How Americans living across those shining seas make their voices heard back in the U.S. of A.
On March 3rd—aka Super Tuesday—Democrats will head to the polls in Maine, California, and 12 more states in between to cast their vote for the candidate they want to see move on to the general election in November. They’ll also be heading to polling sites in Argentina, Vietnam, Finland, and a number of other countries all around the globe.
But they won’t be voting as “absentee” and their votes won’t be counted toward their home state’s primaries. For American ex-patriots who decide not to vote via absentee ballot, there’s the Democrats Abroad primary. The primary functions the same as any state primary, with their own allotted set of delegates and superdelegates. In order to vote in it, you must be a U.S. citizen residing abroad, be 18 as of November 3, 2020, not have voted in any other state primary, and join the Democrats Abroad organization. You can then vote by mailing, emailing, or faxing your ballot. Or, if you want the satisfaction of voting in person, you can visit one of Democrats Abroad’s voting center locations (spread across 45 countries) between March 3rd and March 10th.
According to The Association of Americans Resident Overseas, there are 8.7 million (non-military) residents living outside the U.S. If American ex-pats were a state, they’d edge out Virginia as the twelfth most populous state with a larger population than the nine least populous states (Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire) combined (according to the 2010 census).
With a total of 17 delegates to award…overseas voters could be the deciding factor between a single candidate ending up with the majority of the delegates and chaos at the Democratic National Convention come July.
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In 2016, Bernie Sanders won 69% of the vote, with 9 pledged delegates and one super delegate. But for such a large population, the turnout was just 34,570 people. By contrast, in Virginia (which has a comparable overall population) the turnout in the 2016 democratic primary was 782,895 voters (Hillary Clinton won with 64% of the popular vote and 62 delegates). This makes a vote in the Democrats Abroad primary more influential than casting an absentee ballot in many other states, lowering the threshold by which candidates have to secure delegates. One possible reason that the turnout isn’t higher? A lot of people, including U.S. citizens overseas, aren’t aware that this primary exists. (For overseas Republican, there’s no such separate primary.)
While it’s unlikely that the Democrats Abroad primary will get the sort of attention from candidates as an Iowa caucus or a New Hampshire primary any time soon, it hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Mike Bloomberg’s campaign held an event in Tel Aviv (the city with the second-most voting-age overseas U.S. citizens after London, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program) today and Bernie Sanders’ Oxford-based brother Larry Sanders has been drumming up support in the U.K. (the country with the second-most voting-age overseas U.S. citizens after Canada). And with the possibility of a brokered convention looming on the horizon, candidates need to lock down every possible delegate. With a total of 17 delegates to award (that’s only one fewer than North Dakota and Alaska) overseas voters could be the deciding factor between a single candidate ending up with the majority of the delegates and chaos at the Democratic National Convention come July.