Jewish World Review Nov. 9 2000 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WELL what do you know. After all the candidates' panicky peregrinations across the 50 states, the outcome of the mighty US election is probably going to be determined by voters from, of all places, Tokyo, Toronto, and Costa Rica.
The reason for this is America's obscure but powerful constituency, the Expat Bloc. More than six million Americans live overseas, a figure that puts the Expat Bloc's potential clout on a par with, say, the Commonwealth of Virginia. It means that the Expat Bloc is worth ten Alaskas or Vermonts, as well as more than 20-odd other low-population states.
In the case of this year's presidential election, the Expat Bloc may well turn out to be dispositive. Late Tuesday night, the major American television networks declared that Mr Gore owned Florida. This turned out to be a "Dewey Beats Truman"-scale error, because the analysts had failed to take into account overseas mail-in ballots. By early morning, Mr Bush had a lead of 1,000 odd votes, many of which were attributed to expats.
Nor is this the first time the Forgotten Americans have made a difference. In 1996, expat votes put John Fox and Jack Metcalf, two 1996 Republican candidates for Congress, over the line in Pennsylvania and Washington states. Back in 1988, as Republicans fondly recall, Florida's GOP Senate candidate, Connie Mack, pulled the covers over his head on election night thinking he had lost, only to discover come sunny morning that expat votes had made him a victor. Democrats for their part say that their Loretta Sanchez of California ousted Republican Bob Dornan in a tight 1996 California congressional race because of the expat edge.
Precisely what percentage of the overseas six million vote, how they vote, and what share they make up of all absentee voters isn't recorded. (There are also, of course, significant numbers of "domestic" absentee votes, cast by Americans who happen to be working or studying away from their home state during election season).
Individual counties within states, which are responsible for registration, often don't break out or make public such differences. But some counties do collect ballots posted overseas in special piles, and the size of those piles indicates the expat votes make a difference.
We also know that the expat vote is significant because one third of overseas Americans are in the armed forces. And members of the armed forces and their families register and vote far more dependably than their lackadaisical countrymen at home. This is due in part to prodding from Washington's Federal Voting Assistance Programme, which specifically targets servicemen and women overseas. Servicemen and women are also, quite simply, more patriotic.
So what else is there to know about the expats' role in this month's supertight contest? Reached before Tuesday, Thomas W. Fina, executive director of Democrats Abroad (www.democratsabroad.org) said Democrats stateside could expect strong support from fellow countrymen in Canada and Israel, as well as the UK and France. He notes that the Canada office of Democrats Abroad now counts 2000 members, nearly treble what it boasted in the prior presidential round, and adds that expats who live in Canada care a lot about defeating Mr Bush. This makes sense, since high-tax, big government Canada accords more with the Democratic vision of life than the Republican one.
Michael Jones, the executive director of Republicans Abroad (www.RepublicansAbroad.org) says Republican expats won not only the presidency for the GOP, but also, House and Senate. This is hard to verify.
Still, Mr Jones is probably right in saying expats helped the party significantly. This is partly
so because of the military factor. Mr Jones also notes that the demographic profile of US
expats-wealthier and better educated than the average American-generally lines up with the
Republican demographic at home. He reports that 40% of Republicans Abroad registering
this year registered to vote in Florida (Florida residence being highly desirable because
Florida demands no state income tax). This means the fixed-income crowd sunning itself in
Costa Rica could be personally responsible for a new, all-Republican,
JWR contributor Amity Shlaes is a columnist for Financial Times
. Her latest book is
The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It. Send your comments by clicking here.
What's right for America versus what works