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U.S. Democrats abroad vote with yearning for change

BERLIN/BUENOS AIRES - The chance to elect the first woman or African-American president fired the enthusiasm of U.S. expatriates voting in "Super Tuesday" Democratic primaries where they are choosing their own delegates for the first time.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton attends her "Super Tuesday" primary election night rally in New York, February 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Democrats abroad can vote online through Feb. 12, and 22 delegates representing them will go to the August convention in Denver where more than 4,000 delegates will chose the party's presidential candidate to contest the Republican nominee in the November election.

Back home, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton split victories in the 22 states holding Democratic nominating on "Super Tuesday." The biggest prize of the day was California with 441 delegates to the convention.

"We'll send 22 delegates to Denver, and in a race this close who knows? Maybe our vote could tip it," said Mike Sokwronek, chairman of Democrats Abroad in Argentina, at a packed Super Tuesday gathering in Buenos Aires where people voted at laptops.

Sokwronek said Democrats can decide whether to vote by absentee ballot in their home states, as in past primaries, or online through Democrats Abroad in a process seen as a test for electronic balloting.

"This is the first time in history there is a primary like this. I wanted to show that Americans abroad have a voice," said Nicola Stewart, a 33-year-old genetic counselor who voted online at the Buenos Aires gathering.

Some Democrats in Buenos Aires said they made a strategic decision to cast a vote with more impact through Democrats Abroad, where there are fewer voters per delegate than in the primary in their home state.


Many Democrats who gathered in Europe on "Super Tuesday," said they are keen to see the end of the Bush era.

"It would be nice to be able to say 'I'm an American' again without having to apologize for our president," said Patrick Forster, 27, a Coloradan who lives in Berlin and was one of scores at a packed Democrats Abroad gathering in a pub.

"I know people who've left America because they were so disgusted with (President George W. Bush)," said Nancy Fayram, 58, a teacher from Seattle. "I've waited my whole life to see an African-American or woman president. Now I can take either one."

Organizers of primary meetings in Europe said they hoped to motivate more expatriates to vote in November when the United States elects a successor to Bush.

"I'd say this is the most important election we've had since World War Two," said Charles McDaniel, 50, a teacher from Houston living in Berlin. "Even if they paved the Iraqi streets with gold tomorrow, it wouldn't rescue Bush's legacy."

Across the city, a group of Republican expatriates met in more low-key fashion in a restaurant to follow the primaries but without casting ballots. They debated the merits and chances of John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.


In London, hundreds of Americans gathered in a party atmosphere at an ornate hall to vote at a Democratic get-together. Home-baked cookies with pictures of Obama or Clinton were on sale for a pound ($2).

There were big gold balloons with "HILLARY" on them, and a hand-painted poster showed Obama's name superimposed on the London Underground's logo.

"I'm tired of apologizing for being an American," said Walter Zwick, who has lived in Britain for 32 years.

He said he was voting for Obama to "try and take steps to bring America's reputation in the world back up to what it was before the current administration came in."

In Paris, expatriates crowded into the basement of a church to cast ballots at another Democratic gathering.

Steve Muse said he felt moved to vote on behalf of French people eager for change in Washington.

"I think Europeans would love to vote in this election. I'm going to vote for them," said Muse.

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