US CITIZENS ABROAD VOTING IN RECORD NUMBERS even as VOTER SUPPRESSION BY REPUBLICANS RAISES CONCERN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- 26 October 2020

Contact: Darcy Alexandra, Zurich Co-Chair, [email protected] +41 78 920 79 98

“Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful
nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.”
--US Representative John Lewis (21.02.1940 - 17.07.2020)

With just 8 days left until the general election on November 3rd, volunteers with Democrats Abroad Switzerland continue to help US citizens exercise their right to vote. This hard work and dedication are making an impact; media outlets report that US citizens abroad are voting in record numbers. Compared to 2016, more US citizens abroad have registered to vote and requested their ballot for the 2020 General Election. VoteFromAbroad.org, the non-governmental voting assistance group helping US citizens vote from overseas, has recorded over 1 million visitors to their site this election cycle, a three-fold increase in comparison with 2016. 2020 is also seeing record levels of early voting as US citizens–concerned about pressing issues like health care, racial justice, reproductive rights, Covid relief, and climate change–cast their ballots.

Historic levels of early voting and increased voting from US citizens living abroad are accompanied by increased anxiety about how on-going voter suppression and attacks against the electoral process might impact this election. US President Donald Trump has been making claims for months that mail-in ballots are fraudulent or will lead to voter fraud, even though there is no evidence to back this assertion. In addition, over the past year the Trump administration has been systematically defunding the US Postal Service, one of the county’s oldest and most reliable institutions. Recent investigations uncovered that the Trump-appointed Postmaster General ordered the shut down of hundreds of mail sorting machines, citing they were too old (despite evidence to the contrary) and sent trucks to collect and stockpile hundreds of mail drop boxes in various cities across the country¹. These actions have created an unprecedented mail backlog on a nationwide scale, compounding international mail delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Postal delays and attacks on mail-in voting are particularly worrisome for overseas voters, who must often return their ballots by postal mail. Many voters have changed their past habits and asked to receive their ballots electronically, rather than by mail, leading to an increase in problems printing ballots and following complex instructions for printing and assembling ballot envelopes. Other voters have mailed emergency provisional ballots (the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot) to their election offices, fearing that their state ballots wouldn’t arrive in time to be counted. Still others have turned to expensive courier services, like FedEx or DHL, to ensure timely delivery. In addition, there is an unprecedented interest in confirming that ballots have been received and will be counted, with many voters anxiously checking their state’s ballot tracking tools and others flooding election offices with requests for confirmation that ballots have been received.

In the US, many voters are opting to risk their health and safety by showing up to polling stations in person to vote. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a shortage of polling station workers and volunteers who traditionally have been retired senior citizens². Those who are showing up to work despite potential spread of the virus are now doubly at risk of exposure. Elaborate and confusing ballot instructions that might potentially invalidate or disqualify ballots are also of concern³.

These challenges have led to an increase in poll waiting times upwards of nine to 12 hours, not surprisingly in competitive “battleground” states, commonly known as “swing states” where wins can swing between Democrats or Republicans. Swing states tend to include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

This year, particularly in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, a whole new onslaught of Republican tactics has been introduced to dissuade voter participation, cheat an established system of voting, and finagle outcomes across the country. The following are just a few examples of alarming reports leading up to the 2020 Election:

  • California Republicans secretly set up illegal ballot collection boxes throughout the state -- the most populated in the country with the highest number of voters. Despite the state issuing a legal cease and desist order, Republicans have refused to remove the illegal collection boxes.
  • The Trump campaign is suing to block Nevada from issuing mail-in ballots in an effort to curb in-person voting so as not to spread the Coronavirus in their state, arguing that it increases the possibility of voter fraud.
  • In the state of Pennsylvania, which allows mail-in ballots to be counted up to three days after the election if they are postmarked by November 3, Republicans have proposed a bill that would not allow ballots to be counted after Election Day.
  • Republican Senators in the United States Congress have also proposed a bill that would nullify all mail-in ballots not counted in all states and territories within a 48-hour window of Election Day.
  • Republican-led Texas has issued a decision to only allow one ballot drop box per county, despite the fact that some counties have populations of more than 4 million voters or are so geographically spread out that voters would have to drive hundreds of miles to drop off their ballot.
  • In Oregon, where mail-in voting was adopted more than 30 years ago making it the first state to have this option, there has been a reported rise in criminal activity of ballots being stolen out of residents' private mailboxes.

