Monday, May 19, 2008

Forget Iowa. How about that Egypt Vote?

Though overlooked by almost all of the major presidential candidates, American expatriates are mobilizing to have their voices heard in November
By Andy Lei

It is a beautiful spring afternoon and the crowds, many wearing shorts and T-shirts, are out enjoying the sun. A young man wearing an Obama 2008 baseball cap stands near a young lady holding a stack of leaflets. A cameraman is getting ready to film them both extolling the virtues of their candidate. It would seem like a typical campaign rally in a United States presidential year, except for a few small details: The man’s T-shirt sports the slogan “Egypt is Barack Obama country,” while the Sphinx watches impassively in the background.

This seemingly out-of-place outing was organized by members of the local chapter of Democrats Abroad (DA), who were making a 30-second video on the Giza Plateau that they hope will achieve YouTube fame and attention for their candidate.

Traveling or even living abroad doesn’t mean people leave their political passions at the border. According to the US Election Assistance Commission, 330,000 overseas ballots were cast in the 2006 congressional elections.

Alison Dilworth, chief of American Citizen Services (ACS) at the US Embassy in Egypt, says that about 32,800 Americans are living or working in Egypt. However, the embassy does not categorize American nationals based on ethnic background, so it is unknown exactly how many of these are Egyptian-Americans. Of this number, about 40 percent, or 13,120, regularly register to vote from election to election.

Given how close the last two US presidential elections have been and how close the Democratic primary race has shaped up to be, some expatriate partisans are extra-motivated to mobilize the overseas vote.

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