Democrats Abroad

Democrats and Republicans in London will celebrate Thanksgiving with Georgia on their mind

American expats in London will celebrate a smaller Thanksgiving than usual due to the UK’s nationwide lockdown.

But for John Scardino, who moved from Washington DC to London in 2000, the Thanksgiving holiday will take on special meaning in light of the presidential election earlier this month.

Scardino, who lives in Lambeth, is a teacher at the London Nautical School and an active member of Democrats Abroad, the official overseas arm of the party since 1976.

He said: “We’ll be especially grateful for having had a very successful year and relieved that we don’t have to face another four years of Donald Trump in the White House.”

GEORGIA ON HER MIND: Inge Kjemtrup, chair of Democrats Abroad UK, mailing her absentee ballot in the general election earlier this month. Credit: Democrats Abroad

On the surface the holiday may seem like a much needed break from politics, but Democrats and Republicans in London are already turning their eyes toward Georgia, a state where two crucial Senate races between Jon Ossoff (D) and David Perdue (R) and between Raphael Warnock (D) and Kelly Loeffler (R) remain.

The 5th January runoff elections in Georgia were called when no candidate received more than 50% of the votes earlier this month. 

They will determine whether Republicans, currently holding 50 seats in the Senate, or Democrats, currently holding 48, will have the majority and wield the most legislative power in the upper chamber of the United States Congress. 

Sarah Elliot, Chair of the Republicans Overseas UK organization, stressed Georgia has the most important legislative races in the entire 2020 election for both sides. 

She added: “It will determine whether or not the Biden Administration will be able to execute its far-left legislative agenda or not.

“Republicans can live with a Biden Administration and a GOP Senate, but not a Biden Administration and a Democratic Senate and House.”

Despite living across the Atlantic, Democrats Abroad and Republicans Overseas have been campaigning to galvanize eligible American voters all over the UK, around 306,000 people according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

LOOKING TO GEORGIA: President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence

Historically, however, political engagement among American expats is low. 

According London School of Economics research in 2016, overseas voter turnout for presidential elections was around 12 percent. 

Patrick Angelic, a lecturer in American History at Northumbria University co-wrote a report on how influential absentee overseas votes can be in the lead up to the 2016 election. 

He said: “It seems probable that, like almost all other voter blocs in the 2020 elections, overseas voters have turned out this year in unusually high numbers. 

“However, they have been crucial in elections in the past, most notably in 2000, when delayed overseas votes gave George W. Bush his 537-vote margin of victory in Florida and thus the White House.

“Overseas voters may have played a less decisive role this year, but it is clear that they formed part of the late-counted mail-in ballots that delivered several key swing states, and thus the presidency, to Joe Biden.”

Both parties will have their work cut out for them in the upcoming Senate runoff elections. 

Democrats Abroad estimate there could be up to 500 Georgia voters living in the UK, which could prove vital in tight races, just as the Georgia runoffs are set to be.

Scardino admitted: “There are a lot of races these days that come down to just a few thousand votes.

“We have been very focused on Georgia. We’re working hard not only in the UK but everywhere to try and identify those voters and encourage them to register if they haven’t already.”

Georgia voters in the UK will vote using mail-in absentee ballots if they register successfully by 7th December, but this method of voting has become a source of controversy in the wake of the presidential election. 

President Trump, who on Tuesday signaled an acceptance of the formal transition process, is a firm critic of absentee voting, a practice with roots dating back to the American Civil War.

But for Scardino, Trump’s divisive effect on US politics has ironically benefited Democrats in their efforts to engage American voters overseas. 

He said: “We have a very polarizing president. One of the greatest assets that the Democratic Party has had this year is Donald Trump. 

“He has made a lot of people wake up to the idea that democracy is something you have to participate in order to get the government you want.”

Featured image credit: Democrats Abroad UK

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