US Senators Demand Answers from US Embassies On Voter Assistance

Sept 2, Washington DC: Senior US senators sent letters today to nearly two dozen US embassies world-wide, addressing concerns over US citizen voter support and querying the embassies on their voter assistance plans for this fall, especially in light of postal delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The three senators who signed the letterSenate Rules Committee ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, had been part of a group of senators that had previously messaged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking for the State department's plans regarding voter support. 

While Pompeo did not provide an answer to their original letter, ambassadors and embassy staff are required to answer questions addressed to them by Congress. 

Ambassador Bruce Heyman, who served as US Ambassador to Canada under Obama, noted, "As a former ambassador I am appalled by the diminished services that some US embassies are providing to US citizens. At a time when postal delivery between the US and the world has slowed down if not stopped, the State department and each and every embassy should be stepping up its support and guaranteeing that Americans abroad are able to effectively return their ballots to the US in time to be counted in the general election this year."  

Democrats Abroad Global Chair, Julia Bryan, added, "Democrats Abroad very much appreciates the outreach these senators are doing on behalf of voters abroad. With the massive mail slow downs we are seeing with mail delivery to the US, all voters need this support. We stand ready to help spread the word about updates in embassy procedures, and in the meantime, continue our work helping to register voters through our voter tool votefromabroad.org, and protect their votes through our voter protection work." 

 

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Questions addressed to the embassies were: 

1. What steps has your embassy taken to help Americans living in {country} to vote this year?

2. What are the current and anticipated delivery times for mail arriving to the U.S. from {country}?

3. Has USPS staff provided any guidance, formally or informally, in writing or verbally, regarding the delivery of mail during the pandemic? Please provide copies of any such
guidance.

4. Americans overseas use a variety of means, including diplomatic pouches, to send federal election mail back to the United States. Will your Embassy provide diplomatic pouch
services to Americans returning election mail? If necessary, what additional steps are you taking to provide alternatives and ensure the return of ballots is prioritized? Please
include information regarding whether the Embassy plans to provide courier services for election mail, including whether Americans in {country} will be able to track their ballots.

5. Are consular services at your embassy currently limited? If additional consular officers are needed to ensure the ballots of overseas voters can be safely and securely returned, is there a plan to shift resources to this vital American Citizen Service?

6. A review of embassy websites indicates that procedures for returning the ballots of overseas voters varies widely. Some embassies require person-to-person contact to
deliver a ballot while others do not. What procedures are currently in place for receiving and returning ballots during the pandemic at your embassy?

7. Have you taken steps to establish voter education or information campaigns to advise Americans living in X on how to securely and safely cast their ballots during the
pandemic in sufficient time to be counted?

 

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About Democrats Abroad

Democrats Abroad represents the interests and values of Democratic Americans living abroad. Recognized as a state party by the DNC, Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party arm for the millions of Americans living outside the United States, striving to provide Americans abroad a Democratic voice in our government and to mobilize the overseas vote. Democrats Abroad includes 45 active country committees, and our members live in more than 190 countries around the globe, voting in every state and Congressional district in the U.S. For more information: https://www.democratsabroad.org/


Iowa, Missouri, Rhode Island and Vermont Act to Protect the Rights of Overseas Voters; Other States Should Follow

Washington, D.C., August 24: Democrats Abroad applauds the states of Iowa, Missouri, Rhode Island and Vermont for adapting their voting rules to ensure that their citizens overseas are able to vote this year, despite major mail service disruptions across the globe. 

In Rhode Island, voters may now return their ballots by email, Missouri has also confirmed that they will allow voters abroad to return their ballots by email, extending a practice they began in their state primary elections, and Iowa’s Legislative Council has approved Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s Emergency Election Directive for the General Election allowing email ballot return for abroad voters. 

In Vermont, as part of a series of statewide elections directives issued by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, Vermonters living in countries experiencing mail service suspension to the U.S. are now allowed to return ballots by email. 

**UPDATE AUGUST 31** Wyoming is now rolling out email and fax ballot return options for voters abroad. Ballot return options differ on a county by county basis, so we recommend that voters get in touch with their local election office directly for more information. State election office contact details available here

Democrats Abroad encourages other states to take the same approach to ensure enfranchisement of citizens and military voters overseas.

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FAQ: All About Your Ballot in 2020

Updated Monday September 7, 2020

 

Normally, it’s not that complicated to vote from abroad, but 2020 is no normal year.  The COVID-19 crisis has caused severe distress to postal systems around the world, including the United States, resulting in significant delays to delivery of mail. 

