ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
The American election season is in full swing in Turkey, as a Turkish organization of expats urges U.S. citizens to request absentee ballots, while its founder, a six-year Istanbul resident, plans to attend the Democratic National Convention this week in Denver, Colorado.
Founded in 2007, Democrats Abroad, or DA, is one of the newest committees to represent left-leaning U.S. citizens living overseas. Democrats Abroad has formal status with the Democratic Party and is represented by groups in over 100 countries around the world. Chapters of the organization Turkey chapter are located in Ankara and Kadiköy.
“Our goal is to find all of the Americans living abroad in Turkey and get them registered to vote. We don't have a lot of time because in many of the states the deadline is Sept. 4,” said DA Turkey's chairman and founder, Brooks Emerson. One of the primary targets will be university students who are studying abroad in Turkey in the upcoming fall term.
“I'll set up my computer and type their information for them,” he stated. “I'll do anything because it's so important. There are a potential 12,000 votes in Turkey and I think this election could very well be won by absentee ballots.”
Emerson himself avoided registering to vote from abroad during his past six years in Turkey. He will be sending in his first absentee ballot postmarked by Nov. 4 -- a sign of exactly how important he considers this election to be.
Turkey representative in Denver for DNC 2008:
Because the organization is considered a state by the Democratic Party, the DA will be included in the roll call vote at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, or DNC, making an appearance between Delaware and District of Columbia. This status also affords the DA the representation of eight voting members on the Democratic National Committee.
The DNC is held every four years to coincide with the U.S. presidential election. Though in years past the nomination and selection of the presidential and vice presidential candidates have become more of a formality than a surprise, the convention remains an important symbol of party unity and cohesiveness. The convention is also the venue at which the party platform will be officially agreed upon. This year's DNC is hosted in Denver, Colorado.
Two weeks ago, Emerson applied and was selected for an alternate delegate position and is present at the convention.
“My plan for being there is to learn as much as I can. I'm so new to everything.” Though he came into the position with a teacher's background and “no political knowledge,” Emerson is quickly coming up to speed. He cites the strong support network of the DA administration and said attending international DA meetings every few months in Vancouver, Brussels and London has been particularly helpful and educational.
Emerson plans to take detailed notes during the convention to share with members of DA Turkey so they can feel connected to the convention.
Obama: prospects for the future
Concerning the specific political concerns of expatriates, Emerson said: “We're all patriots and we care about the future of our country as much as any American at home, but since we live abroad, we have a closer view to the effects of American foreign policy on our international image. We're on the front lines here.”
Emerson named the war in Iraq as an issue of particular concern to the expatriate community in Turkey. “Most of us that are here are concerned with the war because we border Iraq. Whatever happens over there is going to affect us in some way,” Emerson explained, “We are hypersensitive about that.”
The votes from Democrats Abroad in the recent primary revealed a 70 to 30 percent split in favor of Obama. Emerson commented that Obama represents “a new perspective and a new direction in American economic and foreign policy” in the upcoming election.