'It's now or never': Democrats Abroad Germany on how to cast (and follow up with) a ballot
With only five weeks leading up to the presidential elections in the US, there’s a lot of tensions on both sides of the Atlantic. For Americans in Germany, Diego Rivas of Democrats Abroad Berlin laid out how to cast - and follow up - with a ballot if you haven’t voted yet.
A Bernie Sanders Delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Rivas was a longtime supporter of the former presidential nominee.
He still is -- which is why the California native is encouraging Americans in Germany to cast their ballots (if they haven’t done so already) as soon as possible for Democratic candidate Joe Biden ahead of the November 3rd US presidential elections.
“Like Bernie himself said, what we're doing now is a type of coalition politics,” Rivas, chair of Democrats Abroad Berlin, said at Cookies and Cream, an American cafe in the centre of the city where the group has hosted several events.
“And I think it's a really powerful movement. Of course it's a really wide, big tent right now. You know, everyone from the left of Bernie to Republicans. But at the same time the shared value of wanting Trump out of office is something worth fighting for.”
Requesting a ballot
Rivas encouraged voters to visit the website votefromabroad.org, and request a ballot if they haven’t done so yet.
There are 30 states in which permanent residents have to send a ballot through postal mail, including more populous ones such as New York, whereas the other 20 allow a ballot to be sent via email or fax.
“Our message is, as soon as you get your ballot, vote,” said Rivas, who has lived in the German capital since 2013. “Now is the time to do it.”
There are about 2.9 million Americans eligible to vote abroad, according to estimates from the Federal Voting Assistance Program, but their turnout has previously been low.
In the 2016 presidential elections, only seven percent of eligible voters abroad cast a ballot, compared to about 60 percent in the US.
That’s why Democrats Abroad, and its Germany chapters, are pushing especially hard to rally together voters to cast their ballots.
We’re here at Cookies and Cream in Prenzlauer Berg (Kremmener Str 8 Berlin 10435) to help with any voting questions you have. If you need to register, need help accessing or submitting your ballot, or need to fill out a FWAB, we’ve got you covered! And the coffee here is great. pic.twitter.com/Ak0qEX4v0t— Democrats Abroad Berlin (@DemsinBerlin) September 29, 2020
Democrats Abroad encompasses 45 countries, and hit the 15,000 member mark across Germany in September. There are 15 chapters, and Berlin one of them, carrying a third of all members.
In light of the coronavirus crisis, the group has been organising several phone banking campaigns, guiding voters through the process with online live assistance, and simply letting go of political tensions through virtual 'Pub Quiz' nights.
Yet it’s also been making a push to safely organise members with in-person weekly office hours throughout Berlin, and weekly Stammisch meetings. A full list of events is available on their website.
“We're at the point where we're following the public health guidelines, and also we're it's now or never, we really need to mobilise,” said Rivas.
Establishing a paper trail
Rivas recommended that voters go beyond just submitting a ballot, and hoping that it reaches their local election office on time.
“I think what everyone should be doing is establishing a contact with their local election office. And you can also just write them and say, "Hey, did you receive my ballot?" said Rivas.
“What's so good about that is that you can also have a paper trail. And we need to document as much as possible."
Rivas also encouraged voters to focus on the FWAB, the federal-write absentee ballot, otherwise known as a Backup Ballot.
Voters can mail the FWAB prior or in addition to their regular ballot in case something happens to one of their ballots in the mail.
“If your office gets your normal ballot, they’ll disregard your FWAB and take only the normal ballot,” said Rivas.
“So kind of a precautionary step to take, but we’re recommending that everyone do that now" if they need to mail in a ballot.
Whether Joe Biden was their top choice or not, Rivas had a message for all other Democrats abroad.
"We're not even passively voting for Biden/Harris, but really with pride. We're taking a stand and saying, this is a different ticket than Trump and a better ticket at that."