Democrats Abroad Ireland hosted almost 140 US citizens in the Arlington Hotel in Dublin yesterday who were able to vote as part of the presidential primary elections.
Rea, who is originally from Texas and has been living in Ireland for four-and-a-half years, proudly cast her vote for Bernie Sanders. “I am delighted that I get a chance to have my say”, she said. “I was unaware that I could even vote until a friend told me today”.
Kelly Mahoney is the Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad Ireland. She spoke to TheCity about this year’s campaign. “We have over 1,300 members here in Ireland and we are hoping for a 60 per cent turnout in voters”, she said. She also stated that membership of Democrats abroad had increased by over 200 people in the past month and said that Bernie Sanders’ campaign has a lot to do with this sudden increase.
“Sanders appeals to people who are frustrated with establishment and stalemate politics and want to see a change”, she said.
As eleven states in the US raised their hands and cast their votes yesterday for ‘Super Tuesday’ – the biggest date in the primary campaign – American citizens abroad have a chance to have their say over the week of 1-8 March.
However, it is only those wishing to vote Democrat who have this opportunity. The Republican party does not give their party affiliates living overseas a chance to vote.
Democrats Abroad are given state-recognition during the primaries and are assigned 17 delegate votes – 13 pledged delegates and 4 superdelegates.,
Voters must register with Democrats Abroad before casting their ballot and can do so in person at the polling station or online. Registered voters are then able to vote via email, post, fax or drop their votes into the ballot box at their local polling station.
Ms. Mahoney told TheCity that one of the biggest issues for many voters living overseas concern the laws that are currently in place to prevent tax evasion through hiding money in foreign bank accounts. These regulations pose an unwanted burden on legitimate ex-pats.
US citizens living abroad must file yearly tax returns to the IRS on their non-US financial accounts. The law also allows the IRS to search through a bank’s customer database to identify possible tax evaders.
“In certain countries, banks are not letting US citizens open accounts due to the increased administration involved”, Ms Mahoney explained. “This can prevent people from securing jobs in foreign countries. Pensioners who have retired abroad also feel the inequality of these laws.”
Both Clinton and Sanders are aware of the impact of these laws and have promised to work with Democrats Abroad on reforming these regulations.
As voting finished at 8pm, TJ Mulloy – chairperson of Democrats Abroad Ireland – announced that Sanders had won with 98 votes to Clinton’s 37. US citizens in the west of the country will have their chance to vote on Saturday in Monroe’s Tavern in Galway.
As the somewhat unpredictable campaign trail makes its way across the US, it is of some comfort to those who voted from overseas to know that they have been able – to some extent – to have their voice heard.
By AOIFE GALLAGHER
Photo: Aoife Gallagher