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Democrats tout first 'global primary'

The group Democrats Abroad has made it easier for expatriates to weigh in on Super Tuesday.

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Come early February, a wood-paneled conference room in this city's historic Grande Bretagne Hotel will be one of the farthest-flung outposts of the heated battle for the Democratic presidential nominee.

This year, the Democratic Party is conducting its first "global primary" that will allow Democrats living abroad to vote by Internet, mail, or fax or in one of the centers being set up in more than 30 countries. Voting starts on "Super Tuesday" – Feb. 5 – and will last for eight days.

"We're trying to make it as easy as possible for Americans to participate from all over the world," says Christine Schon Marques, international chairwoman of Democrats Abroad, the official, volunteer arm of the Democratic Party, which is coordinating the primary. "The online process especially is very new for us. It's very exciting."

For many active overseas Democrats, the global primary is as much a way of galvanizing potential voters in what many predict will be a hard-fought election as giving expatriate Democrats a voice. While this is not the first time Democrats Abroad has sent a delegation to the national convention, this year, the party is trying to reach out beyond the traditional party activists.

Some 6 million Americans abroad are eligible to vote – including US military personnel – but in 2006 fewer than 1 million applied for absentee ballots.

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