News

Demand Senators wait for SCOTUS replacement until 2021

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Call your representatives and demand they wait: Find your Member of Congress and Senators’ information here

Just before she died, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

As Republicans plot to fill the seat before a new president is sworn in, the nation is faced with the terrifying prospect of a Supreme Court that is shifted to the far right for generations.

 

We've been here before. Before the 2016 election, the Republicans stopped President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Mitch McConnell declared: “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in.”

That’s right: The American people must weigh in before the Senate moves to fill this vacancy. Honor Justice Ginburg’s memory and continue her fight for justice by calling your Republican senators today to demand that the Supreme Court vacancy stay open until after inauguration.

* Wondering what your senator said in 2016 and what they are saying now? Check out http://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/what-every-republican-senator-has-said-about-filling-a-supreme-court-vacancy-in-an-election-year


Toronto Star Contributor Op-Ed: U.S. veterans are determined to oust Donald Trump

Contributing column by DACA-Toronto member and Vietnam Vet J. David Markham appearing in the Toronto Star Sept 13, 2020

David Markham serving in Vietnam

I am no fan of Donald Trump, but as a veteran his outrageous comments about and attitude toward the military have made me angrier than normal. How dare he denigrate our service whether in popular or unpopular wars?

I am not a loser or a sucker. I am a decorated Vietnam vet who is proud of his service, even in a bad war. I didn’t try to get out of military service with bone spurs. In 1968 I was drafted into a war I opposed, yet I served honourably in the 9th Signal Battalion, 9th Infantry Division in Dong Tam, Mekong Delta, becoming a Specialist Five and earning the Army Commendation Medal and Bronze Star.

Throughout my year in Vietnam I put up with a lot more than wet hair, which was Trump’s excuse for not visiting a war cemetery in France in 2018, the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Other world leaders went to the cemetery.

 

My unit was located right next to a hospital and we saw a daily parade of medevac Huey Slick helicopters bringing wounded and dead soldiers from the field. They were not losers or suckers either. Nor were the medical professionals who treated them, most of whom had likely volunteered for that duty. I am sure the president has no understanding of volunteering, especially at the risk of life or higher income.

Read more

LIVE Global Voter Registration Assistance

Voter registration assistance

 Did you know every eligible American living abroad can vote in U.S. elections this   year? 

 Do you have questions about how to vote? Click the chat bubble at the bottom of   this screen and we'll help you find the answers.  

 Starting July 26th, join us any Sunday till November from midnight to midnight   Eastern time to talk to a volunteer LIVE on Zoom about questions you have about   voting from abroad.

More information: The easiest way to request your ballot is at VoteFromAbroad.org. It takes just a few minutes to complete and send in your form to the US state where you last lived. The website will guide you step by step. In most cases it’s pretty simple. But if you’re new to overseas voting, or if you haven’t done it in a while, you may have additional questions. That’s why we’ll be here every Sunday until election day to help.

If you can’t make it any Sunday, you can always email us at helpdesk@votefromabroad.org or send in your question through our online help bubble, and a volunteer will get back to you.

CLICK ON A DATE FOR SPECIFIC DETAILS

August 16th, 23rd, 30th

September 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th

October 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th

November 1st


Fmr Amb to Canada Bruce Heyman talks with Morning Joe about the overseas vote

Democrats Abroad has partnered with the Ambassadors for Biden initiative to reach the up to 6m eligible overseas American voters. Fmr Amb to Canada Bruce Heyman went on Morning Joe speaking to how easy it is to register at VoteFromAbroad.org and highlighting how few Americans in Canada voted in 2016. There are enough of us in Canada to make the numerical factor of victory in close elections.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2_nn9nPUxk

Number of American voters in Canada 2016


Dems Abroad outreach about US Govt Coronavirus Aid for Americans Abroad

Many members have reached out asking about the CARES Act impact for Americans living abroad. Fortunately the Democrats Abroad Taxation Task Force has prepared a report to share.

Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the president has signed it into law. Americans abroad will be interested in understanding the law's aid provisions and how they can access them. This is a summary of key aid provisions that are or may be relevant to Americans abroad –

  • Americans abroad who meet the income eligibility criteria (adjusted gross income under $99,000) are entitled to the Recovery Rebate (up to $1,200 payment plus $500 per child)
  • Taxpayers who have provided bank account details with their tax filing will likely be receiving payments by direct deposit in the next 2-3 weeks, with others likely receiving checks or debit cards through the post
  • Treasury has been provided with flexibility in the language of the bill for providing the cash aid to citizens who have not filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019. We will follow this closely.
  • Individuals with federal student loans automatically have their interest rate set to 0% for 60 days and can request forbearance (a suspension of payments) for 60 days.
  • Small businesses have been provided with range of supports to enable them to retain their employees and keep paying their salaries and benefits, via an existing SBA loan product whose eligibility criteria have been greatly relaxed. This MAY enable Americans abroad with small businesses to qualify for the support.

A great many questions remain about how these and the myriad other relief mechanisms in the historic $2 trillion dollar package are to be implemented. Treasury and the IRS have a lot of work ahead of them.

Click here to read the rest of the report from the Taxation Task Force.


Notice of Canada 2019 Annual General Meeting

The Board of Democrats Abroad Canada invites you to attend your
Annual General Meeting

PURPOSE?

To report to the membership the accomplishments and financial status of the Canada country committee during 2019.

WHEN?

Sunday, March 22, 2020
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT

WHERE?

Via WebEx and possibly in-person at some chapters. Watch for announcements from your chapter or contact your local chapter chair.

WHO?

All Members of Democrats Abroad Canada

HOW?

Via WebEx online or through the iOS or Android WebEx app. Access instructions will be emailed to registered attendees the week prior.

Click here to RSVP and receive the AGM access instructions.

Democratically yours,

Steve Nardi
Chair, Democrats Abroad Canada

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DemsAbroad lobbies for tax rights

“The majority of us aren’t making millions or trying to hide our money in secret Swiss bank accounts. We just want to live simple, ordinary lives. The amount of stress that comes along with the U.S. tax system is overwhelming. It is extremely complicated and expensive to navigate. We live with a real burden that Americans living in the U.S. simply don’t understand.” – Michigan voter living in the UK

Seven members of the Hamilton/Burlington/Niagara and Toronto chapters drove to Buffalo in late January to meet with the staff of U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, 26th District of New York. (Close to 200 DA members in Ontario vote in his district.) The subject: taxes, taxes. At a round table with Bonnie Kane Lockwood, Higgins’ director of special projects, and Chris Fahey, the congressman’s deputy chief of staff for special projects, DA members presented their case. Weighing in via teleconferencing from Australia was Carmelan Polce, chair of DA’s Taxation Task Force.

Ken Sherman, past chair of the Hamilton/Burlington chapter and member of the Democratic National Committee, explained that Americans living abroad must file taxes both in the U.S. and in Canada. “There are over 6.5 million Americans like us who are suffering serious personal and financial harm because we are subjected to taxation both in the United States – even if we have no U.S.-sourced income – and in Canada were we live. Most of us are filing zero-dollar tax returns in the U.S.”

Of particular concern is the Repatriation Tax Law which has had unintended consequences for Americans living abroad. As well, Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – which gave corporations a wonderful advantage, not so for small businesses – “has thrown people’s lives into an uproar. None of us saw this coming, but it has been terribly destabilizing,” said Sherman. The much-heralded bill is forcing many American small business owners abroad to close their companies. Another challenge faces those whom Steve Nardi, chair for DA Canada, calls Accidental Americans. These are people born in the United States to foreign parents, but who moved away as infants or young children, and those born outside the U.S. to at least one American parent. “According to numbers from the U.S. Consulate, there are between 1-2 million Accidental Americans living in Canada,” said Nardi. With no legal or cultural connection to the U.S., these people still bear U.S. tax-compliance obligations.

