Democrats wake up subdued as slow count continues far away
Early Wednesday local time, Democrats Abroad Israel’s live election countdown began with a video-conferenced prayer for strength and patience as state-by-state results seemed to go against pre-vote polling. At the same time, members of Republicans Overseas Israel began the day with enthusiasm.
“A lot more people in Israel voted in the 2020 election than in the past. I registered people who moved to Israel as young kids and had never voted, as well as people who have lived here for over 50 years and never voted. I even registered a few people over the age of 100,” David Wiener, an activist with Republicans Overseas Israel, told The Media Line.
With both sides cautioning patience until full and true results could be announced, Republicans in Israel were sure President Donald Trump would win.
“We should not get our hopes up too high, but I believe that Trump will end up winning by a landslide,” Judy Segaloff, a Republicans Overseas Israel captain from the Karnei Shomron Jewish settlement over the Green Line, told The Media Line.
We should not get our hopes up too high, but I believe that Trump will end up winning by a landslide
In her role as captain, Segaloff called and assisted Americans living in Israel to register and vote.
Heather Stone, chairwoman of Democrats Abroad Israel, countered on the live video conference: “The results are not final until all votes are counted. We have to be patient and let the people be heard.”
With over 100 million US citizens submitting their vote early – many of them from abroad – there was no clear sign on Wednesday morning as to when all the ballots would be tabulated.
“Really, we have five weeks until the Electoral College meets, so there is time,” Stone noted.
During the video conference, Steve Israel, a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives from New York, stated: “Nothing that is happening now is unexpected. Now we have a red mirage, but there will be a Biden bounce after all the ballots are counted.”
He suggested that many cities have slower counts. They include Philadelphia and Milwaukee, both in states that, Wednesday morning in Israel, were too close to call.
“The bottom line is,” he told members of Democrats Abroad Israel, “we need to be patient and not let anxieties get to us.”
Akiva Spiegelman, who votes both Republican and Likud, does not put much value in polls, whether in Israel or the United States.
“People say what they want. It would be better to be a fly on the wall to follow the elections,” he told The Media Line.
People say what they want. It would be better to be a fly on the wall to follow the elections
Nevertheless, he insisted that voters living in Israel were enthusiastic.
“The people I spoke to [in Israel] from swing states like Florida or Pennsylvania are excited. You can tell their enthusiasm, that their votes count,” he said.
Spiegelman’s role was to make phone calls and help overcome the bureaucracy of voting in the US for people in Israel who had never before voted. Living in the city of Beit Shemesh, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, he rigorously worked to register Republicans and ensure that they not only received their ballots, but sent them back.
Dr. Elana Sztokman, vice chair of media and policy for Democrats Abroad Israel, said her group held postcard and call-center campaigns.
“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we had volunteers during the lockdown on the street corners of Tel Aviv – with masks and socially distanced – meeting with Americans and assisting them to register to vote,” she told The Media Line.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we had volunteers during the lockdown on the street corners of Tel Aviv – with masks and socially distanced – meeting with Americans and assisting them to register to vote
“I can say that our activities the past few years have tripled the number of Democratic voters registered in Israel,” she stated. “We may not be as flashy as the Republicans, but we work harder!”
Both sides were encouraged by their activities in getting out the vote.
According to Wiener, there is a marked difference in the way some states register and count votes from abroad.
“It is clear to me that some states make it difficult. Every state has different requirements,” he said.
It is clear to me that some states make it difficult. Every state has different requirements
“I helped a huge amount in all battleground states,” he continued. “In Pennsylvania, where I vote, I sent in my ballot over a month ago, by express courier.”
He notes that he was not listed as being registered to vote.
“Now multiply that by all the people I helped,” he said.
Ohio, he added, was equally difficult.
“I used an express courier and we worked to register 3,000 [people], and then sent 1,000 ballots to Ohio. The state was always asking for more information,” he said.
“On the other hand, both New York and New Jersey [make it] extremely easy to register and vote. They are very helpful with all issues,” Wiener said.
Former US ambassador to Costa Rica S. Fritz Haney was among those participating in the Democrats Abroad Israel video conference, noting that there were some 9 million US expatriates.
“Every vote counts, and we need to remain patient,” he said. “Our experiment in democracy is cherished. At the end of the day, I have faith in democracy.”
Every vote counts, and we need to remain patient. Our experiment in democracy is cherished. At the end of the day, I have faith in democracy
Haney’s comments came against the backdrop of Trump’s remarks at the White House, which were seen live in Israel at about 9:30 am. In them, the president proclaimed victory because ballots counted from Tuesday’s voting had already put him over the top in battleground states and thus, as he explained it, back into the presidency.
“What President Trump did this morning was absolutely terrifying,” Sztokman told The Media Line.
“His comments were a complete dismissal and discounting of the election process,” she said. “He proclaimed himself president. This is not done in a democracy. Rather, it is done in dictatorships.”
Spiegelman agrees that Trump’s speech “was worrisome in a way. But, you knew it would happen. This is his style.”
On the other hand, he noted – as someone who has seen politicians in Israel announce an electoral triumph too early, only to find themselves on the losing side – it could backfire.
“It is never a good idea to announce you have won if you haven’t,” he said.
“Wake up people!” he urged. “Don’t feel so surprised by Trump’s style!”
As far as American citizens living in Israel, there is no exact figure. It could be up to 250,000. Or, as Sztokman notes: “There is no data point. Israelis like to exaggerate.”
Yet the number can be of significance. Wiener believes his work helped turn a certain county on Long Island into a GOP stronghold.
“I, myself, worked to register some 400 American-Israelis voting in Nassau County to the Republican side,” he said.
“Republicans managed to flip this county by only a few thousand votes,” he stated. “I believe that the 400 people I signed up, plus those from other Republicans Overseas Israel captains, were instrumental in changing the county.”
At the end of the day, both Republicans and Democrats in Israel are proud and excited to represent their respective party.
“It is exhilarating,” Republicans Overseas Israel’s Segaloff said.
“My last address was in Michigan,” she noted, “and for the first time in my life, after having been a Republican voter in New York, my vote really matters!”
And as a patriotic American, she knows that getting out the vote is a non-partisan issue.
“I worked with everyone to get out the vote,” she said. “Including Democrats.”