[The Times, U.K.]


Die Tageszeitung, Germany

In Berlin, Republicans are Scarce; Americans are Voting Democratic


"The only Republican present goes by the name of Jan Burdinski. The 39-year-old is the programming director of Republicans Abroad Germany - and he's a German."


By Jenny Marrenbach


Translated By Ulf Behncke


October 28, 2008


Germany - Die Tageszeitung - Original Article (German)

It's the final effort before the presidential elections in the United States. Once again, Democrats Abroad , the Berlin branch of the Democratic Party of America, are unpacking their flyers. And once again, American Voices Abroad , an affiliate of the Democrats, has again set up an information stand for voter registration. On the sidelines of a series of lectures and events entitled How Will America Vote at the Amerikahaus near Zoologischer Garten station, the group made their presence felt one last time before the presidential elections on the 4th.


According to the [German] Federal Statistical Office, approximately 100,000 Americans are registered in Germany, about 12,500 of them in Berlin. But according to estimates by Michael Stelzer, chairman of Democrats Abroad, chances are that an additional 8,000 or so voters may added because, because there are many Americans who hold dual citizenship or are in the country on a student visa that aren't accounted for by German statistics.



That doesn't mean that the estimated 20,000 Americans in Berlin can simply choose between Barack Obama and John McCain. Each and every one of them must first have registered with the election office of the state in which they last resided. That would also be the state in which their votes will be counted. "In swing states such as Florida, these votes from abroad could be critical" says Stelzer. Swing states are those in which the election results are on the edge of a precipice.


The battle for absentee votes, which is how Americans living abroad are officially classified, began for the Democrats Abroad Berlin at the beginning of the year. In very American fashion, Americans in Berlin were telephoned and invited to vote. However, none of the 1,200 members of the Berlin Democrats have been overworked. "Whenever an American over here casts a vote, itís almost always for the Democrats," remarks Jerry Gerber, spokesman for Democrats Abroad Berlin. This is more about mobilizing the non-voter.


"This year we had over 700 voter registrations, 300 of them the day Obama was in Berlin," says Alan Benson, who is responsible for appealing to willing voters in Berlin. Compared to previous elections, that's a lot. Benson now advises those who decided to vote at the last minute or those experiencing difficulties with the paperwork. Benson wears a homemade T-shirt over his shirt. It shows a slightly pudgy Uncle Sam that says, "I Want You Ö to Vote Absentee."


For Elsa Rassbach, Benson's table is a welcome lifesaver. "My postal ballot still hasn't been sent" explains the filmmaker from Colorado. Thereís little time left for extensive correspondence. So Benson hands over the "write-in ballot form," a kind of last-minute form for entering your personal details and your preferred presidential candidate. Whether the vote gets counted is now in the hands of the trans-Atlantic mails.


In the foyer of Amerikahaus, wine and pretzel sticks are being served. Americans living in Berlin are apparently unimpressed by junk food and Budweiser. "They're more cosmopolitan here," is how Alan Benson describes Berlin-Americans. Many are involved in the arts and music scene.




That includes Madeleine Coffaro and Kitty Ruderman. The two have been living in Berlin for many years. "Working conditions here are much better for us," says Coffaro, the artist from the land of supposedly limitless opportunity. "I hope and pray every day that Obama makes it," says Ruderman and adds, "We need this change." But they fear the worst: There are too many racists among Americans. Except in Berlin. And here, say Coffaro and Ruderman, they don't even know of a single Republican.


And at the Amerikahaus this evening, that isn't likely to change. The only Republican present goes by the name of Jan Burdinski. The 39-year-old is the programming director of Republicans Abroad Germany - and he's a German. Approximately 80 percent of its members in Berlin are, says Burdinski. He has always loved American Republican values. His business card reads: "Strong Defense - Low Taxes - Individual Freedom." On the lapel of his pinstripe suit, he wears the inevitable McCain-Palin button. Underneath his sleeve he wears a plastic wristband with the inscription "Donít Tax Me, Bro."


There are no other activities planned before the election, says Republican Burdinski. He states honestly that there havenít really been any to speak of. The 50-member-strong association lacks staffing and a telephone database, unlike the Democrats. "Weíre rather active in areas like Kaiserslautern and Rammstein with their American Army bases," Burdinski explains.




For Alan Benson, however, Berlin counts. He was able to hand out six "write-in ballot forms" to "Absentees" during the evening. That ends the election campaign for the Berlin Americans. One of Bensonís female staff members delivers some flyers hot off the press for the Democrats' election night party. They'll be serving American food and playing American music until the early morning - and of course, the election result. Benson is optimistic that there will be reason to celebrate.

















































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US October 31, 9:35pm]