I was invited to attend a blogger press conference with former White House spokesperson (and fellow Jew) Ari Fleischer, who is on tour with iVoteIsrael (non partisan) and the Republican Jewish Coalition to encourage American citizens living in Israel to participate in Election 2012. And, of course, from Fleischer’s point of view – choose Mitt Romney.
Intrigued, I attended (though I had to leave right after Fleischer’s intro since his entourage was late; they had just landed in Israel with a flight delay, from which he quipped, “This is why I miss Air Force One”).
For the record, I’m not registered with any party in the United States. I prefer to make my election choices based on the leadership qualities of the candidate along with the issues, and that was also before I became an expat. So I’m some kind of independent in the smack-center.
“Living through the drama of the 2000 recount,” Fleischer stressed how important each of our votes can truly be, especially considering it’s been proven in recent elections. He also mentioned that barring one election, since 1992 the number of Jewish voters going Republican has increased. The RJC has a long term strategy to build the Jewish Republican vote.
Democrats and Republicans aside, the former spokesman also stressed that “having been in the White House, I can say how essential it is to have a president who is with Israel from the gut, from the heart.”
And one more thing from Ari: “I’m here because I love Israel. I’m here because Americans who live here need to vote. I’m here because Americans who live here need to vote… for Mitt Romney.” Cute.
Anyway, having missed the Q&A portion of the event, I would like to point out some interesting stats related to how we American expats in Israel vote – or don’t vote – in elections.
One thing that iVoteIsrael reps kept stressing: why should we even bother? Aside from the fact it could make a difference in swing states, the idea they’re running on is that with a strong American expat voice coming from Israel, it offers politicians insight into how much we care and have a vested interest in the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. If 100,000 Americans vote from Israel, it shows we are a force to be reckoned with – to invest in.
The data is based on a survey conducted in March 2012 by iVoteIsrael:
- There are 160,000 eligible American voters in Israel.
- Not surprisingly, New Yorkers account for 40%, with California and New Jersey in second and third place, with just under 10% each.
- It seems that there is a constant 2:1 ratio favoring the Republican presidential candidates; and it was still true for Obama vs McCain in 2008.
- Almost half of those surveyed felt they had the same right and responsibility to vote in the elections as current residents, while 19% had reservations. A quarter felt it wasn’t their right as non-residents, and 18% weren’t sure how to get their ballot.
- Also not a shocker: 65% say Israel-related issues are most important in deciding on elections.
- A third of American voters in Israel are undecided on the 2012 presidential election.
- Of 2008 Obama voters in Israel, 63% plan to re-elect.
Other fun facts:
- Israel is #3 for amount of American expats; Britain is #1.
- If your child is a naturalized American, and needs to put down a state (voting for state and local elections) they can use the last state you, as the parent, lived in. If the parent was also naturalized, they can put the grandparents’ last state. They can also choose between parents’ states if they were different. Good for swing state voters.
- Until this year, absentee voting registration was continuous, but now you have to re-register for the absentee ballot every year.
If you’re an American expat living in Israel, I encourage you to get in touch with iVoteIsrael for help getting your ballot sorted. Again – they are non-partisan and just want to help you get your vote in. And very friendly staff!
If you’re an American expat anywhere, you can check up on your registration at canivote.org.
And if you’re one of the Undecided… I can’t really help you there. You have 118 days left to figure it out, though.