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Democrats Abroad: 45 Years and Just Hitting Our Stride

1964. President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize. And, the Beatles cross the Atlantic. Meanwhile, back in Europe, local American communities are struggling for rights of their own.

Back then, a U.S. civilian living overseas has no vote and no voice. So in 1964, two separate bands of concerned Americans form in synchrony in Paris and in London. Democrats Abroad is born. Still, it takes until 1976 before the first federally mandated overseas absentee ballots are cast.

Forty-five years later, the overseas Democratic party now counts members in some 160 countries across the globe. The value of these votes -- once denied, now coveted -- increases exponentially with every skin-of-the-teeth election. Each Al Franken victory equals countless epiphanies: Every vote really DOES count, no matter where it is cast.

With technology comes power -- or at least powerful new tools. In 2006, Democrats Abroad launches VoteFromAbroad.org to streamline the process of overseas voting. That year, our ballots deliver the 0.3% margin for Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. Webb's ultimate success, not confirmed until two days after the polls close, gives Democrats our 50th seat and control of the Senate.

In 2008, Democrats Abroad takes unprecedented steps to facilitate voting by overseas Americans. The party holds a first-ever online Global Primary with quick and secure voting everywhere from Antarctica to Zambia. Participation tops that of nominating contests in several states.

With unprecedented global interest in our candidate, general election ballots pour in from Americans abroad in 2008. They put Senator Begich over the top in Alaska and President Obama in North Carolina. And, of course, there are our little-ballots-that-can which finally cross the finish line in Minnesota.

But, despite noble innovations, the process of requesting and casting an absentee ballot overseas remains byzantine. Additional legislation to streamline the process awaits consideration in Congress, championed by the likes of Reps. Honda (D-CA) and Maloney (D-NY).

So, while our hard work continues -- let the celebrations commence! Democrats Abroad has been going the distance for overseas Americans for 45 years. We kicked off our anniversary party in Paris on October 4. From there, the party spreads around the globe, from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, Stockholm to Sao Paulo. It all culminates in London on the one-year anniversary of President Obama's election, November 4.

If you're living or traveling outside the States this month, be sure to touch down at Democrats Abroad -- and be sure to join the party!

Thanks to International Vice Chair, and Love Exile Robbie Checkoway for this article.