It is imperative that voters in states that require voted ballot return by postal mail take early action to request their absentee ballots, and then vote and return them as soon as possible.  

If you vote in a state that accepts voted ballots by email or fax, hurray! But do make sure you’ve requested your ballot this year - keep reading for more information. 

We are going to walk you through the whole voting process below.  Please pay extra attention to the questions about the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), especially if your state requires postal return of the voted ballot.

IF YOU NEED HELP, PLEASE CONTACT THE HELP DESK.  We are here for you!

Contents:

 

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Tune in to the National Convention with Democrats Abroad

Image may contain: stripes, text that says '220 TUNE AUG IN 17-20'

Join Democrats Abroad for three special Democrats Abroad convention events :

Tuesday, August 18, 10am Eastern - Ambassadors Tony Harrington (Brazil), and Fitz Haney (Costa Rica)
Wednesday, August 19, 9am Eastern - Governor Phil Murphy, Joe McCarthy, Ambassador Heyman and Tom Perez join our Delegation breakfast call
Thursday, August 20, 9am Eastern - Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, & special guests join our Delegation breakfast call 

Listen in (and add your voice) during caucus and council meetings, join the Pre-Show chats on Twitch, and don't miss the prime time speakers each night!


Prime Time Convention Schedule Highlights (demconvention.com)

Opening night of the convention, Monday August 17th - we’ll hear from the many Americans who are rising up to take on the crises facing our country and join Joe Biden in rebuilding the country and moving it forward.

Special speakers include Senator Bernie Sanders, former first lady Michelle Obama, and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Also included in Monday’s schedule are Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

Tuesday, August 18th - Roll call - the Democratic Party's 57 states and territories (including Democrats Abroad!) officially cast our votes to nominate Joe Biden to become the next president of the United States of America. 

Special speakers include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bill Clinton, and Dr. Jill Biden! 

Wednesday, August 19th - we’ll hear from Kamala Harris and nominate her as the next Vice President of the United States. We'll also hear from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and others.

Closing night, Thursday, August 20th - Vice President Joe Biden will accept the Democratic nomination and speaks about his vision for uniting America.

Special speakers include : Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Chris Coons, and the Biden Family.


The 2020 Democratic National Convention Begins

Delegates Abroad Cast their Votes for the Democratic Presidential Candidate and Prepare for the Convention

  • Americans abroad are gearing up for the Democratic National Convention next week.
  • Delegates from Democrats Abroad are in the process of voting on their ballots for the Democratic Presidential candidate, the 2020 Democratic Platform, and Rules amendments.
  • Democrats Abroad’s 24 representatives are attending from all over the world - from Kathmandu to Kigali.
  • Democrats Abroad to host two special events, first with Ambassadors for Biden then with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Across the US, state parties and delegates are gearing up to participate in this year’s Democratic National Convention online and at home. Delegates from Democrats Abroad are also joining in - rallying together on zoom calls and downloading their ballots as they prepare to attend the Democratic Party’s first ever online convention in locations that stretch from Kathmandu to Kigali.

The Democratic party includes the 50 states, DC, the territories - and Democrats Abroad - a unique state party that represents the 9 million Americans who live outside the United States. Democrats Abroad will be represented at the convention by 24 representatives logging on from all over the world.   

This year’s “Convention Across America” will be held online from August 17th to August 20th. Although the main events will fall within the week of the convention, delegates have already started casting their votes for their presidential candidate, as well as for the 2020 Democratic Platform, and for Rules amendments.

Typically a massive, week-long event with tens of thousands of Democrats in attendance, the covid crisis has made this year’s convention radically different, creating an opportunity for unprecedented public engagement. This year’s convention will feature online caucus and council meetings, and a two hour program of speeches and celebration each night (Central Time). While most formal work will be finalized before the convention begins, the online caucus meetings are expected to include interactive opportunities for conversation and debate. More information about participating in these meetings here:  https://www.demconvention.com/  

Julia Bryan, the Global Chair of Democrats Abroad and DA Delegation Chair notes, “I’m proud to lead our delegation this year as we come together with our fellow state parties to nominate our Democratic Presidential candidate. I’m also proud to be part of a party that has responded so mindfully to the pandemic and created an event that is both safe and extremely interactive for our delegates.

The National Convention is a significant moment as we reach out to Americans abroad around the world and make sure they know that they too can vote from abroad, and help Democrats back home win. (Go to votefromabroad.org to get started!).” 

