Democrats Abroad

Democrats Abroad
Democrats Abroad
Democrats Abroad logo.jpg
Founded 1964
Office location 430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

Democrats Abroad is the official organization of the Democratic Party for United States citizens living permanently or temporarily abroad. The organization is given state-level recognition by the Democratic National Committee.

Democrats Abroad currently has members in more than 200 countries, with more than 60 organized country committees. There are chapters in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. These committees are formally represented by the Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA). Some countries with particularly large concentrations of Democratic expatriates even have local chapters. Young Democrats Abroad represents Democrats Abroad in the functions of the Young Democrats of America.



Democrats Abroad was started with two small committees in London and Paris after Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in the 1964 U.S. presidential election. Its original leaders, Toby Hyde and Al Davidson, raised funds and formed committees, and pushed for state-level recognition of Democrats Abroad. DNC Chairman John Bailey allowed Democrats Abroad to send nine non-voting representatives to the Democratic National Convention in 1972; in 1976, the group was granted the status of a state committee, with voting delegates in the Convention.

Over the years, Democrats Abroad has worked for securing the full citizenship rights for Americans living abroad. In particular, the group worked for overseas voting rights issues, supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1975, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act in 1986, and the Federal Emergency Write-In Ballot. Democrats Abroad switched the method of determining convention delegates from a primary to an open caucus in 1992. Former President Jimmy Carter is the current and first ever honorary chair of Democrats Abroad.[1]

Democrats Abroad sends a delegation to the Democratic National Convention every four years and has done so since 1976.

In 2008, Democrats Abroad launched the first-ever global primary.

Presidential primary of 2008

For the 2008 Democratic Primaries, Democrats Abroad has enabled millions of U.S. citizens living overseas to have the chance to vote in the first-ever online global primary to choose the Democratic nominee for President.

The Democratic global primary allowed for balloting by Internet, fax and post. Traditional drop-in Voting Centers were also open in more than 30 countries around the globe.[citation needed]

The worldwide election results will determine the 14 delegates who will join eight DNC members in Democrats Abroad’s delegation of 22 to the Democratic National Convention. These delegates will be elected at a combination of regional and global meetings held during early 2008. These meetings also provide an opportunity for Americans abroad to shape the party's election platform.

American citizens living overseas who wanted to vote in the Democratic global primary had to be either be members of Democrats Abroad, or have joined by January 31, and had then to request a ballot from Democrats Abroad at They could also join in person at voting centers.

To vote in the U.S. Presidential Election in November, overseas voters must request a ballot from local voting authorities in the place where they last resided in the U.S., also possible at

The Democrats Abroad Global Primary took place from February 5–12 , 2008. Democrats Abroad Regional Caucuses took place in Brussels on March 15, 2008, for Europe-Middle East-Africa and in Vancouver on April 11, 2008, for the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

The Democrats Abroad Global Convention took place in Vancouver, April 12–13, 2008.

The Democratic National Convention will take place in Denver, Colorado, August 25–28, 2008.

The U.S. Presidential Election will take place on November 4, 2008. Deadlines for requesting overseas absentee ballots vary per state.


On February 21, 2008, Democrats Abroad announced that Senator Barack Obama won the organization’s Global Primary. The results were certified by the International Chair in Geneva, Switzerland.

The results of the Global Primary were as follows:

Obama 65.6%
Clinton 32.7%
Edwards 0.7%
Kucinich 0.6%
Biden 0.1%
Richardson 0.1%
Uncommitted 0.2%

Under the Democrats Abroad Delegate Selection Plan, the results of the worldwide primary are to be applied to the Regional Caucuses once the allocation of delegates to each Caucus is made. The results allocate 2 delegates to be elected by the Americas Regional Caucus, 1 to be elected by Asia-Pacific Regional Caucus, and 6 delegates to be elected by the Europe, Middle East and Africa Regional Caucus.

There is 1 delegate each for Obama and Clinton in the Americas, 1 delegate for Obama in Asia-Pacific, and 4 delegates for Obama and 2 for Clinton in EMEA.

