US expats flock to primary polls in Thailand
Hundreds of US expatriates exercised their voting rights Tuesday at polling stations in Thailand.5 February 2008
BANGKOK - Hundreds of US expatriates exercised their voting rights Tuesday at polling stations in Thailand set up to allow Americans abroad direct participation in the Democratic primary for the first time.
"The turnout has been heavy," said Philip Robertson, country chairman for the Democrats Abroad Thailand. "People were very excited that this time they could vote so easily."
This year's Democratic primary, a close race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, marks the first time that overseas Americans can vote directly at polling stations in some 100 countries or alternatively, do so online. The overseas voting continues until 12 February.
Expatriates were required to show their US passport and to register as Democrats before casting their ballots at polling stations set up in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen in Thailand.
Robertson, who managed a polling station at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok, said that about 300 Americans had already voted by mid-day, and he expected a total turnout of 600 by the end of voting at 6 pm local time.
Thailand is home to about 20,000 to 30,000 US nationals, according to US embassy estimates, making it the second most popular destination for overseas Americans in South-East Asia after the Philippines, where there are an estimated 150,000 US expatriates.
Many US nationals living in Thailand have Thai spouses and live outside Bangkok.
"We had one voter who took an overnight bus from Ubon Ratchasima to get here to vote, and one guy took an airplane up from Phuket," said Robertson.
Democrats Abroad Thailand will hold another voting session on Saturday at the Road House Barbecue in Bangkok, he said.
US overseas voters will be represented at the Democrat Party convention in August, where the presidential candidate will be named. Expatriates will have 22 delegates at the convention, the same number as some smaller US states.
Registered Republicans in Thailand can also vote in the primaries, but are required to do so by mail, because Republicans Abroad are not officially part of the national party.
[Copyright dpa 2008]
Subject: Super Tuesday, US elections, primaries