Ex-pat voters' homeland insecurity

By Mark Follman
Published October 26, 2004 11:11PM (EDT)

People all around the world are riveted on a watershed American presidential race too close to call, and maybe none more so than U.S. citizens living abroad. Reuters reports today that a number of them, discouraged by complicated overseas voting rules and nervous about problems with absentee ballots, are spending substantial time and money to return home to vote.

Of course, there is a bit of partisan sentiment in the mix, too.

"'George W. Bush is not the right man for the job and that's why I'm paying to get on a plane to make sure I get over and vote,' said B. Carter Looney, 39, a U.S. businessman who lives near Frankfurt. 'There's more to the world than just the United States,' said Looney, who will spend 26 hours airborne for just three days in Arizona before returning Tuesday after voting."

Indeed, there seems to be an extraordinary urgency this year for far-flung citizens -- on both sides of America's great political divide.

"George Nascaris, an American pharmaceutical executive living in Berlin, said he will fly to New York City Monday, vote for Bush Tuesday, and then fly back to Germany Wednesday. Nascaris said some are bewildered by his 1,000-euro journey to a state that Bush's Democratic challenger John Kerry is likely to win, but that won't dampen his enthusiasm to vote. 'It's a tight situation and you never know until the polls close,' he said. 'Let the best horse win.'

"Randal Wall, head of voter assistance for Democrats Abroad in Germany, has been bombarded with requests for help from Americans who registered but haven't got absentee ballots: 'Some are frustrated, some are angry, and some break down and cry because they feel so strongly about wanting a chance to vote. I've never seen an election as emotional as this before.'

"In France, U.S. opera singer Alexandra Hughes, 53, said she would make an extra trip from Paris Monday morning to vote in New York for Kerry Tuesday. 'I was incredibly angry that my absentee ballot never arrived in 2000,' said Hughes. 'I want to be sure I'm there. Too many mistakes happen with absentee ballots and we all know what happened in Florida.'"

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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