Thu, Nov 04, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Americans in Taipei keep close eye on polls

ABSENTEE VOTERS Democrats and Republicans yesterday convened at the American Club in Taipei, where they anxiously monitored television coverage of the US election

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen offers an analysis of the US election to reporters yesterday while visiting the election center at the Foreign Ministry's North America desk to check on progress in the election.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Regardless of party affiliation, feelings of anxiety and hope ran high among Americans in Taiwan watching the US presidential election yesterday.

The mood was tense at an election party at the American Club in Taipei, as both professed Democrats and Republicans anxiously watched the club's multiple TVs for clues as to the direction the election would would take.

This year's US presidential election has been widely commented on for its high voter turnout, which was reflected in expatriates' attitudes in Taiwan yesterday.

While there is no way to say how many more Americans in Taiwan have sent in absentee ballots compared with previous elections, there has clearly been an increased drive to vote, according to both the Republicans Abroad Taiwan and Democrats Abroad Taiwan.

While Republicans Abroad Taiwan chairman Ferdinand Einhorn said that the bulk of his group's election efforts have been devoted to supporting the Republicans' policies rather than the party itself, their Democrat counterparts have been focusing on getting the expatriate vote out in Taiwan through voter education workshops and meetings.

"I feel that there has been an increase in absentee votes in Taiwan in this election, especially since many people are feeling very suspicious about voting procedures in the US [after the 2000 elections]. Today, people want to make sure that their vote counts," Democrats Abroad Taiwan's vice chairman John Eastwood said yesterday.

The American Chamber of Commerce's director of membership services and events, Brian Asmus, said it was difficult to say whether most of the absentee votes cast in Taiwan had been for the Democrats or Republicans, as the number of voters in Taiwan was unknown.

US voters in Taiwan said they were able to keep just as informed about the election as their family and friends back home thanks to the Internet and TV coverage. Furthermore, they said, being in Taiwan allows them to keep more focused on the facts of the election and escape the hype.

"I've kept up with the election by talking with my family back home and through the Internet. I feel that being in Taiwan, and being exposed to international editorials [in the newspapers] and opinions here have given me more perspective," 24-year-old US Kathryn Kaufman said.

Exposure to international opinions has also had an effect on voters' focus in this year's election.

"Being an expatriate means that you have more of a foreign perspective; you get more of what the world sees and what Americans miss. You learn that you cannot just blow off the international community the way [US President George W.] Bush has," said Phil Lawlor, an American who has lived in Taiwan for the past two years.

Bush's foreign policy also affected self-professed Republican Lloyd Roberts, who said that he cast his vote this year for Senator John Kerry because of disillusionment with Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

"I'm unhappy with the way that Bush has handled the last four years. Our image abroad has been tarnished," Roberts said, adding that, as a global citizen, he does not agree with Bush's general disregard of international opinion about the war in Iraq.

Many voters yesterday expressed support for Bush. Einhorn said he believes it is crucial that the US should lead the way in promoting an offensive policy against terrorism, and that this would be supported by a Bush victory.

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