Floridian Israelis May Hold the Balance

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Shhh! Don't tell Pat Buchanan, but the next U.S. president may have been chosen in Israel. "It's an amazing feeling, that we may be the ones to decide who is the next president of the United States," says David London. The 36-year old registered Republican from Broward County, Fla., has been living in the Jewish state for almost a decade, and his absentee ballot — along with some 100 others dispatched by South Floridian émigrés — may help determine the outcome of the U.S. presidential race.

As politicians, electoral officials and lawyers arm-wrestle over Florida's 25 electoral votes, London and others like him have seen their ballots balloon in significance. Especially people like London, who doesn't always vote a straight ticket — this year he actually voted for Gore. "It wasn't because of Lieberman," says London. "I always voted on who I thought was the best man, and in my estimation the difference is that Gore knows the difference between right and wrong in the leadership of America. Also, I think that Gore is a deep and strong friend of Israel. It's hard to know what the next president will do, but Gore shows a deep caring for Israel, and Gore is way more experienced."

London's 36-year-old wife, Karyn, a social worker for the Israeli government, is a registered Democrat in Broward County. She received her absentee ballot on Thursday, November 2, and almost didn't send it in because she thought it was too late. But she dropped her Gore ballot in the mailbox on Sunday, November 5. "I'm really pleased that my vote made a difference," she says. "It's an overwhelming sense, especially in America where you feel very small, to now realize that my voice will be heard. It strengthens my belief in our democratic election process — even at the level of county commissioners, whom we choose to represent us at every level is important. I'm not sure that it's going to make a difference, but it could. I'm just hoping."

Rabbi Menachem Raab, former dean of a Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, retired to Israel two and a half years ago. A registered Democrat in Dade County, Raab voted for Gore on his absentee ballot. "It's mind-boggling, very unfathomable, that all of a sudden this vote counts," he says. "I think it's very exciting that an individual vote of people living in Israel affects the American scene." And that's a notion that's awakened even some Floridian exiles who didn't bother to cast their ballot. Suggestions in the Israeli media that legitimate absentee ballots without a postmark would be accepted until November 17 had even sent some scrambling for ways to get their ballot papers off to the Sunshine State before then. Pat Buchanan may be tearing his hair out. Then again, he got pretty good mileage out of Florida's Jewish retirees on Election Day.