'Exciting US primaries' boost American voting in Israel

Americans in Israel currently comprise 23 percent of US voter registrations abroad.

voting 88 (photo credit: )
voting 88
(photo credit: )
"My great, great grandfather was born into slavery - I don't take my right to vote lightly," asserted Weldon Turner, a native of New York City who moved to Israel 10 years ago. He's one of thousands of US citizens in Israel expected to cast their absentee ballots in this year's presidential elections. "I consider America the seed of modern democracy. Voting is not only a privilege, it's an obligation. In my opinion if you don't vote you can't have an opinion," said Turner. With sentiment like that, it's not surprising that Americans in Israel currently represent 23 percent of the total completed registrations abroad according to the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF), an international nonpartisan voter services organization for US citizens overseas and members of the uniformed services. Using numbers from the last seven months, Israel came in third behind the United Kingdom with 35 percent and Canada with 25 percent. "In 2004 Israel was not even in the top ten," commented President of OVF, Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat. She said Israel is now consistently in the top ten. The highly contested democratic primaries may be the reason. "Voter registration is up all over because this primary season has been so exciting - I think voter registration in Israel is just part of that national trend," said Becca Linden, a Youth Vote Overseas volunteer. New York state residents topped the list with the most registrations from Israel with nearly 30 percent. California and New Jersey came in a distant second with around 10 percent. It is difficult to determine how these citizens will vote. Those registered express mixed opinions about the future of the election. "When it comes to the president, I think Jews in America and Jews in Israel will be voting almost the same. If you get a president that is good for America you will get a president who is good for Israel," asserted Sheldon Schorer, former chair and current legal counsel for Democrats Abroad in Israel. "Obama's message for change has caught on fire, that is why I think the democrats will win," he said. On the other side of the political aisle, co-chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, Mark Zell, expressed his reservations toward Obama. "I have a strong sense that the American voter, whether he or she is here in Israel or the US, is going to have serious doubts to select Obama as the next president. I think it's big that Hillary won the vote here," he said in reference to Clinton's win in the Democrats Abroad Global Primary in Israel. Michael Mashbaum, program coordinator of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel offered a less polar view. "The people who have been coming to AACI have run the gamut - some people are scared by the frenzy that the Obama campaign has created, while others are not interested in having another Republican in office regardless of who it is," he said. The indecision is especially felt among young voters. "Right now I'm feeling really confused. I'm like half and half. I'm still doing my research," said first time voter, Coral Hartog.