US expats in Zurich use comic videos to encourage midterm votes

Published:  8 May at 6 PM
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‘When all else fails, try comedy’ is the expat approach to galvanising the US expat vote in the November midterm elections.

Comedy with a serious purpose is a unique strategy intended to persuade US expats in Switzerland to vote in the upcoming midterms. Its creators are a group of American citizens living and working in Zurich who’re determined to get their compatriots to the polls in November. Their weapons are comic videos urging all US expats to get up and get on with voting in order to rescue their home country from itself.

The 300-strong group, Action Together Zurich, is the brainchild of co-founder Alexandra Dufresne and includes members of the US expat community, Swiss nationals concerned about America’s political climate and a few expats from other countries. Dufresne, a teacher of US law, believes a good number of expats don’t really grasp the significance of the midterm elections, saying they’re more important than the presidential election due to the small size of the average congressional district within which every single vote counts. An elected member of congress could well be your next door neighbour and is directly responsible to constituents.

Midterm participation by expats is traditionally low, but the present situation is spurring interest and commitment to voting in November. The group’s short, comic videos depict US expats in everyday situations with a twist. One show an American woman sitting on a park bench studying the geography of Canada in order to pretend she’s not an American citizen. A second shows a mother nagging her little girl in very bad German, reminding her to take her ‘burste’ (brush) on a hike but accidentally using the word ‘bruste’ – breast! The videos concentrate on the problems of being an expat, with all based on real-life experiences but all carrying the same message to get up, get out and vote.

Local reaction to the clips has been enthusiastic and positive, although the group was concerned Swiss nationals might not get the intended humour as it’s a play on words. In spite of their fears, they’ve been a great success, even getting positive reactions from US expats in other countries as well as a mention on USA Today. The video site has a link to a voter registration page, with Dufresne explaining registering isn’t seamless, but it’s not that difficult either.
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