Other points of contention discussed at the meeting was the imposition of a new minimum tax on Global Intangible Low-taxed Income (or GILTI), further fall-out from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Again, this has had a negative impact on overseas Americans, explained Ron Barrett, member-at-large for DA’s Hamilton chapter. Barrett and his wife, Susan Hill, the chapter’s membership secretary, came to Canada twelve years ago as part of a NAFTA initiative and bought a Canadian company. Their U.S. tax return numbered 70 pages last year with $40,000 in what are called “transition taxes” owed to the U.S. government.

These iniquities make a compelling case for what Democrats Abroad has been lobbying hard for in recent years: Residency-Based Taxation (RBT). The U.S. and Eritrea are the only two countries in the world which employ Citizenship-Based Taxation (CBT). “We would still be required to report U.S.-sourced income if we had any, but not the income we make and pay taxes on as residents of Canada,” Sherman explained to Rep. Higgins’ staff.

Two bills are currently in development in Washington that would greatly support Americans’ tax rights. The first, which argues for RBT to replace CBT, is now before the Ways and Means Committee. The second (HR 4362), the Overseas Americans Financial Access Act would exempt Americans living abroad from disclosures of their financial accounts in their countries of residence. Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (12th District of NY) and Rep. Don Beyer (8th District of Virginia), the hope is that Rep. Higgins will join them as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Both pieces of legislation promise greater tax justice for expats. While the reception with Rep. Higgins’ staff was supportive and encouraging, Polce urges Democrats Abroad everywhere to talk to their respective members of Congress. “There’s push and there’s pull. We pull. We need everyone else to push!”

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Chapter Spotlight: Edmonton builds community

Since Kimberly Johnson took over as chapter chair of DA’s Edmonton chapter last March, it’s been one surprise after another. First, that students at the city’s post-secondary schools – Edmonton boasts two main universities, plus tech and community colleges – would become the chapter’s base. “We have a fair chunk of international staff and students,” explains Kimberly, who teaches a unique combination of art, science and medical history at the University of Alberta. “We basically do voter registration all year long on campus.” Also surprising, she says, has been “finding out how many Canadian-born kids with American parents we now have as members who didn’t even realize they were able to vote. The worse things get, the more excited people are to discover this!”

Realizing after the 2016 election that “there were no sidelines left to sit on any more,” Kimberly stepped up as chapter chair after serving as head of communications. “I’m still running our Instagram account. With only three of us in leadership, we run Edmonton with a skeleton crew.” Even so, the chapter hosts an ambitious roster of events from regular debate watches to postcard-writing sessions to Thanksgiving dinners. “We also do what we call Sanity Sessions,” Kimberly explains. “We had one right after the Kavanaugh nomination.” Held in a campus pub, these are a “big source of relief and comradeship. People just want to talk to somebody, for someone to say, ‘No, this is not normal. We’re all worried.’”

That camaraderie has been another pleasant surprise for the chapter, with many American students coming by every week to say hello to volunteers at the voter reg table. “Some show up out of homesickness,” guesses Kimberly. “But we’re building a community and that’s rewarding.” The community has spread beyond Americans. “We have such luck finding Canadian volunteers. They push their American friends over to our table, take flyers to people they know are American. If you’re having a horrible day because of too many Trump tweets, one of these folks will thank you for what you’re doing. They restore our faith in common purpose.”

The rewards come with challenges, of course. With the chapter’s leadership in their thirties, Kimberly sometimes longs for members with a longer perspective and experience. And then there’s the challenge of the province itself. “Alberta is so conservative, with big oil interests here. There’s direct Trump support. We’ve had difficulty finding friendly venues,” she admits, adding that a campus bar, one she hung out in as an undergrad, has opened its doors. “It’s vital to have safe, welcoming spaces for our members.”

