This election season, Democrats Overseas is hosting St Andrews’ first polling place for the Global Presidential Primary. Although the Democratic primary process occurs state-by-state, Americans living abroad are eligible to vote in the Global Presidential Primary. The votes go not to the citizens’ home state, but to a pool of votes from expats from all around the world who are then represented at the Democratic National Convention.
“St Andrews has one of the biggest expat communities in the UK, and we’re taking our voter outreach to the next level by hosting an actual in-person polling place,” said Camilla Duke, President of Democrats Overseas. “I’m so passionate about the importance of organising and talking to voters, and I’m really hopeful about the impact we can have on voting from abroad.”
The Global Presidential Primary will occur in St Andrews on Super Tuesday, the election day in the US in which the greatest number of states hold presidential primary elections and caucuses. In the lead up to 3 March, Democrats Overseas is working hard to get American expats in St Andrews out to vote through a series of events.
On 14 February, Democrats Overseas and Students for Bernie St Andrews jointly hosted an event with Larry Sanders, the older brother of the U.S. Senator from Vermont and two-time Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders. Mr Sanders emigrated to the UK in the 1960s and is an academic, social worker, and politician who is currently serving as the health spokesman for the Green Party of England and Wales.
In a conversation covering politics on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr Sanders sat down with Dr Jeffrey Murer, senior lecturer in the School of International Relations. This election cycle, Mr Sanders has made appearances at multiple events in Scotland in support of his brother, who he refers to as Bernard.
Mr Sanders was last in St Andrews in 2016 when he spoke at another Students for Bernie event and sat down with The Saint. The discussion covered Mr Sanders’ own political experience and the most pressing issues facing the world today, with emphasis on the climate crisis and the push for Medicare-for-All in the United States. He also spoke about the current political climate in the UK given Brexit and the recent Conservative victory. “In some ways, depending on how this election goes, there’s more hope in America than in this country,” Mr Sanders said. Given the state of the Labour Party and the slow growth of the Green Party, Mr Sanders said he is looking to his brother’s candidacy as a source of hope.
In a lengthy question and answer session with members of the audience, queries largely focused on Bernie Sanders’s policies and ranged from the climate crisis to healthcare and the management of the DNC. Many audience members asked specific questions about Bernie Sanders’proposed plans, and Mr Sanders was upfront with the audience when he felt he could not speak confidently enough on behalf of his brother’s campaign. At one point, when asked about family childhood memories, Mr Sanders told a story about forgetting to take his younger brother home from school and turning around when he was halfway home in order to return to school and pick up a crying six-year-old Bernie.
The Saint asked members of Democrats Overseas St Andrews what the process of establishing a polling station for the presidential primary was like. When asked about specific requirements that needed to be met in order to set up the polling station in St Andrews, Vice President of Democrats Overseas, Ian Doty, mentioned that the process is based on engagement rather than a specific percentage of expats. Mr Doty elaborated on the St Andrews society’s success with expat engagement in recent years, commenting “Over the past four years, Democrats Overseas St Andrews has been incredibly active in the UK. We’ve helped set up Democrats Overseas Edinburgh and we’ve been on Democrats Abroad’s radar for some time.”
When asked what he believed the reason for St Andrews’ participation was, Mr Doty commented, “I think the catalyst was when I became Vice President of Democrats Abroad Scotland and began working with DA Scotland to get a polling place.”
Despite this, Mr Doty commended the efforts of Ms Duke, claiming “[Ms Duke] has done a fantastic job this year, and really laid the groundwork for a successful grassroots organising operation.“Democrats Abroad UK (DAUK) has always praised us for how man yvoters we register every year and after a great voter registration campaign during Fresher’s Week, I believe conversations about a polling place were seriously solidified.”
As the election season ramps up into full swing, Democrats Overseas will continue to build excitement about voting in the primaries with a mock caucus on 25 February at Brew Co North Street so students in St Andrews can learn more about the caucus process. On 3 March, American citizens can vote in the Global Presidential Primary from 10am to 6pm at the Union. In order to be eligible to vote, Americans must be registered as a democrat living abroad, but same-day registration will be available.