In London, Both Political Parties’ Supporters Work To Turn US Expats Out To Vote

The Cruz-O’Rourke Senate race, and the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings have galvanized voters overseas, just as they have here in Texas.

By Alexander GriffithsOctober 9, 2018 10:00 am, ,

From The BBC:

Tuesday October 9 is the last day to register to vote in Texas if you want to cast a ballot in November. Sen. Ted Cruz appears to be in a tight race to hold onto his seat. Texas has not had a Democratic senator for almost twenty years. This election seems destined to dominate the headlines here for the next month but what about for Texans living abroad? The BBC is the first media organization to see the Democrats Abroad campaign office in London, the only one outside the U.S..

In the Democrats Abroad campaign office, there is a frenzy of activity.

In a windowless room in a basement around a dozen volunteers are making calls in the evening after they finish work. Campaign Office Manager David Letteney is in charge.

“So we’re calling voters in the UK and some people doing overseas as well. It’s registered American voters here in UK that have given us their details,”Letteney says. “So in other words, it’s a warm call. It’s a gentle reminder, ‘Hey, have you requested your absentee ballot?’” 

Next to a flag pinned on the wall is a white markerboard.

“So what are you pointing at here?” a reporter asks.

“I’m pointing at our chart of when registration deadlines are,”Letteney says. “For instance, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, 9 October they have to have the registration in by.”

In the UK, there are some casual stereotypes about Texas: cowboy hats and a slant toward conservative politics.

“With every cliché there’s a little bit of truth. And some of the people I grew up with are people with big hats and frankly people who carry guns,” says another David, originally from Round Rock Texas. He has been living in the UK for 18 years.

“Some of them are the most interested in the O’Rourke campaign and other congressional campaigns,” he says.

But the prospect of Ted Cruz potentially losing his Senate seat has grabbed the attention of some Texans living here in the UK.

“The races in Texas are super exciting. You mention Beto O’Rourke I think he’s on fire right now,” David says.

Rebecca, who lived in Austin before she moved to London, says this election feels different.

“Excited and slightly nauseous,” she says. “I feel like this is the first time since Trump was elected that people have a lot of reason to be really hopeful.”

But obviously it’s not just the Democrats active here in the UK.

In a wood-panelled pub in South London, I met Sarah.

“My name is Sarah Elliott, I’m chair of Republicans Overseas UK,” she says.

Both organizations work to make sure that Americans living here in the UK are aware of their right to vote. While Democrats Abroad is affiliated with the Democratic Party, Republicans Overseas UK are not part of the GOP.

“We try to educate our members and also keep them plugged in to the hot races, and where their vote matters of course,” Elliott says. “But the idea is to make sure they understand that absentee voting is simple and easy, and we help them with that process.”

Much of the coverage of the midterms in the U.S. has focused on the energy on the side of the Democrats. I asked Sarah Elliott from Republicans Overseas if that dynamic was playing out over here in the UK:

“The enthusiasm gap has been a good 12-point spread between Democrats and Republicans with Democrats being very fired up,” she says. “But I think that’s changing as of the last two weeks.”

The Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was carried live here on UK television. Both parties say that issue is energizing their voters just a few weeks from Election Day.

“Voters are getting fired up about it, and again it’s uniting the party, whereas Trump had been divisive in the party. This is an area where we’re like, this is a really good guy who’s been vilified unjustly,” Elliott says.