The DNC is the official nominating convention for the Democratic Party.  It is an essential step in the presidential election process where the party unites to formally nominate its candidate for president, vote in the platform to guide the party for the next four years, as well as any amendments to the Party’s rules. This year’s voting is done online over a two week period from August 3 to August 15, and is carried out by each of the delegates from the 57 state parties that make up the DNC, including Democrats Abroad. 

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Kamala Harris Announcement

Democrats Abroad is delighted by the news of the nomination of Senator Kamala Harris to be Vice President Joe Biden's running mate this year. 

I'm ecstatic that VP Joe Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. The senator is a competent and intelligent woman, and I have no doubt she could take over as President at any time if needed. Together, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are ready to take on the big fights ahead, and we will be there to support them in their efforts.
Angela Fobbs, Chair of the Global Black Caucus 

As the first AAPI and Black woman to be on a major party’s presidential ticket, Senator Kamala Harris has proven to be a competent and strong leader. We can trust she will be able to carry out the responsibilities of the office of Vice President already starting on her first day in office. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the leaders America needs right now to get back on track!
Emily Lines & Cory Lemke, Co-chairs of the Global Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus

Senator Kamala Harris is an experienced, pragmatic leader who’s uniquely feminine combination of toughness and empathy is exactly what our country so desperately needs today.  Women have often been the ones to step forward in critical times to take on the greatest challenges. I am confident that Kamala is the right woman to face these challenges alongside Joe Biden to defend the rights of all Americans and finally heal our ravaged nation.
Ann Hesse, Chair of the Global Women's Caucus


Blue Vote Cafe Podcast Picks - August

The summer is heating up and our August comms is too! 

Listen in on interviews from our Blue Vote Cafe podcast team of Rachel Eugster and David Shellenberg as they talk with a Wisconsin Supreme Court judge, the leaders of Ambassadors for Biden, and a voter mobilization leader and advocate!  

JJ Karofsky discusses her successful election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April 2020
What was it like to be elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court during a pandemic--and how did Justice Jill J. Karofsky launch her 10-year term with a run? What led her to public service, and why did she change her middle name? What measures can the courts take to help jurors?  What is the National Mustard Museum, and what does it have to do with Wisconsin's newest Supreme Court Justice? Our podcasters sit down to chat with Justice Karofsky about all of this and more.  

Insights into Joe Biden from former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and Vicki Heyman

The Heymans share stories about Joe Biden with our team, and talk about the campaign’s focus on getting out the American vote from around the world. They speak of Biden’s “secret sauce”—the leadership skills that make him particularly suited to this moment—and about how the deal he made with President Obama when accepting the vice presidency uniquely prepares him for the presidency. 

Learn about the importance of every vote, of hustling hard to preserve what we love, of what supporters of other candidates can look for from a Biden presidency, and of flipping Me to We. 

Interview with Nse Ufot from The New Georgia Project
Nse Ufot joined our podcasters to talk about her work as Executive Director of The New Georgia Project (a non-partisan effort to register and civically engage Georgians), and how it had its roots in a conversation that began in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. We talk about voter suppression, Georgia's place in a rapidly transforming population, the critical importance of every vote in every election, the gospel choir theory of organizing, and Nse's time as a member of Democrats Abroad. With a side of ice cream and a lot of laughter.  


Statement on the Passing of John Lewis

Statement from Julia Bryan, Chair of Democrats Abroad

Our hearts are heavy with sorrow today. John Lewis inspired so many of us in Democrats Abroad through his actions, his words and his welcome. We hold tight to his reminders about the importance of getting up to a little good trouble, and above all remembering that the "right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy." We will carry that reminder with us for the rest of our lives, working to share it as far and wide as we can.

Thank you so much for your courage, and for your life long fight for the cause of justice. Rest in peace, rest in power.


DA Speaks with Samantha Power

This week, members of Democrats Abroad located around the world were joined in a zoom call by former UN Ambassador Samantha Power to discuss the 2020 election. This call with a high-profile former Obama administration official represents an increasing recognition of the importance in American elections of Democrats living outside the United States. Recent events, said the Ambassador, particularly President Trump’s efforts to delegitimize absentee voting, “underscore the urgency...of the efforts you all are making to organize and take nothing for granted.” 

