democrats Abroad by January 31 and then requested a ballot at VoteFromAbroad.org. They could also join in person at voting centers.
The Democrats Abroad Global Primary took place from February 5–12, 2008. Democrats Abroad Regional Caucuses for Europe-Middle East-Africa took place in Brussels on March 15, 2008, and for the Americas and Asia-Pacific in Vancouver, Canada, on April 11, 2008.
The Democrats Abroad Global Convention took place in Vancouver, April 12–13, 2008.
The Democratic National Convention took place in Denver, Colorado, August 25–28, 2008.
(The U.S. Presidential Election took place on November 4, 2008. Deadlines for requesting overseas absentee ballots varied per state. To vote in U.S. Presidential Elections, overseas voters must request a ballot from local voting authorities in the place where they last resided in the U.S., also possible at VoteFromAbroad.org.)
On February 21, 2008, Democrats Abroad announced that Senator Barack Obama won the organization’s Global Primary. The results were certified by the International Chair in Geneva, Switzerland.
The results of the Global Primary were as follows:
Under the Democrats Abroad Delegate Selection Plan, the results of the worldwide primary were applied to the Regional Caucuses once the allocation of delegates from each Caucus was made. The results allocated 6 delegates to be elected from the Europe-Middle East-Africa Regional Caucus, 2 from the Americas Regional Caucus, and 1 from the Asia-Pacific Regional Caucus.
There were 4 delegates for Obama and 2 for Clinton from Europe-Middle East-Africa; 1 each for Obama and Clinton from the Americas; and 1 for Obama from Asia-Pacific.
These results determined the allocation of 4.5 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention. Senator Obama won 3 delegate votes, and Senator Clinton 1.5 delegate votes. A further 2.5 votes were determined at the Democrats Abroad Global Convention in April. In addition, Democrats Abroad held 4 super-delegate votes. A total of 22 delegates, each with a half vote, attended the Convention.
Twenty-two delegates, including 8 superdelegates, traveled 125,000 miles from around the world to Denver, CO to represent Democrats Abroad at the Democratic National Convention August 25–28, 2008. Democrats Abroad is the official arm of the Democratic Party for Americans living outside of the United States. The 22 delegates each have a half vote, bringing the organization's total votes to 11.
Every member of the Democrats Abroad delegation has taken part in the "Green Delegate Challenge" sponsored by House Speaker and Permanent Convention Chair Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Convention organizers, by obtaining carbon offsets for their travel.
Criticism focused on the Internet voting, suggesting the possibility of hacking and other subterfuge, though there was no evidence that such hacking occurred.
Some questioned whether having a private company run a public election, with little oversight, was appropriate. The software used for Internet voting was provided by the private company Everyone Counts. The provider of Internet voting was spun off from an Australian company in 2003. In 2006 the company received an "injection of U.S. private equity" from an undisclosed source.[dead link]
The final results for the February 5–12 Democrats Abroad Global Primary were not released until February 21, nine days after the voting had concluded. The initial reporting of results incorrectly reported the results of the election. The error was reported as a result of "a programming error in a spreadsheet column."
There has been some criticism of the way the Global Primary has been conducted. For instance, rule 13 allowed reporting of "provisional" results on the first day of voting. Based on partial results, the international news media reported large Obama victories as soon as these manual polling stations closed. These totals did not include any of the postal or Internet votes:
At 3 a.m., there are still around 30 Democrats watching CNN as results are projected on a giant screen. When the news channel reports that Obama has apparently won the international Democratic primary in Jakarta, Indonesia, they begin cheering -- more because the station has just flashed the Democrats Abroad logo on the screen than because the Illinois senator has won.
Tokyo Voting Center Results These are the results for the Voting Center in Tokyo, this tally is provisional, does not include internet, fax or mailed ballots, and is subject to ratification from the chair of Democrats Abroad. But here goes.... (drum roll please) 2/5/2008 Tokyo Voting Center % report = 83% Obama 13% Clinton 2% Edwards 1.% Kucinich 1.% Richardson
In the end the ballot boxes produced a 971 to 422 victory for Obama.
Voting was scheduled to occur from February 5–12, not just on February 5. The concern relating to releasing early results is that doing so could suppress the vote of the trailing candidate and encourages increase the vote of the leading candidate. In this instance, the results could have been misleading as they included the results of only one method of voting (there were three total: in person, by Internet or by mail). This is casually referred to as the bandwagon effect. At the same time, the Global Primary was designed to mimic a state primary. In some states a portion of the polls close at a later time, typically because that portion of the state falls in another time zone. When that happens, many of these states, including Michigan and Florida, will report the tallied results from the closed precincts, even though some precincts remain open. Some argue that this creates a fairness problem.
In at least one state, it is a crime to release vote results before the polls have closed.</ref>
In 2004, Democrats Abroad chose its delegates to the Democratic National Convention via the caucus system, similar to the Iowa caucuses. Caucuses are different from primaries. In the latter, people show up, vote, and go home. In a caucus, different areas or rooms are available for each candidate so that his or her supporters can gather and discuss their candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Caucusgoers who are unsure of their choice can move from room to room to hear about multiple candidates. Straw polls may be taken during the process. Eventually, all the caucusgoers meet in a plenary session and a representatives from each room gives a short presentation on why his or her candidate should be the Democratic nominee. Then a vote is taken. If some candidates' support is below a certain threshold, that candidate is eliminated and everyone is given the opportunity to switch support. Then a final vote is taken and the number of delegates for each candidate is determined, proportional to his or her share of the vote. The final step consists of the actual election of the delegates pledged to each candidate.
Local caucuses were held February 6–9, 2004 and country caucuses February 20–23, 2004. At these caucuses delegates to the regional and world caucuses were elected according to the process discussed above. The regional and world Democrats Abroad caucuses were held back-to-back in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 26–28. The city of Edinburgh held a reception for the delegates at which the mayor spoke and praised the delegates for their active participation in the democratic process.
At the caucuses, numerous politicians spoke, as well as Diana Kerry, the sister of the eventual nominee Sen. John Kerry.
Democrats Abroad has eight officers. All of them are elected. The current officers are:
Democrats Abroad is represented on the Democratic National Committee by eight members. The International Chair and Vice Chair are ex-officio members of the DNC. These eight DNC members are:
One of the prime functions of Democrats Abroad is to assist U.S. citizens abroad in voter registration. To this end, it has created a Website VoteFromAbroad.org which overseas Americans (Democrats and non-members alike) can use to register to vote. Since Presidents and members of Congress are elected by state, Americans abroad vote in the state in which they have most recently lived, each of which has its own registration and voting procedures. This Website also has a Spanish language version to reach out to Spanish speaking voters.
This Website asks voters which state they last lived in and then starts a wizard specific to their state that asks for the information necessary to comply with the election laws of that state. After all the information has been supplied, a PDF is created, which the voter can then print, sign, and mail to the address provided (or sometimes fax, or scan and attach to email). Currently only Arizona  and Washington  offer online voter registration, but Alaska (for example) allows one to fax the application or to scan and attach it to email.
Several weeks before the election, the Board of Elections or County Registrar (states use various names) sends the voter an absentee ballot which the voter then fills out and sends back in order to cast his or her vote.
In addition to helping Americans living overseas to register to vote, Democrats Abroad engages in many other activities, mostly on a per country or per locality basis. Among other things, Democrats Abroad:
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