October 27, 2008

Following the US Presidential Elections Live!

Posted in Outside Malaysia tagged at 12:51 pm by egalitaria

Along with 90 other participants from 71 countries around the world, I’ve been selected to participate in the I-VOTE programme (International Visitors Observe The Elections) in the United States. This will be a rare opportunity to witness live probably one of the most exciting Presidential contests in recent American history. The Obama-McCain race is entering its final week or so of its campaigning, and quite a bit of dirt is being kicked up.

Flying into Washington D.C. where I am right now, one can hear the buzz of Election Talk practically everywhere. You pass by a group in the lobby, in a cafe (like at our mamaks probably, pre-March 8th), and you hear smatterings of “Obama” and “foreign policy”. We will be here for the next five days, exploring the electoral system with some of the capital’s experts and analysts – some of whom we watch on CNN regularly!

The group will be split up, and I will be travelling to Colorado (a battleground state) in the final few days before the Big Day, visiting party headquarters, youth volunteer organisations, study campaign activities, media strategies and campaign messaging. The Latin-American sentiment will be a key determining factor here. It’s a close fight, but the Democrats are leading here for now.

Next, will be in Oklahoma on Election Day itself, 4th November, which is predicted as a shoo-in Republican state. I’ll be speaking to voters in both Colorado (most likely a Democrat win) and Oklahoma (most likely a Republican win), so it will be a good contrasting view of the issues that matter to a cross-section of Americans.

Finally, the large group will reconvene in Boston, Massachusetts where Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government will be hosting us for a post-elections analysis, before we leave for our respective countries.

The issues I am interested to primarily learn about here are the following: Campaign messaging and strategy, Youth engagement, Volunteerism, Campaign Financing (and Transparency), Electoral Processes, Media Strategy, Polling, US foreign policy. First observations are that the mechanics of the operations are immense. There is much to learn and absorb in terms of the very creative ways to involve every member of the public in a democratic process!

I will be updating the blog as the days pass, and we close in on the 4th November, US Election Day!

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