Six million+ Americans of voting age live abroad. And even though Federal law allows all of us living abroad to vote in Federal elections, most of us do not vote. Yet. That's where Democrats Abroad comes in.
In 1964, a U.S. civilian living overseas had no vote and no voice. So in 1964, two separate bands of concerned Americans form separately in Paris and in London, and Democrats Abroad is born. Still, it takes until 1976 before the first federally mandated overseas absentee ballots were cast.
Today in 2014, 50 years later, the official overseas arm Democratic party now counts members in some 150 countries across the globe who vote in all 50 states. The value of our votes -- once denied, now coveted -- increases exponentially with every skin-of-the-teeth Federal election. And as more and more toss up House and Senate races are decided with fewer and fewer ballots, every vote really DOES count, no matter where it is cast.
With technology comes power -- or at least powerful new tools. In 2006, taking advantage of a ubiquitous Internet, Democrats Abroad launches an English and Spanish language VoteFromAbroad.org to streamline the process of overseas voting. That first 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 & 2012. 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 for Senator Al Franken 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 - and believe me, we will be working hard in 2014 to deliver the votes in close Federal races throughout the 50 states -- let the celebrations commence! Democrats Abroad has been going the distance and making impact for overseas Americans for 50 years.
If you're in Washington week after next come celebrate with us at our 50th Anniversary Gala on March 1 with our very Special Guest Speaker Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). If not, tell your friends and family visiting or living abroad to look us up and meet like-minded folks in our 53 country committees throughout Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and in any of the other additional 100 countries throughout the globe where we have dynamic membership. Democrats Abroad - fifty years old this year and making more impact than ever. Come celebrate with us, and be sure to join the party!