These results determine the allocation of 4.5 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention. Senator Obama won 3 delegate votes, and Senator Clinton 1.5 delegate vote. A further 2.5 votes will be determined at the Democrats Abroad Global Convention in April. In addition, Democrats Abroad holds 4 superdelegate votes. A total of 22 delegates, each with a half vote, will attend the Convention.

2008 Democratic National Committee Convention Delegates

Twenty-two delegates, including 8 superdelegates, traveled 125,000 miles from around the world to Denver, CO to represent Democrats Abroad at the Democratic National Convention August 25–28, 2008. Democrats Abroad is the official arm of the Democratic Party for Americans living outside of the United States. The 22 delegates each have a half vote, bringing the organization's total votes to 11.

Every member of the Democrats Abroad delegation has taken part in the "Green Delegate Challenge" sponsored by House Speaker and Permanent Convention Chair Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Convention organizers, by obtaining carbon offsets for their travel.


Corporate involvement

Some have question whether having a private company run a public election is appropriate. There is little oversight for these corporations. The provider of Internet voting was spun off from an Australian company in 2003.[2] In 2006, the company received an "injection of U.S. private equity" from an undisclosed source.[dead link][3][4]

Delay and error in reporting final results

The final results for the February 5–12 Democrats Abroad Global Primary were not released until February 21, nine days after the voting had concluded. The initial reporting of results incorrectly reported the results of the election. The error was reported as a result of "a programming error in a spreadsheet column."[5]

Internet voting

Other criticisms have focused on the Internet voting, questioning the possibility of hacking and other subterfuge.[3] While there has been no evidence that such hacking has occurred, there have been no independent security reviews or any testing or certification required for voting machines. The software used for Internet voting was provided by the private company Everyone Counts.[3]

Partial results reporting

There has been some criticism of the way the Global Primary has been conducted. For instance, rule 13 allowed reporting of "provisional" results on the first day of voting. Based on partial results, the international news media reported large Obama victories as soon as these manual polling stations closed. These totals did not include any of the postal or Internet votes:

At 3 a.m., there are still around 30 Democrats watching CNN as results are projected on a giant screen. When the news channel reports that Obama has apparently won the international Democratic primary in Jakarta, Indonesia, they begin cheering -- more because the station has just flashed the Democrats Abroad logo on the screen than because the Illinois senator has won.[6]

Tokyo Voting Center Results These are the results for the Voting Center in Tokyo, this tally is provisional, does not include internet, fax or mailed ballots, and is subject to ratification from the chair of Democrats Abroad. But here goes.... (drum roll please) 2/5/2008 Tokyo Voting Center % report = 83% Obama 13% Clinton 2% Edwards 1.% Kucinich 1.% Richardson

In the end the ballot boxes produced a 971 to 422 victory for Obama.[7]

Voting was scheduled to occur from February 5-12, not just on February 5. The concern relating to releasing early results is that doing so could suppress the vote of the trailing candidate and encourages increase the vote of the leading candidate. In this instance, the results could have been misleading as they included the results of only one method of voting (there were three total: in person, by Internet or by mail). This is casually referred to as the bandwagon effect. At the same time, the Global Primary was designed to mimic a state primary. In some states a portion of the polls close at a later time, typically because that portion of the state falls in another time zone. When that happens, many of these states, including Michigan and Florida, will report the tallied results from the closed precincts, even though some precincts remain open. Some argue that this creates a fairness problem.

In at least one state, it is a crime to release vote results before the polls have closed.[8]</ref>

Lack of focus on expatriate issues

The Democrats Abroad focus on getting out the vote among American expatriates. There is much less focus on getting representation for expatriates. Democrats Abroad are not as well engaged in expatriate issues such as access to banking, double taxation, and transmission of citizenship as the Republicans Abroad.

