Recognizing the global impact of the 2004 presidential election, the left-wing Guardian newspaper of London is encouraging non-American readers to directly participate in the campaign through a “democratic toolkit” that links them to an individual voter in a key Ohio county.
“The result of the U.S. election will affect the lives of millions around the world, but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it – until now,” says the paper.
Through a “unique scheme,” Guardian readers are matched with American voters, giving foreigners the chance “to write a personal letter, citizen to citizen, explaining why this election matters to you, and which issues you think ought to matter to the U.S. electorate. It may even be a chance to persuade somebody to use their vote at all.”
The paper notes the United Kingdom’s overwhelming preference for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, citing a poll showing 47 percent back him while 16 percent want President Bush re-elected.
The Guardian acknowledges, “Anybody might be justifiably angered by the idea of a foreigner trying to interfere in their democratic process. But this year the issue is more charged than ever: The Bush/Cheney campaign has made a point of portraying Kerry as overly concerned about what other nations think, and the Democrat’s ambiguous debate point about American foreign policy decisions needing to pass a ‘global test’ has become one of the president’s key lines of attack.”
The newspaper is offering four people who write the most persuasive letters to Clark County, Ohio, voters “the chance to travel there and campaign in person.”
“At the end of October, the winners will accompany a group of Guardian journalists to Ohio to meet voters and participate in the closing days of the race,” the daily says.
By clicking on a link provided by the paper, anyone can almost instantly be given a name and address in Clark County.
In an e-mail, WND – matched up with a voter in Enon, Ohio – was instructed, “When writing to him or her please be courteous and consider how you would feel if someone from Ohio was to write and advise you how to vote.”
The Guardian said it chose Clark County because it is “balanced on a razor’s edge between Republicans and Democrats.”
In the 2000 election, the paper recalled, Al Gore won Clark County by 1 percent – equivalent to 324 votes – but George Bush won the state as a whole by just four percentage points.
“The voters we will target in our letter-writing initiative are all Clark County residents, and they are all registered independents, which somewhat increases the chances of their being persuadable,” the paper said.
In an accompanying article, the Guardian says the Nov. 2 election “may be the most important in living memory,” but “unless you happen to be a voter in a handful of swing states, there’s little you can do about the final result.”
While the “actions of the U.S. impact on our lives in overwhelming ways,” the article says, “you don’t, of course, have a vote.”
“You can’t even donate money to the campaigns: Foreign contributions are outlawed. And you’re unlikely to have the chance to do any campaigning on the ground. All you can do is wait and watch: You’re powerless.
“Or are you?”
The paper said, “Where others might see delusions of grandeur, we saw an opportunity for public service – and so, on the following pages, we have assembled a handy set of tools that non-Americans can use to have a real chance of influencing the outcome of the vote.”
The tools include ways to give money to a candidate – even though direct campaign contributions by foreigners are not allowed – by contributing to non-partisan groups that clearly favor one candidate over another.
“Perhaps the most important way foreigners could help John Kerry would be to help out those organisations which have, as part of their mission, fostering African-American voter turnout,” Nathaniel Persily, a Pennsylvania university expert on election law, said, according to the Guardian. “It’s quite clear that if there was 100 percent African-American turnout in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, John Kerry would win this election running away.”
The paper suggests the NAACP as the most obvious choice.
On the Republican side, said Persily, “it would be the Christian conservatives,” Persily adds.
“[Bush adviser] Karl Rove has tried to register 4 million additional Christian evangelicals, and if they all turn out, then Bush wins.”
The leading option here, says the Guardian, would be the Christian Coalition, which describes itself as “America’s leading grass-roots organisation defending our Godly heritage.”
The London paper said it doesn’t recommend giving to more overtly partisan groups, but points out much of the law banning foreign contributions has never been tested in court.
Columbia University’s Michael Dorf says the law may even be unconstitutional on grounds of free speech.
“If a group calling itself Europeans for Truth wants to run ads giving their view of the truth,” Dorf told the paper, “it’s hard to draw a principled distinction between that and a British newspaper available at a U.S. newsstand that has an editorial calling Bush and Blair liars.”