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Old 07-22-2007, 07:06 AM   #1
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Democrats in Turkey

their future leader this week. With the U.S. presidential campaign moving full throtle a year ahead of elections, a small band of Democrats in Turkey hope they can make a difference with their vote

ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

With less than a week left for elections in Turkey, citizens of the United States living overseas are also in the midst of early election campaign frenzy back home. Amid both the Turkish and U.S. election campaign this summer, one American in Turkey is trying to mobilize his Democratic compatriots to coalesce as Democrats Abroad Turkey and exercise their right to vote and make a difference.
Brooks Emerson, 46, has been living in Istanbul for four years, and after a 15-year career in English, he is devoted to a new cause. When last December Emerson tried to register on the democrats abroad Web site he noticed there was no Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA) in Turkey. He and a small group of Americans are now trying to establish a Democrats Abroad chapter, in Turkey.

“We are so close, you can't even believe how close we are,” said Emerson, acting chair of the Democrats Abroad in Turkey. On June 16, six Americans from Istanbul met to talk about Democrats Abroad and to plan the steps to becoming an official country committee of the DPCA. In order to establish a committee in any country, 50 people living in that country need to sign up.

Democrats Abroad is treated as a state in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) based in Washington D.C., and holds voting seats. As a matter of fact, Democrats Abroad vote for the presidential candidate at the DNC meeting after Delaware.

“We are a full state party, we just don't have elected officials,” said Sharon Manitta, communications director of the DPCA based in England. “We're as close to a state party organization as you can get.”

The DNC will meet on Aug. 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado to vote for the party candidate in the next presidential election, and eight voting members from Democrats Abroad will participate. The next Democrats Abroad meeting is on Sept. 8 in Oxford, England and Emerson hopes that a country committee will be set up in Turkey by then, just in time to attend the annual international meeting.

The Republicans Abroad currently do not have an official chapter in Turkey, but their offices in D.C. informed the Turkish Daily News that there are some active in the country. Republicans Abroad works more as a grass roots, volunteer mobilized group without as much support from the Republican National Committee.

“Republicans Abroad is an independent organization, not affiliated with the Republican National Committee and whose purpose is to further the interests of the Republican Party and American voters in jurisdictions outside the United States,” Chairman of Republicans Abroad, Europe George Yates, told the TDN.

Bush policies serve as biggest recruiter of Democrats Abroad

The DPCA started in 1964 with the London and Paris branches. But Emerson believes that thanks to Bush policies, since 2000 there has been an explosion of DPCs all over the world. “DPCA's started popping up all over the world. Bush's policies got people really interested in politics back home,” said Emerson.

Before 2000 the DPCA had committees in Canada, South America and Japan, but most of the activity was in Europe.

“It was basically a European organization until Bush came along,” said Manitta. “He was a great recruiter for us. People were outraged by his policies.” Although some of the country committees, like that of Turkey, are at information or start up phases Manitta explained, “We've more than doubled since 2000 in county committees.”

Although it is almost impossible to estimate how many U.S. citizens live overseas, Emerson believes many of them will come out of the woodwork and vote in the presidential elections in 2008. Currently Democrats Abroad has 70 committees around the world, and Republicans Abroad has official committees in a little over 50 countries, according to data on their Web site.

From list to reality

Emerson said many people are concerned about signing up for the Democrats Abroad because of confidentiality. People are afraid someone will see them on a list, he said. The only person who can see the list is the secretary and the chair of the country chapter. “It's so secretive,” said Emerson.

When the list of Americans in Turkey registered on Democrats Abroad reaches 50 members, there will be a meeting in which at least 25 people show up to vote on the bylaws and elect a chair, vice chair and secretary. “As of last week we had 47, but I need living breathing human beings,” said Emerson. “The list needs to reflect actual people in Turkey.”

He explained that he was hoping people would not just sign up to make it happen, but in order to get involved and make a difference. Emerson has sent an email to the list of Americans registered in Turkey and received only seven replies so far.

“I'm sure there are thousands of Americans here,” he said. “For DPCA Turkey, our goal is to find every American in Turkey and register them to vote. When we do, the United States will sit up and pay attention and see how much power we have. I'm really confident of that…that we can make a difference in the election with our votes, because they do count,” said Emerson.


The governing body of Democrats Abroad is the Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA), which oversees Democrats Abroad's activities. To avoid confusion between local committees and the international body, the international body is referred to as the DPCA, but are known collectively as Democrats Abroad by the general public and media.

Voting that transcends party lines

Democrats Abroad internationally set up a Web site for all Americans regardless of political affiliation living overseas in order to help them register to vote. The Web site, which was set up in the summer of 2006 takes its visitors through a two-minute process to get them registered.

“When you live outside the United States it is more difficult because you have to register every time you want to vote,” said Manitta.

As voting is a state run operation, the rules and registration requirements change from state to state. On Americans who wish to vote put in their last U.S. address and the system automatically brings up the questions they have to answer. Manitta cautioned, “You still have to print the form, sign it and post it.”

If after registration voters do not receive their ballot from their state, there is a federal emergency ballot that one can print and sign and send to vote, but it can be used only if citizens have registered first.

“Please register to vote next year. It is so important,” urged Manitta. “I say to any American living abroad: We are the front line. We see how U.S. policies affect the world and can relate that information back to our families and our parties back home.”

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