The International Republican Institute (IRI) hosted a delegation of Egyptians representing prominent nongovernmental organizations and political parties to witness the November 4 federal, state and local elections.  The 10-day trip provided participants the chance to observe competitive campaigning and government election administration, both of which impressed the visitors, as Dr. Aymen Okeil proclaimed, “We witnessed a clean election right in front of our eyes!”

The group met with Democrat and Republican campaign representatives, who discussed core elements of campaigning such as grassroots mobilization, volunteer coordination, voter registration and fundraising.  The chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee described voter registration and the use of technology to reach the younger electorate, an important demographic in Egypt.  The Arlington Democrats opened party headquarters for the delegation to observe voter contact efforts by volunteers making phone calls and preparing posters and literature for distribution.  

During a meeting with the general register of the Fairfax County Board of Elections, the delegation observed early voting in progress.  The registrar led the visiting Egyptians through the technical aspects of election administration and explained the process of vote counting.  One highlight of this visit occurred when a demonstration of voting on an actual electronic machine allowed members of the group to cast mock ballots.  

The group also met with candidates, including Virginia Delegate Margaret Vanderhye, who successfully ran for the Virginia House of Representatives in November 2007.  She described tactics of grassroots campaigning and effective communication with constituents once elected.  The delegation expressed strong interest in Ms. Vanderhye’s winning strategy of reaching targeted voters with election material and her grassroots get-out-the-vote plan.

Political analysts for both Democratic and Republican parties briefed the delegation on the process of the Electoral College and the political climate in place for the November 4 election.  Pollster Whit Ayres, who has volunteered for overseas training assignments with IRI, provided “best practices” ideas with the Egyptians concerning public opinion research, which is seriously restricted by the government in Egypt.  

In the final meeting of the trip, participants reviewed what they learned and what activities, such as grassroots campaigning, might be applied once they return to Egypt.

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