Friday, July 6, 2012

Winning an election vote by vote

When you read about the ridiculous amounts of money being channeled by PACs and billionaires into the 2012 election – all sanctioned by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  How can a candidate without big money ever hope to win an election?

Then I think about Quaide Williams.

Quaide is a U.S. citizen who lives in Germany. Two years ago, Quaide, inspired by Republican Sarah Palin and her campaign bus, started planning a 6-week, trans-Europe voter registration bus tour to register Americans who live in Europe for absentee ballots in the 2012 election.

U.S. citizens who vote from abroad are an overlooked but increasingly important block of voters. In the 2008 U.S. senate race in Minnesota, for example, Al Franken won the seat by 312 votes. This is fewer than the total number of absentee ballots received in Minnesota during that election. And according to an article in The Huffington Post, if the number of U.S. citizens who live aboard were a state, it would be the 18th largest in the U.S.

Although the tour was organized in cooperation with Democrats Abroad, Quaide and his fellow passengers, Americans who live elsewhere in Europe and who join him for a few days at a time, will help register any U.S. citizen who wants to vote regardless of party affiliation. Why?  Probably because they, like me, believe voting is essential for a healthy robust democracy. Of course, they would prefer to register more Democrats than Republicans, but they understand that the act of voting is important in itself.

The bus tour is essentially self-financed, and driver and riders rely on members of Democrats Abroad to house and feed them as they travel from city to city. Last Saturday, following a busy afternoon in Stockholm, Quaide and his “roadies” made a quick stop in Västerås, a city near me. I greeted them with coffee – this is Sweden after all – and a canister of homemade peanut butter cookies while they went into action. We received local media coverage and even registered a couple of voters.  An hour and a half later, at 6:00 PM, Quaide and his team hit the road again for a 5½-hour drive to Oslo. The bus tour will visit 27 cities in 13 countries.

Unless the PACs and deep pocket donors are literally buying votes, it’s still flesh and blood individuals – I can’t say “people” for legal reasons – who will decide this election.  And it’s important to remember that the biggest spender doesn't always win.

How do you counter the influence of big money in an election? Vote by vote, with dedicated volunteers and an occasional homemade cookie.

© 2012 Kvick Thoughts. All rights reserved.

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