A primary for ex-patriates will be taking place Feb. 5-12.
MEXICO CITY - This year, for the first time, expatriate Democrats can cast their ballots on the Internet in a presidential primary for people living outside the United States.I was stationed in the Philippines at the time of 1988 elections. While I made a request for absentee ballots well ahead of time, in the case of the September primaries, that the ballot didn't arrive till three days before the vote took. I had to wonder if my vote was ever counted. The statistics cited above make that fear sound more than a little plausible.
Democrats Abroad, an official branch of the party representing overseas voters, will hold its first global presidential preference primary from Feb. 5 to 12, with ex-pats selecting the candidate of their choice by Internet as well as fax, mail and in-person at polling places in more than 100 countries.
Democrats Abroad is particularly proud of the online voting option -- which provides a new alternative to the usual process of voting from overseas, a system made difficult by complicated voter registration paperwork, early deadlines and unreliable foreign mail service.
"The online system is incredibly secure: That was one of our biggest goals," said Lindsey Reynolds, executive director of Democrats Abroad. "And it does allow access to folks who ordinarily wouldn't get to participate."
U.S. citizens wanting to vote online must join Democrats Abroad before Feb. 1 and indicate their preference to vote by Internet instead of in the local primaries wherever they last lived in the United States. They must promise not to vote twice for president, but can still participate in non-presidential local elections.
Some 6 million Americans living abroad are eligible to vote in U.S. elections, but only a fraction do so. Until recently, the only option was to mail absentee ballot request forms to the last U.S. county of residence, then wait in hopes that shaky mail systems would deliver the ballots in time to vote.
The system is so unreliable that of 992,034 ballots requested from overseas for the 2006 general election, only 330,000 were cast or counted, and 70 percent of those not counted were returned to elections officials as undeliverable, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission found.
This is just my personal preference, but I'd rather vote in the primary for the state I was registered in, than an election set aside for Americans living abroad. There are often other elections at the same time as the Presidential primary, or ballot measures like this year's property tax referendum.