Democrats Abroad brings the U.S. presidential primary to Vancouver

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      As the American presidential race heats up, next week’s Super Tuesday primaries (March 1) are poised to play a pivotal role in selecting the next leader of the United States.

      With about 162,000 Americans living in B.C and the Yukon (and estimates ranging as high as 40,000 for the Lower Mainland), local U.S voters are beginning to feel the excitement—and importance—of casting a ballot.

      “We’ve grown by 10 percent since January of this year,” says Maureen Harwood, chair of Democrats Abroad Vancouver, which advocates for expatriate Americans and provides absentee ballots. “We have two great candidates this year, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and membership is just pouring in."

      In all, there will be 24 state primaries and caucuses held on March 1, with 865 pledged delegates for Democratic candidates, and 595 for Republicans—just the sort of bonanza that can change the course of the election.

      In addition to the state primaries, Democrats Abroad will be holding its own global presidential primary from March 1 to 8, to allot the 17 delegates it will be sending to this year’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Here in Vancouver, the local arm of the organization will provide opportunities for eligible American Democrats to vote, and have their vote counted in a more meaningful way.

      “Democrats Abroad votes are weighted higher than the state votes because we’re a smaller group,” says Harwood. “In 2008, it took in every state 6 to 10 times as many voters to elect one delegate as it took in the DA global primary. In that year, a global primary vote was equal to 6 to 10 votes.”

      Despite all the doom and gloom thrown around during this campaign season, it’s clear that Harwood remains optimistic about the state of the United States.

      “Under President Obama, unemployment has been cut from 10 to 5 percent. We’ve had 66 to 70—depending on who you talk to—straight months of private-sector job growth, creating over 14 million new jobs. The deficit has been cut from 9.8 percent to less than 3 percent [of gross domestic product]. Eighteen million more Americans now have health care coverage and no one can be turned away for pre-existing conditions. Even auto sales are higher than they were in 2001. Those are all good economic numbers.”

      Still, maintaining those gains, she notes, requires getting out the vote.

      “We will have three voting centers in the Lower Mainland,” says Harwood, “you can vote in person and we’ll help you out, just bring your U.S. passport. All you have to do is be at least 18 years old, and a member of Democrats Abroad. If you’re not a member, you can sign up at the voting center. And if you can’t show up in person, you can also go on-line and download the ballot.”

      For local American Democrats looking to vote in person in the Global Presidential Primary, Democrats Abroad Vancouver will have voting centres at the following locations:

      Tuesday (March 1), 6-8pm: Cedar Cottage Pub, 3728 Clark Drive, Vancouver

      Tuesday (March 1), 6-8pm: Sammy J. Pepper’s, 15770 Croydon Drive, Surrey

      Saturday (March 5), 1-5pm:The Wolf and Hound, 3617 West Broadway, Vancouver