Though the conversation covered a number of important elements of American politics and the upcoming election, the Ambassador focused in particular on the damage done by the Trump administration to international stability and America’s standing in the world:

“The underlying damage, which really affects the US’s ability to get what it wants within the international system is the attack on the kind of countries in which many of you are living, it’s the attack on alliances… it’s the absence of constancy, the absence of faithfulness. You could disagree vehemently with George Bush, but weren’t worried that the Bush administration, for the sake of showing their difference from a prior administration, were going to almost nihilistically rip up everything.”

For Democrats Abroad, the presence of Ambassador Power on the call demonstrates the increasing understanding among Democratic officials of the voter impact and unique set of issues confronting Democrats living outside the United States.  “We're delighted to have had the chance to speak with Ambassador Power,” said Julia Bryan, Chair of Democrats Abroad, "both for her clear insight into where the U.S. stands on worldwide issues that impact our members and for what her presence represents in terms of the growing acknowledgment of the millions of American voters who live outside the country.” 


Ambassadors for Biden Partner with Democrats Abroad to Mobilize the Vote Abroad

Former US Ambassadors Partner with Democrats Abroad to Get Out the Vote from Abroad in 2020 
Innovative voter mobilization effort is geared to reach ~6.5 mil eligible Americans voters living abroad. 

Washington, D.C., July 15, 2020: In an unprecedented outreach to American voters abroad, Ambassador Bruce Heyman, representing Ambassadors for Biden, announced the "American Voters Abroad" program on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today. The program is a first of its kind in support of a US presidential campaign, and is designed to get out the vote to the estimated 6.5 million eligible Americans living outside the US. 

Run by the Ambassadors for Biden coalition and Democrats Abroad, the official Democratic State Party representing Democratic Americans living outside the United States, the project couples the reach and influence of former US Ambassadors with the voter tools, digital outreach, and voting expertise of Democrats Abroad to help Americans living outside the United States know that they can vote, explain how to vote, and above all remind them that their vote counts. Americans abroad are encouraged to use an online tool designed specifically for them, www.votefromabroad.org, to register and request their overseas absentee ballots from their home state.  

Ambassadors for Biden are a group of over 200 diplomats who served abroad, and who are committed to leveraging their knowledge of American organizations abroad and their extensive social networks to help deliver the overseas vote back home. Their voter outreach abroad project is spearheaded by Ambassador Bruce Heyman, US Ambassador to Canada from 2014-17, and his spouse, Vicki Heyman. 

Julia Bryan, Chair of Democrats Abroad, notes, “We are honored to be working with an incredible team of former Ambassadors, led by the Heymans. US Ambassadors and their partners are both influencers and outreach giants in their former host countries. By engaging with Americans abroad, they will make a true impact in helping more Americans vote.” 

Approximately 6.5 million voting-age Americans live abroad, and are eligible to vote where they last resided before moving abroad. In 2016, less than a million successfully returned their ballots. The goal of this initiative is to take advantage of this opportunity and double if not triple that figure in 2020.

Voters abroad have proven to be the margin of victory in several high-profile U.S. elections over the last four years, thanks in part to the voter mobilization efforts of Democrats Abroad. The team plans to ensure those wins continue and expand in number in 2020, helping Joe Biden win the White House and Democrats take control of the Senate. 

Ambassador Heyman states, “Electing VP Joe Biden to President, and Democrats across the ballot are our top priorities, and it’s telling that so many of my fellow former US Ambassadors agree. We need to restore America to its leadership position in world affairs and ensure it is taking the right approach on topics like the climate crisis, health care, education, and the economy. I am pleased to be working on voter outreach to the ~1 million Americans living in Canada, where I served, and to be working with my esteemed colleagues in Democrats Abroad on global get out the vote efforts. As Democrats Abroad says, When Americans abroad vote, Democrats back home win.  Together, we are going to win.“

From now until election day, Ambassadors for Biden and Democrats Abroad will work together to return votes from abroad, with special interest in swing states including Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. “Americans abroad have an incredible amount of clout through their vote,” said DA Chair Bryan, “and all they have to do is engage in the process to make change.” Added Ambassador Heyman: “Votefromabroad.org will be a game changer in this 2020 election, and we want to make sure that all Americans abroad know about it and how to use it.”

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Democrats Abroad is the official organization of the Democratic Party for United States citizens living permanently or temporarily abroad. The organization is given state-level recognition by the Democratic National Committee, with eight positions on the Democratic National Committee, and sends a voting delegation to the Democratic National Convention to help select the Democratic presidential candidate every four years. For more information, visit https://www.democratsabroad.org.