Check out the upcoming events this Fall!
The opening years of the Trump administration have so far been a tumultuous and baffling experience for much of the world while 2018 witnessed mid-term Congressional elections and a historic level of voter turn-out. For concerned US expatriates, politics may seem too distant and irrelevant for overseas US voters to make much of a difference. Fortunately, if you are a citizen, you are eligible to vote from anywhere in the world and there are plenty of local volunteer opportunities for expats to make their voices heard.
The Tokai Chapter of Democrats Abroad Japan wishes to improve US expat participation, with a special focus on getting out the vote for the 2019 Democratic primaries and the 2020 presidential election. Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party arm for US expatriates and seeks to politically-mobilize overseas citizens; the Tokai chapter was re-formed in late 2016 to complement similar chapters in Kanto and Kansai.
Getting out the vote (GOTV) is DAJ Tokai’s primary interest. US citizens over 18 are eligible to vote but need to request their ballots. Since each state has different rules, voters should contact the local stateside voting officials. If you’re already a registered voter, you need to request an absentee ballot before your state’s deadline. If you’re a US citizen who has never voted before, you need to register in the last stateside district you resided in. Furthermore, US citizens who never lived in the US could still be eligible in their parents’ last state of residence. The website (www.votefromabroad.org) can help you navigate the process. For most districts, ballots can be requested and sent via fax, email, or postal mail.
Tokai Chapter Treasurer Eric Gondree recounts, “Not long ago, I bumped into a traveler from New Zealand. We started chatting and he mentioned that he was born in Maryland. He had moved to New Zealand as a child. He was surprised when I told him that he was entitled to register as a voter.” Eric continues. “There are eligible voters out there who don’t even know they can do it. There are American kids living overseas who are turning 18 every year, too. They need to register to vote and request their ballot.”
A critical event in the 2020 Election cycle is the Democrats Abroad primary, which runs from March 3-10. This will select delegates for the July Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee to help nominate the next Democratic presidential candidate. People who wish to participate in the overseas primary can request a ballot and cast their vote. All eligible Americans living outside the United States may participate in the primary if they are Democrats Abroad members.
Although some expatriates may feel that their votes won’t make a difference in the larger political process, some recent races have been decided by absentee ballots. March 2018’s special Congressional election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District was determined by 627 absentee votes, for instance. Absentee ballots could make a crucial difference in 2020 swing states like Michigan and Ohio. Furthermore, polling in red states like Texas and Utah have shown that 2020 could become more competitive than ever due to changing demographics and the excitement of the Democratic voter-base. Expatriate voters could therefore play a more important role in close electoral outcomes up and down the ballot.
Despite this, expat participation rates are low; the biannual Overseas Citizen Population Analysis estimated that only about 7% of eligible civilians took part in the 2016 elections. Greater overseas voter mobilization is therefore desirable.
“Whether or not people vote definitely matters.” Eric continued.
The DAJ Tokai Chapter hosts fun monthly gatherings to meet, talk, and hang out to anyone who is interested. They are open to anyone, US citizens and non-US citizens, who is interested in discussing life and politics. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities for people who wish to take part. Check out the Tokai chapter’s Facebook page for further information and future events.
DAJ Tokai Events for Fall 2019 include:
Democrats Abroad Japan
To register to vote or request your absentee ballot: www.votefromabroad.org