US Democrats bring expat conference to Edinburgh

Hillary Clinton is among those vying for the Democratic nomination. Picture: Getty
Hillary Clinton is among those vying for the Democratic nomination. Picture: Getty
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EXPAT American Democrats from Europe, the Middle East and Africa are to gather in Edinburgh next month to discuss mobilising overseas members to vote in next year’s US presidential election.

The conference, which will focus on “grassroots mobilisation” of Americans living overseas to ensure they vote in the election, will take place from 12-15 November – a year ahead of the US presidential poll which will see Democrat president Barack Obama step down after two terms in office.

The vote, on 8 November next year, is expected to be close-run, with Democrats fighting to retain the presidency after six years under Obama.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is also scheduled to address delegates at a conference dinner at the Caledonia Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Princes Street.

The conference, which is expected to see more than 100 Democrats flock to the capital from countries all over Europe, will take place at Our Dynamic Earth.

Dennis Desmond, vice-­chairman of Democrats Abroad Scotland, said that the overseas vote could be key to the Democratic candidate securing a victory in next year’s election.

He said: “If an election in a certain state comes down to a few hundred votes, the absentee vote is very important.

“Basically, the conference will be leaders of the Democrats Abroad movement meeting to strategise for next year about how we can get as many people as possible who are living overseas to vote.

“We have different workshops to talk about strategies both traditional and through social media and how they work in English speaking and non-English speaking territories.”

It is estimated that around eight million Americans eligible to vote currently live overseas. A recent survey by Greenback Expat Tax Services found that close to 60 per cent American expats voted in the 2012 presidential election, comparable to the US voter turnout that year.

Democrats Abroad said that Americans living in Scotland had gathered together in Edinburgh this week to watch the first Democratic presidential debate among six prospective Democratic party candidates including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, the current vice-president, and Bernie Sanders.

Desmond added: “We will be giving the conference a Scottish flavour, with a whisky tasting for delegates and the chance to have a proper Scottish dinner.”

Kimball McKay, who is originally from Michigan, but who now lives in Sweden, is among the 100 people expected to flock to Scotland for the event. He said he had decided to get involved, despite previously avoiding party politics.

“The biggest thing for me is that I think the US and, unfortunately, by extension the world, is reaching a bunch of tipping points over issues such as climate change,” he said.

“None of the Republican candidates for president thinks it’s an issue that needs addressing much. The Democratic candidates, on the other hand, differ only in just how high on the list of priorities climate would be if they take the White House.

“If someone like [Donald] Trump or [Ben] Carson or [Jeb] Bush or any of those other people gets into office and the Republicans have majorities in both houses of Congress, what progress we’ve made will be lost and the country may really, truly fall apart.”