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Thinking Outside the Ballot Box

A D.C. Vote ad featuring editor Martin Austermuhle (D.C. Vote)Enlarge Image
The nation's capital has an eye-catching new campaign for voting rights: posters featuring residents who proclaim "I Am DC. I Demand the Vote" -- including one guy who can't legally cast a ballot in this country.

DCist blogger Martin Austermuhle, an outspoken voice in local politics, is one of 10 people in D.C. Vote's drive, which debuted in June on buses throughout the city. The organization's goal was to select a variety of local figures -- NAACP's Julian Bond, Hip Hop Caucus founder Lennox Yearwood, Ben's Chili Bowl owner Kamal Ali -- who support the cause. But Austermuhle, 29, has dual Swiss and Dutch citizenship.

D.C. Vote was "fully aware of the fact that I'm not a U.S. citizen," he told us Monday. In fact, the original wording on his poster began with the phrase "Though I was born in Switzerland ... " but it was cut, organizers told him, for space.

Jaline Quinto, communications director of D.C. Vote, said her team discovered Austermuhle's citizenship "after we decided Martin would be an ideal candidate for the campaign. No one on the local blog scene has been more vocal on this issue." They kept him in the mix, she said, to "show that even the international community holds U.S. democracy to high standards."

Austermuhle, who's lived in the D.C. for eight years and works at the Afghan Embassy, said there was no attempt to deceive anyone. "In fact, I like admitting that I can't vote, since to me this movement is one of universal principle, not personal gain," he said. "I love D.C. and have gained so much from this city's people. If I can do my part to help them gain their long-deserved voting rights, I want to, whether it's incessantly blogging about it or having my ugly mug show up on a poster advocating for it."

By The Reliable Source  |  August 11, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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