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Election 2008

Democrats Abroad Cast a Vote

Bill Radke

Angela Kim

Shirley Shin

Larger view
Meredith Gowan LeGoff
(Didier Le Goff)

Bill Radke: Why this move to Internet voting?

Meredith Gowan LeGoff: Well, it's because Democrats Abroad have members in more than 100 countries, and so we're spread all over the world. And we were really concerned this year about our members being able to get absentee ballots for their state primaries. So we asked ourselves, what is the best way to expand our reach? We decided that online balloting would provide us that, because it allows the Peace Corps volunteer, or whoever still connected only by a computer to the United States, not to be left out in this important decision of who's going to be the Democratic nominee.

Up until 2004, we did caucuses like the Iowa caucus model. But it favored so much people who lived in large urban areas. Paris and London were huge turn-outs, and Tokyo and Hong Kong. But you couldn't do that in smaller country areas, it wouldn't be so exciting. Really and truly, the big concern are the people who are in isolated areas and their only connection is the Internet.

How many people are signing up?

LeGoff: We're having thousands and thousands of them a day. It's just been amazing, the response to this. Everyone is so fascinated by this election and this process, and the Democrats are so fired up. Well, thinking that "I can't get my absentee ballot for a primary," and all of a sudden then they find out about us. So I think they're really excited to be a part of the process, because we actually send delegates to the Denver convention. So they know their vote is going to count in Denver.

How can you be confident that the vote you cast online won't be hacked or lost to a computer error?

LeGoff: Where I grew up, the dead still vote in Louisiana. There are lots of things that could potentially go wrong in any election. This might be a big challenge to a hacker somewhere. We're hoping a hacker might care more about democracy than hacking. But we're not depending on that. We have a lot of processes, and we've also chosen an outside vendor, Everyone Counts, to run the online voting.

The best we can do is the same as New Hampshire or Michigan or anywhere else, and that's to have the members of our list and correspond that to who actually voted. Another important thing to remember is that our ballots are actually public. So you have to give your name and your address, so it's not secret and it's not anonymous. It's probably easier to catch than someone in Mississippi going across to Alabama and trying to vote again.

What are some top election issues for ex-pat voters? I know that's a big group. What are you hearing as big issues?

LeGoff: Obviously since we live abroad, the image of America and foreign policy is something that we're all daily aware of. But the economy, like in the United States as well, is taking precedence as well, like the dropping dollar. A lot of our members who are retirees are paid in dollars. Another thing about why it's so important who the president of the United States is, is because the consequences don't just stop at the border.

Meredith, I meet people who talk about bolting from the U.S., and leaving their American frustrations behind them. Why are you so dedicated to expatriate voting?

LeGoff: No matter where you are, it's your country, and you still love your country. Anyone who thinks that by leaving the U.S., you're leaving it all behind has never lived abroad. As Americans, our right to vote is something that we keep no matter where we are. And to vote and to participate is still our civic duty.

What is the biggest difference between following this campaign from Paris versus from the States?

LeGoff: Well, you know it's funny, because it's been so long since I've been in the States in the heat of a campaign. I think my blood pressure probably doesn't go up as much because I can get a little bit distracted from it, although I go to bed at 10:30 pm and wake up at 2 am to watch the debates.

More stories from our Election 2008 series

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