Democrats from around the world met in D.C. for an intense and productive week of work from April 24th to 29th.
The week kicked off with the first Voter Symposium organized by Democrats Abroad – releasing the results of our survey to membership on the 2008 election and efforts to guide voters successfully through the absentee process. Result? A strong success rate for members of Democrats Abroad as 4 out of 5 voters were able to return their voted ballots in time.
Keynote speaker Representative and DNC Vice Chair Mike Honda addressed the issues facing overseas voters, and pending legislation H.R. 1739. He was followed by our in-house experts, Gary Suwannarat and Joe Green, who provided both quantitative and anecdotal material from our worldwide efforts to register voters in 2008.
The stateside view was presented by Federal Voting Assistance Program Deputy Director Scott Wiedmann, Bureau of Consular Affairs' Chief Voting Action Officer Elizabeth Gracon and Maryland's Election Reform Director Nikki Trella. They each provided a valuable perspective about the implications at every level for absentee voters.
The Survey Team, led by Gary Suwannarat, Joe Green, and Margo Miller, reflects years of expertise, countless volunteer hours, and a successful track record. The Executive Summary of the Overseas Absentee Voting Survey 2008 Review is available here.
We followed the Symposium with our two-day Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA) meeting. Welcomed to D.C. by Clyde Williams, the Democratic National Committee’s Political Director, we had a first-hand opportunity to hear about the DNC’s role in supporting our President’s agenda and continuing to work closely with all 56 state parties. Two of our newest organizing groups, Chile and Taiwan, led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a stunning version of America the Beautiful sung by Renee Rousseau, joining us from Zurich.
Two new full committees were voted in - Taiwan and Zambia. Our vibrant and active committees are key to our on-the-ground efforts around the world as we build upon the success of 2008 and work towards 2010. We also elected our new officers, and I thank you for your support in this second term as International Chair. I look forward to working our newly elected team:
- Robbie Checkoway, International Vice Chair
- Wayne Weightman, International Treasurer
- Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, International Secretary
- Anthony Sistilli, reelected International Counsel
- Patricia Ferrari, Regional Vice Chair for the Americas
- Carmelan Polce, Regional Vice Chair for Asia/Pacific
- Susan Haug, Regional Vice Chair for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Bios for the members of the 2009-2011 Executive Committee are available here.
Lindsey Reynolds, our Executive Director, is an integral and valuable member of this team. Jody Couser, our Press Officer, will continue to have an important role in our organization.
I hope to build on the success of the past two years, which took Democrats Abroad to new heights. The members of the 2007-09 Executive Committee - Toby Condliffe, Stanley Grossman and Bill Barnard, Robbie Checkoway, Joe Smallhoover and Anthony Sistilli, Leo Perez Minaya and Joe Green, Gary Suwannarat, and Meredith Gowan Le Goff - brought their dedication, skills and vision. Lindsey Reynolds brought state party, networking and fundraising experience to the team; Jody Couser, her professional media expertise. We grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to our global primary and the incredible events you participated in every corner of the globe. We reached more voters than ever before, and made the difference in more races than ever before.
Our meetings on the Hill served not only as a reminder that constituencies go well beyond the borders of our fifty states and D.C. but raised awareness of number of our key issues -- overseas voting reform; reversing TIPRA; amending the WEP; support for the Uniting American Families Act, CEDAW, and a Medicare demonstration project in Mexico – and our ability to be the margin of victory. Our Statement of Record on the problems overseas voters encounter for the Senate Rules Committee is available for download, as is Representative Carolyn Maloney’s letter to our members.
A more detailed message about our meetings went to Democrats Abroad members – take a look in your inboxes for “Results of the 3rd Annual Democrats Abroad Congressional Visit”.
Lindsey Reynolds , our Executive Director, was instrumental in making these meetings a success and building a very productive week for Democrats Abroad. Ariana Tobias, our intern, joined us for the week, taking time off from her studies in New York to provide assistance wherever needed. And over 50 members of Democrats Abroad from 25 country committees joined us as we made the case for Democrats Abroad. Some photos from our meetings are available at http://picasaweb.google.com/demsabroadphotos.
On the last day of our doorknock, a few of our DA leaders met up with a newly sworn-in Congressman – Representative Scott Murphy, NY-20. This race is one more reminder of our ability to make the difference across the country. And we got there through grassroots events around the world, increasing registrations on VoteFromAbroad.org, following through on thousands of voter problems, state-by-state voter alerts, phone-banking efforts, and much, much more.
And it’s already time to get ready for 2010. We all know that we face real challenges in beating the statistics and keeping Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. We can do it by making sure voters around the world participate in these critical Congressional elections. We also know that the interest won’t be quite as high as it was in 2008 but that our voters have the opportunity – once again -- to significantly impact any number of races.
As a state party which relies heavily on volunteers, we made huge strides thanks to the leadership at the international, country and chapter levels, and to the dedication of volunteers in every committee around the world. And we were able to fund our progress thanks to the generosity of our donors. Today, we live in a changed world. We can continue to reach more voters through the engaged activism of our members, and by once again making the difference in critical elections around the country. 2010 is just around the corner.
Thank you for your help in making it happen – again.
Christine Schon Marques