Republican influence

The corporation running the election, Everyone Counts, named Paul DeGregorio, former Republican chair of the Election Assistance Commission as Chief Operating Officer in 2007.[9]

Presidential election of 2004

Diana Kerry addresses Democrats Abroad

In 2004, Democrats Abroad chose its delegates to the Democratic National Convention via the caucus system, similar to the Iowa caucuses. Caucuses are different from primaries. In the latter, people show up, vote, and go home. In a caucus, different areas or rooms are available for each candidate so that his or her supporters can gather and discuss their candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Caucusgoers who are unsure of their choice can move from room to room to hear about multiple candidates. Straw polls may be taken during the process. Eventually, all the caucusgoers meet in a plenary session and a representatives from each room gives a short presentation on why his or her candidate should be the Democratic nominee. Then a vote is taken. If some candidates' support is below a certain threshold, that candidate is eliminated and everyone is given the opportunity to switch support. Then a final vote is taken and the number of delegates for each candidate is determined, proportional to his or her share of the vote. The final step consists of the actual election of the delegates pledged to each candidate.

Local caucuses were held February 6–9, 2004 and country caucuses February 20–23, 2004. At these caucuses delegates to the regional and world caucuses were elected according to the process discussed above. The regional and world Democrats Abroad caucuses were held back-to-back in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 26–28. The city of Edinburgh held a reception for the delegates at which the mayor spoke and praised the delegates for their active participation in the democratic process.

At the caucuses, numerous politicians spoke, as well as Diana Kerry, the sister of the eventual nominee Sen. John Kerry.

22 delegates and two alternates went to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Current leadership

Democrats Abroad has eight officers. All of them are elected. The current officers are:

  • International Chair Ken Sherman
  • International Vice Chair Vicki Hansen-Thackry
  • International Treasurer Katie Solon
  • International Secretary Louis S. Hureston
  • International Counsel John Eastwood
  • Regional Vice Chair for the Americas John Chudy
  • Regional Vice Chair for Asia/Pacific Albert Kang
  • Regional Vice Chair for Europe, Middle East and Africa Susan Haug

Democrats Abroad is represented on the Democratic National Committee by eight members. The International Chair and Vice Chair are ex-officio members of the DNC. These eight DNC members are:

  • Ken Sherman (ex officio)
  • Vicki Hansen-Thackry (ex officio)
  • Lauren Shannon
  • Stanley Grossman
  • Caitlin Kraft-Buchman
  • Leo Perez Minaya
  • Theresa Morelli
  • Joe Smallhoover

Various country committees of Democrats Abroad have local caucuses representing groups such as Young Democrats, minorities, women, and the LGBT community.

Voting from abroad

One of the prime functions of Democrats Abroad is to assist U.S. citizens abroad in voter registration. To this end, it has created a Website which overseas Americans (Democrats and non-members alike) can use to register to vote. Since Presidents and members of Congress are elected by state, Americans abroad vote in the state in which they have most recently lived, each of which has its own registration and voting procedures. This Website also has a Spanish language version ( to reach out to Spanish speaking voters.

This Website asks the voter which state he or she last lived in and then starts a wizard specific to the voter's state that asks for the information necessary to comply with the election laws of that state. After all the information has been supplied, a PDF is created, which the voter can then print, sign, and mail to the address provided. Currently only Arizona [10] and Washington [11] offer online voter registration.

Several weeks before the election, the Board of Elections or County Registrar (various names are used in different states) sends the voter an absentee ballot which the voter then fills out and sends back in order to cast his or her vote.


In addition to helping Americans living overseas to register to vote, Democrats Abroad engages in many other activities, mostly on a per country or per locality basis. Among other things, Democrats Abroad:

  • Provides help where there are problems with absentee ballots
  • Organizes lectures, debates, and other events on political topics, often with guest speakers
  • Strengthens contact between American ambassadors and consuls and overseas Americans
  • Lobbies Congress on expatriate issues (e.g. citizenship for children born abroad etc.)
  • Represents Americans abroad in the Democratic National Committee
  • Raises funds for the Democratic Party
  • Runs a Website containing news for Americans abroad, including Letter from Washington and Wednesday Wire

See also


External links



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