But it would take more than this to derail DA Edmonton. There’s the upcoming GPP to prepare for and debate watches to organize, not to mention balloons to blow up. “Everywhere we go, we carry red, white and blue balloons. If you have a balloon, you don’t look like a dangerous liberal!” Kimberly laughs.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Riley takes on the Maritimes

After moving to Halifax from Coral Springs, Florida, six months ago to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, Riley Nielson-Baker emailed Democrats Abroad, asking, “Hey, is there an active chapter here?” When told there wasn’t, Riley answered, “Well, there’s going to be.” Since the reactivated chapter hosted its first debate watch last August, it’s been all systems go. “There was no shortage of pubs to choose from for a debate watch,” laughs Riley. “Halifax boasts the largest number of pubs per capita in North America!”

Six months in, DA’s Maritimes chapter now numbers 620 members in all four Atlantic provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland. “We’re all one chapter,” Riley explains, “though most of us are in and around Halifax. We’re working on adding representatives from the other regions.” It’s adding up in terms of participation, too, with high attendance at meetings and new volunteers stepping up in new positions. Riley’s especially encouraged by the “big spike in our chapter’s membership, beginning on New Year’s Day,” and with the response to a panel the chapter held in December at Dalhousie University on political culture under Trump.

For sure, there are hurdles, especially getting on the radar of local media, “getting our voice heard.” Personally, there’s the work/life balance challenge since Riley is not only chapter chair during an election year, but also a full-time grad student and a volunteer for both the national and provincial chapters of the NDP in Halifax. “It’s hard to not do everything.”

What propels Riley is a passion for politics that started as an undergrad studying biochemistry at the University of Florida. But what became more compelling, more inspiring, than this field of study were the people Riley saw being elected to public office. Then came the Parkland shooting. Riley’s younger brother was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the same school Riley had graduated from in 2015. “My former marching band lost two people, my ROTC team lost three. I knew some of the teachers who were killed.” Riley spent the months following the shootings working as a volunteer with band members and ROTC students.

Two years later, Riley’s pouring that formidable energy into Democrats Abroad. “What keeps me going is feeling we don’t do quite enough to find expats. There are so many Americans here. People just don’t know we exist.” Riley and the new Maritimes chapter are turning this around.

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Voter protection: The challenge for 2020

Members of Democrats Abroad were invited to join a call last month with Stacey Abrams from Fair Fight. Abrams fought to become the first Black female governor in the U.S., running against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in 2018. Kemp also just happened to be in charge of the Georgia election, a state rife with instances of voter suppression. State voting roll purges, poll closures, four-hour lines at the polls, strict voter ID laws twisted the results of that extremely close election and “disproportionately prevented black and brown citizens from their constitutional right to vote,” explained Angela Fobbs, chair of DA’s Global Black Caucus.

But one needn’t live in states like Georgia to face voting obstacles. Americans living abroad may find that their vote-from-states frequently block voters from viewing their state’s election pages, which can lead to missed deadlines and misunderstood voting instructions. Some states block voters from abroad from reaching their state’s ballot download pages, “effectively blocking ballot access from all but the most determined voter,” according to Julia Bryan, Democrats Abroad Global Chair. Another obstacle could be requiring voters abroad to send their ballots back home via postal mail. Not only can this be expensive, but for Americans living in countries with limited postal service, this makes voting nearly impossible. Then there are notorious misinformation campaigns which spread incorrect information via social channels.

Democrats Abroad works with the Democratic National Committee to stay informed on state voting purges and negotiates with Secretary of State offices regarding access to ballots and election sites, explains Bryan. “And we provide a 24/7 help desk that runs 365 days a year, answering voting questions via email, chat channels and social media channels. If you try to access an election site and it doesn’t work, don’t assume it’s your connection,” Bryan advises. “Get in touch with Democrats Abroad and let us know about the problem.”(Email: gotv@democratsabroad.org)

One last bit of advice: “If someone says you can’t vote, or that you have to provide a photo ID, or register in person, know your rights (that someone is wrong.) Point to Federal voting law and make sure others know their rights, too!”

[Suppressed: The Fight to Vote tells the story of Georgia’s 2018 mid-term election. The 38-minute documentary is available for viewing from Brave New Films free of charge, according to Angela Fobbs, who encourages Democrats Abroad members to view this powerful, galvanizing film. See the trailer, then request the film: https//www.bravenewfilms.org/screensuppress]

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