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U.S. Democrats urge overseas voters to cast ballots early

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A Democrats Abroad stall in 2018. Image: Will Bakker/Flickr

"Vote early," Democrats are urging U.S. voters, and that call goes out to the 622,492 US voters in Canada too. Democrats Abroad (DA) says that U.S. votes from Canada could significantly affect the U.S. national election results -- if only more than 5.3 per cent of us voted.  

With the U.S. in turmoil and the president threatening to defund the United States Postal Service (USPS), on September 10, the U.S. consulate in Calgary reached out to local eligible U.S. voters with a webinar urging them to return their ballots by October 13. 

DA represents some nine million U.S. voters resident in other countries around the globe, and in effect forms a 51st state within the party. DA Canada has more U.S. voters than Wyoming (population 563,626) or politically powerful Vermont, population 625,741. As the 51st state, DA earned the right to send 24 representatives to the virtual 2020 Democratic presidential convention.

Naturally, most Democrats Abroad who do vote, do so by mail. In pandemic times, health experts recommend mail-in ballots as the safest and most secure way to vote. And naturally, while #45's behaviour makes voting more important than ever, he is so determined to remain in office that he seems willing to destroy the USPS, one of the few government services mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

"At least three-quarters of all American voters will be eligible to receive a ballot in the mail for the 2020 election," according to The New York Times, "the most in U.S. history ... roughly 80 million mail ballots will flood election offices this fall, more than double the number that were returned in 2016."

Similarly, the Washington Post reported that more than "190 million Americans who are eligible to vote would be able to cast a ballot by mail. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia already allowed anyone to vote absentee ... " Other states have ballot drop-boxes. Only five states still require that voters have an excuse to cast a mail-in ballot.

Revealing his desperation, #45 has blocked emergency pandemic funds to the USPS and mused aloud that he might let the postal service go broke. His postmaster-general appointee, Louis LeJoy, has removed mailboxes from city streets and high-volume sorting machines from USPS.

"Donald Trump came right out and said it out loud," reported Bill Moyers.

"He was deliberately choking the postal service to death, denying the $25 billions of emergency funding requested by Democrats in the latest pandemic relief bill negotiations -- all to quash voting by mail. 'If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money,' he told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. 'That means they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it.' Later that Thursday, he backpedaled, sort of, saying he wouldn't veto a relief bill if it had postal and election protection money ..."

Meanwhile, the U.S. mail has slowed down, just as online sales have increased dramatically because of the pandemic. With less than two months before election day, November 3, Democrats are urging supporters to vote early by October 13. 

Canadian readers may wonder what all the fuss is about. Republicans are frantic because mail-in ballots cancel out all their efforts to prevent some people from voting, which is usually done when the voter arrives at the polls. 

In response to the Democrats' 1965 Voting Rights Act, Richard Nixon developed the "Southern strategy," appealing to white southerners with coded or open racism. Since few Black people were likely to vote for them, Republicans have leaned heavily on voter suppression. In 2013, this Republican government even stripped meaningful protections from the Voting Rights Act.

"The results have been calamitous," writes Carol Anderson in The Guardian. "More than half the states passed a series of voter suppression laws that targeted minority voters, breached a key firewall that protected American democracy, and greased the pathway to install a man in the White House whose racism, greed, and unfitness for office was well known."

" ... we saw the consequences of that [voter suppression] in 2016, when Black voter participation in Wisconsin dropped about 19 percent in the 2016 election from 2012. Milwaukee County, which is overwhelmingly Black, saw 50,000 fewer votes were cast -- and this is in a state where Trump won by 27,000 votes," wrote Kelly Hayes recently in Truthout.     

What's a U.S. voter abroad to do? First step is to apply for a vote from abroad ballot, which DA says Washington has started mailing, state by state. When the ballot arrives, they urge voters to vote for candidates all the way down the list, not just for president and Congress. The quickest way to return a filled-out ballot is to deposit it in a ballot drop box, available in every U.S. embassy or consulate.  

Through the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, a voter abroad may "Vote as a backup using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) ... If there isn't enough time to receive and send back your ballot before the election." This ballot can be filled in online, printed out and mailed immediately.

Many former Americans balk at the idea of "vote, even if you have to hold your nose." At this year's convention, Bernie Sanders, the icon of U.S. progressive politics, urged Democrats to support Joe Biden. "My friends, we must come together to defeat Donald Trump," he said. "The price of failure is just too high."

Award-winning author and journalist Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local column in Calgary for four years. She was editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004-2013.

Image: Will Bakker/Flickr

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