Irish voters hope to swing US election

Irish Democrats have signed up hundreds of postal voters in a bid to win the US presidential election for John Kerry.

Irish Democrats have signed up hundreds of postal voters in a bid to win the US presidential election for John Kerry.

There are an estimated 40,000 American passport holders in Ireland and all are entitled to send absentee ballots to their states for the November election.

Democrats Abroad Ireland chairwoman Rebecca Woolf said: “We’re looking to get more numbers because in the closest states such as New Mexico and Florida, a few hundred votes from us would certainly tip the balance.”

In the 2000 election, George Bush won the state of Florida by just 537 votes.

Ms Woolf said: “A lot of Americans in Ireland are saying to us ‘I didn’t vote the last time and look what happened’.”

The absentee ballots must be received in the US by October 2.

The US citizens who have signed up so far include people who have retired to Ireland, employees of American multi-nationals and the children of Irish-American parents.

“A lot of those people would not consider themselves American but they do have US citizenship. People who were born in the US but who moved back here when they were very young. We‘ve registered a few of those.”

However, the effect of the registrations may be tempered by the fact that most of the voters are not from swing states but from the traditional Democrat states of Massachusetts and New York.

Over a hundred years earlier, it was the Irish who used voter registration to build political power in America, with the help of some dubious practices such as ‘vote early, vote often’. “The Irish gave politics to Boston and Chicago,” said Ms Woolf.

Democrats Abroad Ireland set up their stand every Thursday night in the mezzanine area of the Irish Film Institute‘s restaurant in Templebar, Dublin. Ms Woolf is also planning a tour to Galway, Kilkenny and Donegal in September in a final push for votes.

One of the most recent to register with Democrats Abroad Ireland is Paku Khan, a lawyer from Nashville, Tennessee who is working with the Competition Authority in Dublin.

“I had been wanting to come out here but I got married in June so I was a little busy,” said Mr Khan.

“I think it looks very good for John Kerry. Some of my friends back home who are connected to the political grapevine tell me that some of the "swing states" are not so swing – they‘re a little more to Kerry than people would believe.”

Ms Woolf is even more enthusiastic about the Massachusetts senator, who she met at a Fourth of July party when she was 10 years old.

“He got up on the picnic table and addressed the crowd. He‘s a perfectly humane, warm person.”

She too believes that Kerry can win, despite the reservations expressed about his perceived lack of charisma.

“It might just be the way he photographs because he‘s very serious at times and he uses big words – but I think it‘s good to have a President with a vocabulary.”

The Republican Party, which has a branch to recruit American voters in Ireland, is generally believed the benefit more from the seven million US citizens living abroad because many of them are in the armed forces.

But Ms Woof claimed many soldiers were Republicans in name only, who wore the party badge to further their military career.

“When you look at who makes up the US military, it‘s poor people, it‘s black people, it‘s Hispanic people. And those are Democratic voters. We reckon that at least two thirds of the overseas vote is Democratic."

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