February 13, 2018

MELBOURE—With Texas and Illinois being only weeks away from holding the first primaries, this past weekend Victorian members of Democrats Abroad Australia (DAA) began the election season with one goal in mind: Democrats re-taking control of Congress. The Republican leadership of the current Congress has proven to be deeply unpopular, and the recently-passed Republican Tax Scam has only added fuel to the already-raging fire burning within Americans across the globe.

Meeting at the Pg.2 cafe in Richmond, DAA-Victoria members pounced on the momentum of recent Democratic victories on the state and federal level, and enthusiastically gathered to discuss several items to “take back Congress.” The agenda focused primarily on getting-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts.

“Make no mistake, we’re in full campaign mode,” said DAA-Victoria Chair Thomas Lopez. “The time to ramp up efforts for overseas Americans with voter registration, in addition to pounding the phones with reminders for DA members to vote, starts right now.” Indeed, DAA members in Victoria are absentee voters from almost every state and the chair’s emphasis on reaching out to these voters had the unanimous backing of the members present.

Chair Thomas Lopez begins reviewing the agenda of the day.

During the meeting, Lopez stated, “With Presidents’ Day fast approaching, it’s hard to not think of the severe damage that the current president and the Republican agenda have inflicted on everyday citizens and America’s global reputation. Our members realize this which is why our get-out-the-vote mission will be our number one goal from now until Election Day. This essentially translates into a three-step process: getting Americans in Victoria registered to vote, getting them to request their ballots, and getting them to mail their ballots back.

A remarkable amount of volunteerism was seen at the chapter’s GOTV meeting. Chris Stueckle, the former DAA national secretary with formal U.S. election officer training, offered her assistance to any member with absentee voting questions. New member Chelsea Deng contributed heavily to the discussion and indicated interest in helping the leadership with its online presence. With letters-to-the-editor already published, Kenn Feldman committed to continuing his efforts to get the Democratic message in print media.

A motion by former DAA national vice chair Dr. Ersie Burke to increase chapter efforts to meet with members in regional Victoria was seconded by Liz Maasen. A regional chapter meeting in the northern part of the state is likely on the horizon for the weekend before the Easter holiday. Once confirmed, details of the event will be made available on the DAA website, DAA-Victoria Facebook group, and via e-mail to all members from Chair Lopez.

DAA-Victoria member Bill Cook recently highlighted the importance of voting in the upcoming mid-term elections and spoke with Mr. Lopez about the best avenue for all

Americans abroad to request their ballots. His “progressive talk” podcast can be heard at the 00:07:35 mark here.

Chair Lopez also announced his recent appointment of chapter member Marybeth Yarosh as DAA-Victoria vice chair. “Marybeth has been intricately involved with our chapter for a while now. She has more than earned her spot with a leadership position and with this being an election year, I look forward to working with her in strategizing to help and encourage Victoria-based Americans to get their ballots sent in.”

Moreover, members were reminded to keep an eye out for attempts to fire or undermine the Trump-Russia investigative efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If Mueller is fired because of “politics” and not, say, professional misbehavior, Democrats Abroad has called for the House of Representatives to begin impeachment hearings immediately. As a reminder from DA’s international executive committee, all members are discouraged from protesting or demonstrating directly in front U.S. embassies and consulates – under the name of Democrats Abroad – in the possible event of a Mueller firing. Instead, all members are strongly urged to contact their elected congressional officials demanding action.

The “Take Back Congress” initiative is the chapter’s highest priority for the time being; however, DAA-Victoria members should not neglect to vote in state and local races whenever possible. A list of key electoral dates for all members to review can be viewed here.

For the next Melbourne-based chapter meeting, members are encouraged to submit ideas for a new meeting venue. Any location recommendation should consider a reasonably quiet space for member discussion, an ideally wheelchair-accessible venue, and preferably a site with little to no cost associated with using it.

Vice-chair Yarosh contributed to this article.

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Democrats Abroad is the official arm of the U.S. Democratic Party for Americans residing outside of U.S. states and territories. The Victoria chapter of Democrats Abroad Australia is an active and dedicated group of members whose primary focus is exercising their right to vote from abroad and electing Democratic candidates, in addition to raising awareness of and advocating for issues that concern Americans living abroad.

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