New voting system for US Democrats living in HK
Supporters of America's Democratic Party living in Hong Kong will be able to help choose their presidential candidate through a new global primary election.
Democrats Abroad, the party's overseas wing, has switched from a worldwide caucus system to a single primary ballot for the presidential campaign, which kicked off in the state of Iowa on Thursday, with Barack Obama winning the Democrat caucus and Mike Huckabee the Republican one.
The group's Hong Kong branch will hold the ballot to choose between Hillary Clinton, Senator Obama or John Edwards at the Lan Kwai Fong watering-hole The Dublin Jack, the haunt that hosts its monthly meeting, and the Flying Pan in Wan Chai, a 24-hour cafe.
The ballots at the Irish pub, on February 5 and 12, will be held from 6pm to 9pm, while the Flying Pan vote will be held from 4pm to 6pm on February 10.
Democratic Party members living outside the US will also be able vote online for the first time this year at www.VoteFromAbroad.org, set up by Democrats Abroad.
The group - which operates in about 80 countries and will elect 22 delegates to the party's national convention in August in Denver, Colorado - has been holding caucuses for expatriate members, in which supporters of different presidential candidates debate and bargain over votes, since 1992.
There is no parallel system for Republican Party expats, but Republicans Abroad, the support group for members outside the US, helps its members to register in their home states as absentee voters.
Glenn Berkey, chair of Democrats Abroad Hong Kong, said the new single-ballot and internet voting systems aimed to provide greater flexibility for Americans outside the US. But he declined to comment on the expected turnout among Hong Kong's estimated 60,000 US citizens.
'Democrats need to use their heads and follow their hearts on this one,' he said. 'But in most cases a Democrat's vote is mathematically more powerful with Democrats Abroad than it is in his or her home state.
'However, an American whose state has an early primary or caucus might feel that his or her vote is more powerful there since the primary system is set up so that early results have a momentum effect and tend to carry more weight than later ones.'
The overseas primary gives those who vote in it a larger influence in terms of allocating delegates per voter than they would have if they voted in their state primaries.
Mark Simon, former chairman of Republicans Abroad Hong Kong, said: 'Our view is that there's no point trying to mobilise party members for primaries. It's very hard motivating people. So we concentrate on the general election, and we are actually very successful.'
Mr Simon said that the group would organise a series of political debates with Democrats Abroad at a major hotel in the run-up to the election on November 4.
Members will argue for the policies of their respective party's candidate in the debates, which will be broadcast on RTHK.
Votes cast in the primaries are for delegates who back one of each party's presidential candidates. The delegates then vote for the candidate at the party's national convention.