Bernie Sanders has scored a big victory in Australia over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton after winning the local and international legs of the presidential primary race.
Almost 900 registered Democrats living in Australia voted in a special global primary in the first week of March and around 73 per cent backed Mr Sanders.
The Australian vote was part of a global primary held by Democrats Abroad that will send 13 delegates to the Democrat Convention in Philadelphia on July 25.
Mr Sanders also dominated the international vote, collecting 69 per cent to Mrs Clinton’s 31 per cent.
The Australian vote accounted for about 2.5 per cent of the total international primary.
The overwhelming popularity of Mr Sanders among party members living outside the US means that he wins nine of the 13 delegates.
Todd St Vrain, the chair of the Australian arm of Democrats Abroad, said the result could be significant if the race for the party’s nomination tightens as some pundits predict.
He said a large proportion of the people who voted in the Australian primary were American students – a constituency that has provided overwhelming support to the Sanders campaign across the United States.
“There is a large American student body abroad and Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that he is very popular with younger voters,” Mr St Vrain said.
He said that each of the candidates had promised to overhaul US laws which had made it difficult for Americans residing in Australia to open deposit accounts with local banks.
Both Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders have also promised to review laws which have resulted in salaries of Americans working in Australia being “double-taxed”.
Voting in the Democrats Abroad primary was held at venues in each of the capital cities across Australia in early March, but hundreds more are believed to have submitted postal ballots in contests for their home states.
Mr St Vrain said that many registered Democrats posted votes directly in their home state’s primary because the contests were often very close.
“The primary held in Missouri on March 15 was decided by around 1000 votes, so it’s fair to say that ex-pat voting was probably important,” he said.
International votes could swing it
The participation rate of non-resident US citizens could be a critical factor in the November presidential election.
There are 8.7 million Americans living abroad who are eligible to vote in national elections – a significant number when one considers that most presidential contests in the last 20 years have been decided by less than five million votes.
The influence of non-resident US citizens is magnified if the voting patterns of their registered home state are erratic.
In the controversial and tightly contested 2000 election, George W. Bush claimed the presidency with only a 540-vote majority in Florida.
Mr Bush’s victory was remarkable because his opponent, former Vice-President Al Gore, received more votes in the national election, but was pipped in the key swing states of Ohio and Florida.
Research conducted by Professor Jay Sexton of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University found that Democrat candidate Mr Gore may have won the 2000 election had more registered ex-pats from Florida voted.
“Overseas voting was critical to putting George W. Bush into the White House in 2000, and if things are tight, could be just as important in the 2016 election too,” he said.
The Republican Party appears to be less organised than the Democrats in mobilising support among ex-pats and does not conduct a special primary for members and supporters living overseas.