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Getting the American vote out in Israel

Posted By Joe Charlaff On June 27, 2004 @ 11:00 pm In | No Comments

Israel has the highest percentage of U.S. citizens voting in the American elections compared to any other country in the world.There are over 7,100,000 American voters living outside the U.S. In 2000, only 537 votes in Florida elected George W. Bush as President.

If you do the math, it’s clear that absentee ballots make a difference, and nowhere do overseas voters figure more prominently than in Israel.

On Tuesday November 2, 2004, close to 100,000 Americans in Israel will be able to exert their influence in determining whether George Bush stays in office, or whether Democratic nominee, John Kerry, will occupy the White House. And they take their responsibility to democracy seriously.

Israel has the highest percentage of U.S. citizens voting in the American elections compared to any other country in the world. In the European bloc, including England and France, where many expatriate Americans reside, the percentage is between 40-45%. In Israel it is 60-65%.

The votes from Israel could be vital in deciding which way the election will go. In the last Presidential elections everyone was waiting with bated breath for the absentee ballots from Florida to arrive from Israel because the experts thought that Democratic majority among Israel’s absentee voters might have swayed the state?s vote in favor of Democratic candidate Al Gore.

“Bush won Florida in the last election by 537 votes. Whoever won Florida would won the Presidential election,” the Chairman of Democrats Abroad, Dr Mark Zober told ISRAEL21c, emphasizing that there are 6000 Americans with dual citizenship from Florida living in Israel.

Both Zober’s organization, as well as Republicans Abroad in Israel, are aware of the key role they play in convincing Americans living here to vote.

Bob Lang, spokesperson of Republicans Abroad, said what they are attempting to do is to make the goal of American democracy a reality by reaching out and aiding Americans living in Israel to register to vote.

“This is a key election,” said David Froehlich, immediate Past Chairman of the Democrats Abroad. “We can expect the Jewish vote to be split into 50% for Bush and 50% for Kerry.”

According to Marc Zell, the Chairman of Republicans Abroad, Americans living abroad not only deserve the right to vote in American elections, but that doing so is their duty.

“We are American citizens and file American tax returns. Because of our dual citizenship we have interests that relate to both countries,” he said, adding that whoever sits in the White House has a bearing on what the future will be in Israel. Therefore if the opportunity exists to have a say in the affairs of the USA, Americans living in Israel would be remiss if they didn?t exercise their vote.

Sheldon Schorer and his wife Candella, immigrated to Israel from New York in 1980. He has been active in the Democratic party in Israel since 1988, and is legal counsel to the Democratic Party Committee Abroad. He sees no conflict between being an Israeli citizen and an American voter.

“If I was living in the U.S., I’d be voting for someone who is sympathetic to Israel. By the same token, as an American living abroad, I have certain responsibilities and obligations giving me the privilege to vote.”

Schorer feels that the more Americans living in Israel vote, the more seriously they’ll be taken by the U.S. political process.

“It’s very important that politicians in America know that there are voters here in Israel. If we exercise our vote then we can have an impact. Politicians will be more concerned about Israel if they know that there are voters out here and that is why I urge Americans of all stripes to get involved in the political process and to vote,” he said.

Naomi Leitner, 48, a Kfar Sava lawyer originally from Kansas, has been a registered Republican for twenty years She sees the elections as a crucial one and urges all eligible Americans in Israel to vote.

“I believe that the upcoming election is critical for the US as well as for Israel in terms of the war on terror. The US encourages her citizens to vote, and more Americans in Israel should take advantage of that great privilege,” she said.

Just because Americans living here are eligible to vote does not necessarily mean that they will vote. Americans with dual citizenship who have been living here along time often are ambivalent or unsure about their voting rights and this is where Democrats and Republicans Abroad play an important role.

“We have an educational responsibility to let people know that they have the right to vote,” said Zober. “We help to inform them, and help them go through the procedure for voting. We have a unique challenge because many of our dual citizens have a resistance to voting or don’t have a pattern of voting and our goal is to increase the number of voters from those who didn’t vote last time or who voted the other way.”

It has become much easier to vote with the advent of computers and the internet. Registration forms can be downloaded in minutes in the comfort of ones home encouraging a greater voter turnout. All sides are expecting a record turnout this year and could be the highest in many years.

Bob Lang, spokesperson of Republicans Abroad, Israel Chapter, stressed “The American democracy is such that every American citizen, no matter whether they are in Antarctica, or on the moon, has the right to participate in the democracy of elections.”

American voters in Israel will take that right to heart come November 2nd.


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