Some 120,000 U.S. citizens live in Germany. This number does not include the 38,000 American soldiers who are stationed here. The organization Democrats Abroad wants U.S. expats to vote in the mid-term elections in November. Kaitlyn Kennedy from Texas is an active member.
Berlin, October 4th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — Kaitlyn Kennedy, one of Germany’s 120,000 American expatriates, lives in Leipzig with her husband who is a U.S. citizen as well. She is one of the most active members of Democrats Abroad in Germany. According to her, the organization has some 15,000 members in the Federal Republic. Reaching them, but also getting in touch with as many other Americans as possible and motivating them to vote in the upcoming midterm elections in the United States of America are the priorities.
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Sizable Voting Bloc
“There are many potential voters in Germany who might not already be part of the organization”, Kaitlyn Kennedy says. “It is a sizable voting bloc.” The organization thinks of everything, including the soldiers at Ramstein Air Force Base and elsewhere in Germany. “Democrats Abroad Germany has a caucus for military families”, Mrs. Kennedy says. “This is also a specific group of people that we do try to reach out to.”
Obviously, Democrats Abroad are hoping their party will defend the House of Representatives and improve the situation in the Senate on November 8th, 2022. Still, the main message they spread simply is “Vote!”. “We really encourage everyone to vote. We want to make sure everyone has the ability to cast their ballot”, Kaitlyn Kennedy states.
In order to reach American expatriates, Democrats Abroad uses different channels. Communicating with members is the easy part. They receive messages by e-mail and phone calls. According to Kaitlyn Kennedy, conversations can be more effective “because people get a bunch of e-mails every day.” The closer the midterm elections are, the more online ads are being placed. If you are an American expat in Germany who has a Facebook account, chances are you will see advertising by Democrats Abroad. Donations cover the costs.
Kaitlyn Kennedy and her colleagues are busy. “It is a lot of work. We have a lot of dedicated volunteers who help every single day.” Not all Americans who live abroad know they have the right to vote, including U.S. citizens who have never lived in the United States. “This is a federally guaranteed right. So, what we really encourage people to do is to go to the non-partisan service votefromabroad.org. It contains all the voter information that you need, specifically based on the state that you vote in.”
“I vote in Texas”, Kaitlyn Kennedy explains. “So, I can go and see what the deadlines are. When do I need to submit my voter registration form? When do I need to request my absentee ballot? It is different for every state.” Those forms can be filled out on the portal. “It kind of helps take care of everything for you. It’s really easy to use. It’s a great service.” Whether the voting itself takes place online or on paper depends on the states the voters are from.
As a Texan, Kaitlyn Kennedy will receive her ballot by e-mail, but she has to return it by physical mail. “This can be tricky. Sometimes mail takes longer to arrive, which is why we encourage everyone to get things taken care of early, especially if you are from one of those states that require you to return your ballot by mail.”
Values and Issues
Kaitlyn Kennedy concedes that the requirements in some states are weird. “In Republican-controlled states, it is typically harder to vote because it is not necessarily in the Republicans’ interest to get more people voting. That is why it is really important that we do vote so we can get Democrats in office who will do more to make it easier for people to participate.”
Asked how she handles die-hard Trump fans who keep on believing his lie of a stolen election, she says “I am lucky because I don’t know anyone who really thinks like this, even at home. This is something I am more exposed to on the Internet.” Kaitlyn Kennedy states she does not interact with people of this kind directly. “But when I am confronted by people who perhaps have more conservative ideas, I just try to focus on values and on the issues.”
Cult of Personality
She avoids “bringing specific people into the question because there is a cult of personality around them. Sometimes, when you can get away from talking about a political party or figure, you can reach a certain level of understanding.” Obviously, Kaitlyn Kennedy of Democrats Abroad is being diploamtic. She knows she has to. She also knows having more voters will likely help the Democrats more than the Republicans.
All elections are important, in all democratic countries, including the U.S.. But especially now that a former President who attacked democracy and even staged a coup might become its party’s candidate again, in less than two years from now, the importance of the upcoming midterm elections should not be underestimated. Obviously, Kaitlyn Kennedy, a very active U.S. expat in Germany, knows that getting the message across and helping expats vote is more important than ever.