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New Move to Get Caribbean Absentee Votes in U.S. Election

NAM/Caribean World News, News Report, Erline Andrews Posted: Aug 29, 2008

DENVER -- A first-of-its-kind mission has started by delegates at the 2008 Democratic Convention, which is under way in Denver, to register Caribbean absentee voters who have moved back to the region.

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee, Barrack Obama, said they are making an unprecedented effort to register naturalised Caribbean-American voters who are back in their homelands, to encourage them to vote in the US elections in November.

"The Caribbean is energised. There is groundswell at home and people are looking forward to getting their absentee ballots. They do not want to be left out," Jamaican-American Elsie Foster-Dublin, the borough council president of Highland Park in New Jersey, said yesterday.

Foster-Dublin, 47, and other Caribbean-American Obama supporters have launched a get-out-the-vote drive targeting Caribbean Americans, including those who returned to the countries of their birth. They have been airing public service announcements on radio stations in Jamaica and Guyana.

Foster-Dublin returned to Jamaica twice this year and registered 1,500 Jamaican-Americans during the Democratic primaries and she is working to do even better for the upcoming election.

She and other Caribbean-American Obama supporters have insisted that their support comes because the Illinois senator's candidacy has generated intense excitement in the region.

Standing outside the Colorado Convention Center in the heart of Denver, Trinidadian-American, Glyniss
Forbes, an Obama delegate also representing New Jersey at the convention, recalled visiting Tobago for the jazz festival in April and being treated like a celebrity because of her role in the campaign.

"It was just unbelievable. They wanted to touch me and they wanted to tell me how much they're praying for him," said Forbes, 48, a single mother who wants to do in Trinidad what Foster-Dublin did in Jamaica.

She and fellow New Jersey Obama delegate, Shelley-Ann Bates, another Trinidadian, were drawn into politics for the first time by Obama`s campaign, which used an online grassroots network to attract new supporters and keep them in touch with each other.

Bates, 39, said it is important for Caribbean people to get involved in the American political process.
"We left what some people would consider paradise to come here to make better lives for ourselves and our families," she said. "In order to do that you have to become involved. You have to be willing to work for it."

Bates said Caribbean-Americans, like other people around the world, are excited and inspired by Obama`s life story and the improbability of his candidacy.

Barack Obama was raised by his single mother and grandparents after his Kenyan father abandoned him when he was two years old.

"Here is someone who really understands what it is to be middle class, to be struggling," said Bates.

"He's now gone beyond that. That's the American dream. We all want that dream and he's done it. What better person to lead our country than someone who believes that we, the people, can achieve?"

The convention wrapped up its second day on Tuesday under the theme, `Renewing America's Promise'. Among the highlights was a speech by New York's visually impaired Governor David Paterson, who has roots in Jamaica and Grenada. A tribute was also paid to late Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, who died late last week, by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The evening closed out with a speech by New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Obama`s opponent in the closest and hardest fought primary in United States history. She told delegates she was there as "a proud supporter of Barack Obama" and urged all to rally behind the party to ensure the race for the White House is won.

Outside the huge glass building at the convention, however, vendors and protesters in support of and against Obama's candidacy competed for attention.

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