Despite the best efforts of the Republican Party, United States citizens at home and abroad are more determined than ever to participate in the democratic process and exercise their right to vote in this most pivotal election of our lifetimes.

Democrats Abroad encourages US Americans voting from overseas to carefully follow all voting guidelines, mail their ballots early, and vote electronically when possible. More information about Democrats Abroad Switzerland is available at our website, https://www.democratsabroad.org/ch. We can also be found on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) at @swissdemocrats.

DACH Aktivmitglied Miriam Victory Spiegel steht Ihnen als Ansprechpartnerin auf Deutsch/Schweizerdeutsch gerne zur Verfügung. Frau Spiegel kann unter +41 79 215 74 27 oder [email protected] erreicht werden.

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¹ https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2020/08/17/sorting-equipment-removed-changes-to-election-mail-all-the-postal service-usps-changes-raising-alarm-louis-dejoy/#20cc8f71106f
² https://www.npr.org/2020/08/05/894331965/wanted-young-people-to-work-the-polls-this-november
³ https://www.businessinsider.com/mistakes-that-can-disqualify-your-mail-absentee-ballot-2020-9?r=US&IR=T
⁴ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/12/us/politics/california-gop-drop-boxes.html
⁵ https://eu.rgj.com/story/news/2020/08/04/trump-campaign-sues-state-nevada-over-mail-ballot-initiative/3297017001/
⁶ https://www.npr.org/2020/10/19/922411176/supreme-court-rules-pennsylvania-can-count-ballots-received-after-election-day
⁷ https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/09/republican-senator-bill-illegal-mail-vote-count-deadline.html
⁸ https://www.npr.org/2020/10/13/923216392/u-s-appeals-court-sides-with-texas-on-one-per-county-ballot-drop-off
⁹ https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/neighbors-report-election-ballot-thefts/283-0f3c7533-06a2-4653-8ad4-e5feadc24994

INFORMATION SHEET
QUICKVIEW STATS and FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Over 19,000 U.S. citizens live in Switzerland; of those, about 15,000 are of voting age.
  • DA Switzerland membership has grown by 27.3% since February 2020.
  • DA Switzerland has chapters in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva, which are hubs for expats.
  • Democrats Abroad is the state Democratic party for overseas Americans.
  • We represent the 6.5 million eligible voters overseas (out of 9 million total). That’s a larger population than all but 11 US states.
  • We have approximately 200k members in over 190 countries around the world, and 45 active country committees.
  • We provide members with tools to help them stand up for democracy in America, through voter registration training, regularly published actions, events and marches, and a friendly community of like minded American citizens living abroad.
  • During election years, our focus is to get out the vote and advocate for overseas American issues, through our own members, outreach volunteers, and resources like votefromabroad.org, which helps every American overseas request and receive their ballot. 

FAQs

How large is the organization Democrats Abroad?
Democrats Abroad is the largest organization of civilian Americans outside the US. We are 100% volunteer-led, with active chapters across six continents and members who vote in every U.S. state and congressional district.

We represent the 6.5 million eligible voters overseas (out of 9 million abroad, total), with almost 200,000 activists and voters members in over 190 countries around the world. Our extensive reach goes far beyond our 45 country committees through engaged, active online communities of Americans around the world.

How is DA financially supported? Do you get donations from abroad?
We are supported by generous donations from our US citizen members as well as Americans living in the US who value our work and see us as a natural, critical resource to tap into a huge number of potential voters.

We also, from time to time, receive small grants from the DNC to help support specific projects.

Special note: We never accept donations from corporations or foreign citizens.

How long has Democrats Abroad been active?
There have been patriotic Americans abroad virtually since the country’s inception! But as an organization, Democrats Abroad has been continuously active since chapters were first established in Paris and London in 1964.