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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Thousands of Israelis voting for US President

It's not too late for some Americans living in Israel to send in their absentee ballots, Haaretz has learned. For residents of certain states, including key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, today is the deadline for overseas residents to send in their vote, provided the ballots are postmarked on November 2.
'People at the county board of elections are bending over backward to accommodate overseas voters,' said Mark Zober, chair of Democrats Abroad in Israel. 'They want to do everything in their power to avoid the appearance of trying to prevent people from getting out to vote. The election in 2000 was a mess, and what's going on now is defiantly a reaction to that.'

Although many states' deadlines were 'rock rigid' only one month ago, election boards in places like New York will now accept ballots up to 13 days after election day.

'Most registered voters living [in Israel] have already sent their ballots,' Zober added, 'but the extension is good news for some people who still haven't.'

Estimates of votes originating from Israel range, but even the lower estimate, some 30,000, is nearly double the turnout in the 2000 election. Some party activists put the number of voters as high as 60,000; Democrats and Republicans agree that the turnout is unprecedented.

'I've never seen anything like this,' said Marc Zell, one of the founders of Republicans Abroad in Israel, as he distributed ballots at a registration event in Efrat last week. 'The number of Americans [in Israel] coming out to vote in the 2004 election is unquestionably unprecedented. I worked hard to get the vote [out] in 2000, but the numbers weren't even close to what we have here. People were still under the impression that their votes didn't matter.'

Though the vast majority of Americans in Israel are registered Democrats, many have discarded party loyalties in hopes of reelecting President Bush. Registration events aimed at Americans in the ultra-Orthodox communities who identify with Bush's conservative stance on issues like abortion and gay marriage have also given the Republican ticket a boost here.