Tue, Jan 13, 2009 - Page 4 News List

COMMUNITY COMPASS: Dems Abroad build momentum

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORER

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With the election of US president-elect Barack Obama, Taiwan’s chapter of Democrats Abroad, the official overseas branch of the US Democratic Party, is seeking to build on momentum gained from a fresh wave of supporters.

Democrats Abroad Taiwan (DA Taiwan) will hold a meeting on Saturday at the Yanji Street branch of Larry’s Pizza in Taipei to welcome new members and elect a new board of directors, a key requirement for the group to upgrade its status from a “non-voting” to a “voting” country committee.

With voting status, DA Taiwan would be able to participate in elections within the international Democrats’ Abroad organization, which is represented as a state party at the Democratic National Convention and holds its own caucuses for the Democratic presidential primaries.

“Membership is at an all-time high, and this is the right time for us to do this,” John Eastwood, the group’s chairman, said in a recent press release. “A few years ago it was a real struggle, but there’s a massive new energy we’ve seen with the Dems [Democrats] retaking both houses of Congress in 2006 and now with the inspiration the Obama campaign gave many Americans.”

DA Taiwan’s membership “quintupled” thanks to the intense interest in Obama’s campaign, Eastwood said in an interview with the Taipei Times. He declined to reveal the group’s exact membership numbers, but said that for the first time “in memory,” DA Taiwan held election-viewing events outside of Taipei. Its events in Taichung (台中) and Kaohsiung (高雄) each attracted hundreds of Obama supporters, he said.

One of Democrats Abroad’s mandates is to assist US citizens living abroad by providing absentee ballot request forms and registration information, regardless of their political affiliation, Eastwood said.

“One of the areas where we are of the most service is that we’re able to fulfill [every US citizen’s] right to vote,” he said.

Joining Democrats Abroad, which is open to any US citizen over the age of 18, also gives people the chance to “have a voice” and participate in the representation process of the Democratic Party, said Tammy Turner, an executive committee member at DA Taiwan for 15 years.

Like all Democrats Abroad country committees around the world, members in Taiwan can contribute to the Democratic Party’s policymaking by formulating platforms on issues, which are presented to party leadership, she said.

Members decide what to cover based on their interests and concerns, whether broader issues like the environment or health care, or issues affecting US citizens: the US role in China-Taiwan relations or tax rules for US citizens living abroad.

With a new administration in the White House, DA Taiwan is hoping its membership will keep growing.

“Especially at this juncture, we need a lot of thinking from a lot of people,” she said.

The meeting’s agenda on Saturday also includes instating a new set of bylaws to govern the committee, as well as discussing future projects and social events.

Those interested in joining DA Taiwan should first register online at www.democratsabroad.org, and those who have questions about this Saturday’s meeting or are interested in running for a position on the board should contact John Eastwood at democratsabroadtaiwan@gmail.com.

The meeting starts at 2pm at Larry’s Pizza, located at 2, Lane 137, Yanji St (台北市延吉街137巷2號).

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