US voters in Paris are getting ready for the US presidential election


Politically active Americans living in France have registered voters, appeared in the media, donated to candidates and waited for their friends during the November 3 presidential election.

In the 2020 election between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, votes from Americans abroad could make a difference, especially in swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Trump won in 2016 by slim margins of 44,292 and 22,748 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, respectively. .

The U.S. Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Overseas Civilian Population Survey from 2016 reports that 169,037 U.S. citizens of voting age (18) lived in France that year. Of that number, 16,058 (9.5 percent) requested a vote, and 12,339 (7.3 percent) voted.

Jowharspoke to four expatriates in the Paris region about their activism and perspectives on the 2020 campaign.

‘Every citizen’

Didier Moutou is IT director at a start-up in Paris. He moved to France 11 years ago from Massachusetts, where he helped register voters during the 2008 presidential campaign between then-Senators Barack Obama and John McCain.

Moutou made phone calls to help Americans living in France sign up to vote in 2016, and he is now the GOTV (Get Out the Vote) officer for the Paris chapter of Democrats Abroad. In September and October, the organization hosted pop-up events to help Americans register and vote in front of Shakespeare and Company, the cozy English bookstore across the Seine from Notre-Dame Cathedral and at the American University of Paris near the Eiffel Tower. .

Moutou said the events were impartial: voters of any persuasion could receive help with registration, and supporters of both presidential candidates from a major party could get help filling out ballot papers correctly.

“We did not look at their ballot papers unless we needed to,” Moutou told FRANCE 24.

The 52-year-old said Democrats abroad do not yet have a count of all the voters, it helped, but from his perspective the number was “really impressive and surprising”.

“This is something else,” he said. “I think people have woken up to what’s at stake.”

Moutou said issues including voting rights, climate change and reproductive rights are driving his activism.

“I’m passionate about the United States,” the Massachusetts voter said. “It is very important that every citizen has their voice spoken.”

‘In our own time’

Randy Yaloz lives and practices law in Paris ‘7. arrondissement (district) and serves as president of Republicans overseas France. He said he took part in a Madrid-based virtual debate on the US election on Wednesday, one of more than several debates he has taken in the last two weeks.

A New York native who moved to France 25 years ago said he also debated for lawmakers who are members of the French National Assembly’s group d’amitié France-États-Unis (the French-American group of friendship) on the 20th. October.

The performance helps Yaloz advance his view that Trump is “the man who can make things work” and can “bring the nation together” for the next four years.

“People are underestimating the work he has done,” Yaloz told FRANCE 24, citing the Trump administration’s work to achieve peace between Israel and its neighbors and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to temporarily suspend evictions of homeowners in order to combat the spread of Covid19.

Yaloz, 50, also said Republicans Overseas France had participated in previous voter registration events in the Paris region, where Democrats Abroad France was also present, as confirmed by Jonathon Holler, vice president of Democrats Abroad France.

Republicans Overseas France has also sent mailings, emails and Facebook messages to Americans in the country, Yaloz said. He estimated that the organization has received a few dozen inquiries from voters or potential voters “over the past few months.”

Yaloz said next week’s election “is one of the most important” he has ever voted in and that his belief that Trump is the better candidate is driving his job.

“We are volunteers,” Yaloz said. “We do this on our own time.”

‘My voice matters’

John Lowe, a member of the Republicans Overseas and a lawyer with offices in Paris and New York, said he conducted television and radio interviews during the election campaign.

“Not much more we can do here,” Lowe, a sex agent, told FRANCE 24, saying he guesses most Americans living in Paris are left downtown.

“I hope they stay home,” he said, not voting.

He said he had taken note of the national and some state votes favoring Biden but had “difficulty understanding why Americans would not vote for Donald Trump”.

Lowe said he understands some voters oppose the words Trump uses when he speaks and tweets. But for him, “actions speak louder than words,” citing reasons why he supports the president’s decisions to exit Iran’s nuclear deal and help mediate the normalization of relations between Israel and three Arab nations, as well as low unemployment rates. for Blacks and Hispanics or Hispanics in 2018 and 2019.

“Why do the words take precedence?” Asked Lowe.

Despite the vote, Lowe said he had an “optimistic heart” and counted the Senate vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court – the third confirmation of a Trump nominee – as a development that could help the incumbent win. another period.

Lowe also said he was happy to send his vote to Ohio, his last U.S. state of residence. Trump won Ohio by 446,841 votes, a victory margin of 8.1 percent, in 2016, but a recent average of six votes puts the president just 0.6 percent ahead of his challenger.

“My voice means something there,” Lowe said.

‘State of unbelief’

Kelly Harkin, a 29-year-old working for luxury shoe and leather goods manufacturer Christian Louboutin, moved to Paris a week and a half before Trump was elected in 2016.

“I existed a lot in the East Coast echo chamber”, which had concluded that Hillary Clinton would win the race, she told FRANCE 24.

She said she remembers being on the phone with her younger sister, a first-time voter in Rhode Island, and cried because she thought her siblings’ vote would help elect the first female president in U.S. history.

“I felt all this momentum,” Harkin said.

On the night of the election, she was at a bar popular with Americans in Paris ‘8. arrondissement and went to bed confident of the election result.

In the days after Trump’s victory, she felt “completely depressed,” she said. “I was really in a state of unbelief.”

Harkin sent her absent vote to the United States the same day she received it. She donated to one fund for Democratic congressional candidates earlier this year and to another in support of racist justice activism in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

She has conversations “all the time” with friends about political developments that twist her, like Trump’s nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court.

“I air, get angry out, get the perspective I lack,” she said.

Harkin said she does not anticipate getting a full night’s sleep on election night, about four years after meeting at midnight on November 9, 2016.

“I do not know if I can,” she said.