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Cablegate: 2008 Presidential Election Voting Outreach Summary Report

VZCZCXRO0474
PP RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0186/01 3430453
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080453Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0915
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0992

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHIANG MAI 000186

SIPDIS

CA/OCS/ACS/AF (ELIZABETH GRACON)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TH
SUBJECT: 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION VOTING OUTREACH SUMMARY REPORT

CHIANG MAI 00000186 001.2 OF 002


-------------------
Summary and Comment
-------------------

1. Post assisted an estimated 200 voters to register as absentee
voters and several hundred more with other voting inquiries
during the 2008 election cycle. Through voter registration open
houses, cooperation with political party groups, and an
advertising campaign throughout northern Thailand, post was able
to reach out to the sizeable and growing American citizen
population of northern Thailand, which we currently estimate at
7,000.

2. Comment: By tracking this year's voters who sought
assistance at post, we learned that Amcits residing permanently
in northern Thailand rely more heavily on post's voting
assistance program versus tourists who are in Thailand
temporarily over Election Day. In addition, post discovered
that outreach programs away from the Consulate were more
successful because they were convenient for Amcit voters. End
comment and summary.

------------
Voter Trends
------------

3. Post assisted an estimated 200 voters with registering as
absentee voters using the Federal Post Card Application during
the 2008 election cycle. Post assisted several hundred more
Amcits with general inquiries about voting overseas, many of
which had already registered as absentee voters or who were
worried about receiving their official ballot on time.

4. Post devoted significant time to assisting retired Amcits, a
large fraction of the northern Thailand Amcit community, to
register and vote absentee. Many of these retired Amcits have
not voted for several years but told post that this year's
election was particularly important to them. Post assisted a
small number of first-time voters, who were in Thailand as
tourists. Most voters who were in Thailand temporarily as
tourists or business travelers during Election Day had already
registered to vote absentee from the U.S. or had selected early
voting options, if they were available.

--------------------
Outreach Initiatives
--------------------

5. Post conducted a series of nine "Voting Open Houses" from May
to October 2008 to assist Amcits registering to vote overseas.
The purpose of the open houses was to assist Amcits more
efficiently allowing them to go directly to cons staff with
voting inquiries without waiting in the normal ACS queue. Post
hosted the first six of these open houses in the waiting area of
the Consular Section and the last three at a local expat
supermarket. On average, each open house assisted about ten
Amcits with voter registration, totaling about 90 to 100 Amcits
over the course of the nine open houses.

6. A second way that post conducted voter outreach was through
cooperation with local businesses and the Democrats and
Republicans Abroad groups. Post liaised with local grocery
stores and restaurants with large Amcit clienteles to advertise
outreach activities and general guidance on overseas voting.
Post invited both Democrats and Republicans Abroad to host voter
registration tables at the American community Independence Day
picnic. Both parties accepted the invitation and assisted in
registering over 100 Amcits during the event. (Note: Post
briefed both political party groups on campaign restrictions and
voting assistance regulations prior to the event.)

7. Finally, during a Consular Roadshow to Chiang Rai from
October 29-30, cons staff assisted a small number of Amcits
living and working in that province, which is about a three-hour
drive from the Consulate in Chiang Mai. Although cons staff
provided a variety of services, such as notaries and passport
applications, most Amcits had voting inquiries. (Comment: For
future consular roadshows during election years, post might
consider dates further in advance of Election Day.)

--------------
Media Coverage
--------------

8. There has been limited media coverage of post's voting
out-reach activities this year. Local Chiang Rai press reported
on the October 29-30 Consular roadshow, pointing out that Amcits
residing in Chiang Rai could see advice from the visiting cons
staff on voter registration and absentee voting. Also, local
expat newspapers and newsletters, such as the Chiang Mai Mail,
reported occasionally on outreach activities, such as those at
the local expat supermarket.

CHIANG MAI 00000186 002.2 OF 002

----------------------------------------
Lessons Learned and Ideas for the Future
----------------------------------------

9. Based on feedback from Amcits, post learned that outreach
conducted off Consulate grounds was more convenient. One Amcit
reported that he found the supermarket open houses more
efficient because there was ample parking and no security check.
In the future, post will conduct a greater number of
off-compound outreach programs.

10. Another consideration for future voter outreach programs
would be greater attention outside of the Chiang Mai area.
Voters had very positive feedback about the Consular Roadshow in
Chiang Rai as an efficient way for them to ask their
voting-related questions. Post might consider more voting
outreach programs outside of Chiang Mai to other, more remote
areas of the north with large Amcit populations, such as Mae
Hong Son province.
MORROW

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