U.S. citizens trickled into a guest room at the Aurola Holiday Inn Tuesday to vote in a historic global primary to help decide the Democratic Party’s 2008 nominee for U.S. president.
“I voted for (Barack) Obama,” said voter David Randolph, originally of Thousand Oaks, California. “I think he’s an inspiration and we need someone like that. The last eight years have been a disaster.”
Randolph wasn’t the only voter enamored with Obama. The Illinois senator carried the day with 30 votes, with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton coming in second with 18. One voter selected former South Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who has already dropped out of the race.
U.S. citizens have always been able to vote absentee from abroad in the general election, organizers said, but this was the first time primary voting was allowed.
“In the past, overseas voting could be a complicated affair,” said Christine Schon Marques, the international chair of Democrats Abroad, the group that organized the primary.
“We intend to change all that and make sure that Democrats all over the world have a clear say in who our candidate will be.”
With no admirers of President Bush in the cramped hotel room at the Hotel Aurola Holiday Inn, conversation focused on the choice between Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the last two Democratic candidates standing after a long, sometimes mind-numbing litany of debates that began in February 2007.
Some voters agonized over their decision. “It was very difficult because I like both candidates,” said Anna Hoover, a Los Angeles native. “I just feel like the country is in such desperate shape, we need some real change.”
Democrats Abroad member Warren Kinsman agreed Obama is the candidate of change, saying the candidate reminds him of former President John F. Kennedy.
“Originally, I was for Clinton,” he said. “I changed after watching the debates. I thought he captured more of a sense of urgency of what needs to be done and I think he’ll be more determined to get troops out of Iraq.”
The campaign for first-term Sen. Obama uses the slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” while the Clinton team emphasizes the experience of the third-term senator.
The local Democrats Abroad chapter organized the San José voting, which allowed registered voters to cast ballots online, in person, by fax or by absentee form.
Paul Kloes, the chairman of Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica, said voting was steady but not overwhelming.
“All votes will count,” he said. “Democrats Abroad International has the same status as a state in the Democratic Party.”
Ballots were not kept secret and participants were required to join Democrats Abroad.