Mar 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Democrats abroad overcome obstacles to conclude primary

The polling station in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday. Photo: Rebecca Falconer/Axios

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The Democrats Abroad primary ended early Wednesday Eastern Time following tense rounds of voting worldwide caused by closed precincts, digital ballots and the novel coronavirus.

How it works: United States citizens living abroad who register as Democrats vote via precincts around the globe. This year's voting took place from March 3-10, but organizers say results will not be announced until March 23 due to a high volume of mail-in ballots. There are 13 pledged delegates at stake.

Of note: Two 2020 contenders dropped out during the Democrats abroad voting window: billionaire Michael Bloomberg on March 4, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on March 5.

The big picture: Collecting votes from Americans living abroad is already a complex process, but recent events compounded the challenges.

  • The novel coronavirus made voting in person harder for Democrats in some countries. American citizens living in Cambodia and South Korea were told they had to vote online because of outbreaks there, per Time Magazine.
  • A nationwide lockdown in Italy, where the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surged, limited Americans' ability to reach polling facilities.
  • Democrats abroad in China also faced closed facilities. Usually, voters could cast mail-in ballots, but fears of packages being stopped caused organizers to urge citizens to submit their votes through an email system.

Election security: Digital voting can pose concerns over election security, but Democrats Abroad New Zealand Chairman Mike Haught said they have a robust system in place.

  • "We've been working with remote balloting and remote systems for quite a long time. We have a system that's evolved the last few elections," he said.
  • "You can vote online, but we have a paper trail; we make sure everything is checked. We've got plenty of people on hand to keep an eye on the ballot box so it's not unattended."

Why it matters: Per Democrats Abroad New Zealand Vice Chairwoman Genice Paullay-Beazley: "We do have certain issues that are very exclusive to people living abroad, but we're still Americans and because we have a citizen-based tax system. I don't agree with that, but while we do, it's even more important that ... our individual and our expressive needs are heard."

Go deeper: In photos: American expats cast their Democratic primary ballots in New Zealand

Go deeper

In photos: American expats cast their Democratic primary ballots in New Zealand

Mexicali Fresh owner Cindy Buell at her Auckland Waterfront restaurant, the polling station for the Democrats Abroad New Zealand presidential primary, on Saturday. All photos: Rebecca Falconer/Axios

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The Auckland Waterfront restaurant Mexicali Fresh was transformed into a polling station Saturday, as Americans voted on a warm, sunny fall day in the global Democratic presidential primary.

Why it matters: Democrats Abroad New Zealand chair Mike Haught told Axios it's important for Americans outside the United States to stay connected and have a voice, especially as they must comply with a U.S. citizen-based tax system. "There are 9 million–11 million of us overseas, and if you put us together in a group, we're basically a state that's about the size of Virginia," he said. There are some 21,000 Americans in New Zealand.

Coronavirus crisis forces states to prioritize mail-in ballots

Some voters wore gloves to cast early ballots Saturday in Chicago. Photo: Noreen Nasir/AP

Mail-in ballots are becoming states' saving grace for their 2020 primary contests as the coronavirus crisis deepens in the U.S.

Why it matters: Amid CDC guidance that gatherings shouldn't exceed 50 people, the states voting today — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — all have multiple confirmed cases of the illness and are pushing citizens to consider their mail-in options.

Bernie Sanders wins Democrats Abroad primary

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders has won nine delegates after securing a victory in the Democrats Abroad primary, the Democratic Party's international arm announced Monday.

The state of play: Sanders got 57.9% of the vote compared to former Vice President Joe Biden, who got 22.7% and four delegates. This years' primary saw the group's highest turnout with 39,984 voters in 180 countries taking part, up more than 15% from 2016.

  • 5,689 voted in the U.K., which had the highest turnout. Germany and Canada followed, with 5,268 and 4,691 voters, respectively.

Go deeper: Democrats abroad overcome obstacles to conclude primary