By Megan Alley
Nine representatives from five Arab nations toured the Clermont County Board of Elections on September 14 to discuss local election procedures.
The representatives, who work in politics or the media, were from Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Palestinian territories, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. All were eager to learn how the Clermont County Board of Elections conducts and oversees elections.
“They had a lot of good questions,” said Clermont County Board of Elections Director Judy Miller. “A lot of their questions were political in nature, more than procedural, which was interesting to us.”
The visit was sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, in conjunction with the U.S Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
The program is designed to give current and emerging foreign leaders an opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge with Americans in the same profession. It gives them first-hand knowledge of American society, culture and politics while cultivating lasting relationships.
“We organized this meeting as a piece of diplomacy,” said Badawi Elghazali, program administrator.
“We’re trying to bring people from the international community to show them how this country lives, how this country is governed, what we care about, human rights and democracy for the people. So, we’re trying to win the hearts and minds of people all over the world.”
He added, “They work with the Middle East, and the Middle East is a very, very important area right now to the United States.”
Representative Tamim Heikal, of Egypt, is the chief executive officer of Journas.com, a social networking website.
“The United States is known everywhere in the world, and the international policy of the United States is famous everywhere,” Heikal explained. “But, to come here, and to see deeply the community, the culture and how it works with the elections is a great learning experience.”
He added, “I didn’t expect that deep American communities like Ohio, they are open-minded. We are far from the outside world, and it is amazing to see something like this.”
The representatives, who have been traveling within the United States since September 8, will be in Hamilton County until September 17. Then, they will travel to New Orleans and on to New Hampshire.
“I think [this visit] is awesome. It’s testimony to the fact that our board of elections here in Clermont County is a shining example of how elections can be run, effectively and efficiently,” said Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud. “We are on the forefront of technology, and our board of elections is not reactive but proactive.”
He added, “These are all emerging leaders of their respective countries, and to have them here in Clermont County to see how we do elections, it makes you very proud.”