Americans Abroad Keep Close Eye on Vote

Most cast their ballots weeks ago, and some will have to hunt down a television to find constant coverage of the U.S. election.

But Americans around the globe, gathering at embassy parties, private homes and even bars to watch the results, know their vote counts more than ever.

For months, the campaigns of President Bush and John Kerry (search) have courted overseas voters, helping them register from as far away as Asia and sponsoring everything from fund-raisers to parties to get people invn wasn't a coincidence. Four years ago, Bush's victory was certified only after the overseas ballots were counted. That fact has encouraged a rise in overseas registration, embassies and political supporters say.

On Tuesday, the Web sites of both Democrats Abroad (search) and Republicans Abroad (search) encouraged last-minute voters to fill out federal write-in absentee ballots and fax them home.

Richard Caldwell, a lifelong Republican who works in Tijuana but lives in California, is a Kerry supporter.

"I haven't voted for a Democrat since George McGovern," Caldwell said, referring to the 1972 presidential election. He said he couldn't vote for Bush because "I think this guy has squandered our good will with the world."

Mexico was a key overseas battleground, with the largest number of U.S. citizens living abroad: an estimated 1 million Americans. Many are retirees, students or have business interests in everything from factories to hotels.

In Mexico City, election parties were planned across the city Tueday night, with diplomats and other political elite gathering at a U.S. Embassy event, and Democrats scheduling their own celebrations at a hotel and bar.

In Moscow, the U.S. Embassy invited 700 people to a reception that featured live music, TV campaign ads and life-size cutouts of Bush and Kerry for those wanting photo reminders of the night.

Americans in Paris were gathering at Planet Hollywood or Harry's Bar, a popular expat hangout.

A Swedish restaurant and the American-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce in Budapest planned all-night election parties.

But not everyone will be watching television. Erica Gragg, a 33-year-old former New York public relations specialist who co-owns a small hotel on the beach in Tulum, south of Cancun, says she plans to check the results on the Internet.

"It's an incredible gift to be down here and not be bombarded day after day," she said, sinking her toes in white sand and gazing at the ocean. "There's a lot of tension and a lot of apprehension, and I'm almost glad not to be around it."

She cast her absentee ballot in California, where she grew up, but declined to say who got her vote other than it wasn't the same party as four years ago.

Gragg attributed her change of heart to the Sept. 11 attacks, which convinced her to move to Mexico, and the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.