Americans race to the polls in Germany
2 November 2004, BERLIN - With voting in the race for the White House now underway, America's leading political parties in Germany have reported a three to four-fold surge in the numbers of people who have registered to vote.
2 November 2004
BERLIN - With voting in the race for the White House now underway, America's leading political parties in Germany have reported a three to four-fold surge in the numbers of people who have registered to vote.
Of the estimated more than seven million Americans living abroad, about 250,000 are thought to live in Germany, including about 50,000 working with the military.
This could make the American vote in Germany crucial in what appears to be shaping up to be a very tight election Tuesday.
"I have always said that overseas votes will decide the White House," said Henry Nickel, Republicans Abroad.
But apart from polls showing US President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry running neck and neck, the big jump in the numbers of Americans registering to vote this year makes predicting the outcome of Tuesday's election that much more difficult to predict.
This is especially the case when a large batch of those seeking to register live outside the US. "In the close-run states, the expat vote could be crucial," said William Downey, from the Democrats Abroad in Germany.
About 10 percent of eligible US electors living in Germany have voted in past presidential elections.
But this year in the wake of the close presidential race in 2000 as well as the controversy surrounding the ballot in Florida and with voters deeply divided over Iraq, both the Republicans Abroad and the Democrats Abroad have reported a big jump in voter registrations.
"We have seen a fourfold increase since 2000," said Nickel.
"In the 2000 election I received about 10 phone calls a week," he said, "This year I am answering about 20 E-Mails and phone calls a day."
The Democrats Abroad who are talking about a three-fold increase since the 2,000 election have in particular noticed a large number of young people wanting to register as well there has a flood of requests from Germans who an American background and want to vote in the poll.
"At previous elections, it has been a bit of an effort to get people to vote," said Downey. However, this year it is different, he said. "They have been seeking us out."
The 2000 election was decided by just 537 votes in Florida.
Reflecting the highly charged atmosphere surrounding in the poll, Downey said that party meetings which previously consisted of handful or more of people have now been overflowing with interested voters.
Time is fast running out for those living overseas who want to vote in the election with many having already cast their ballot.
The states have their own deadline for balloting; however party officials say that many states will still be prepared to process voting papers that bear a postmark of 2 November.
Party officials say that some of those who missed absentee ballot deadlines have even decide to fly back to the states so they can cast their vote.
Downey believes that the Democrat campaign has gained more momentum following the wider exposure given to Kerry in the wake of the presidential debates.
The surge in voter interest in the US election started out as "an anti-Bush feeling", Downey said. "Now it has become pro-Kerry."
Moreover, the Democrats say they have detected a shift in political allegiances among US troops stationed in Germany away from the Republican Party as a result of how the White House has waged the war in Iraq.
Nickel believes that 2000 changed everything. "People realised that their vote really did count."
Both the Republicans and the Democrats say that those seeking to register essentially come from across America but that those from the key so-called swing states such Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania appear to feel a keen sense of responsibility to vote this time around.
"Those from swing states are more anxious to register," said Nickels, adding voters from the states where the election could be decided appears to be a bit more interested and prepared to work through the complexities of the US balloting system.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: German news