In a tight U.S. presidential race, where some polls put the Democrat and Republican contenders in a dead heat, every vote counts. So groups working for both parties abroad are working hard to get out the vote including among the thousands of Americans living in Metro Vancouver.
Speaking from Toronto, Republicans Abroad Canada secretary Kelli Wright said Canadian votes could theoretically make a difference in a swing state where the margin between the candidates was only a few hundred votes. The best example was the race in Florida in 2000, where Republican George W. Bush was ultimately declared the winner over Democrat rival Al Gore in a result disputed to this day. In that election, military absentee votes mainly tipped the balance for Bush, yet Wright said, “Republicans living in Canada and voting in Florida jokingly claimed at least partial credit for the Bush victory.”
Maureen Harwood, chair of the Vancouver branch of Democrats Abroad, said in her experience Americans living abroad are more liberal-minded with a global outlook. “So I’d say the Democratic Party has a stronger base abroad than the Republicans,” she said, adding she doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party. Wright said “there are likely many more Democrats than Republicans in Vancouver.”
An estimated six million Americans live abroad and perhaps one million reside in Canada, at least half of voting age. In 2008, U.S. federal elections offices mailed out about one million absentee ballots around the world.
In the 2006 Canadian census, more than 66,000 people in British Columbia self-identified as being Americans, while the U.S. consulate cites 92,000 American residing in B.C. It is not clear how many of those now live in the Vancouver area.
About 20 years ago the U.S. changed its laws to allow American citizens to hold dual citizenship, and those Americans who are also Canadian citizens may vote in both countries. Many Americans working and studying in Canada are not dual citizens.
For voting purposes, "legal voting residence" is the state where the voter last resided. A U.S. citizen who was born abroad and who has never lived in America can vote in his or her parents’ home state. Citizens must have registered in advance, but if they have not yet received their ballot, they can apply for an “emergency write-in ballot.” Voting must be done by mail using a security envelope. (For more, call the U.S. consulate or go to fvap.gov.
Wright added that absentee ballots are often not counted unless the margin of victory is small enough that those ballots could affect the outcome for that state's electoral votes. “That seems to bother some people, but absentee ballots definitely make a difference when and where it matters, and most people I talk to like to send in their ballot whether or not they believe it will be counted.” There are separate Washington state local and gubernatorial elections on the same ballot Nov. 6.
Democrat supporters plan to watch election night returns come in at Ceili’s Irish Pub at 670 Smithe St. and at the Pacific Inn at 1160 King George Highway, Surrey. Wright says her group has fewer members and no Republican election day parties planned for the Vancouver area.
Vancouverites who cannot vote in the U.S. yet who work for the American campaigns include Braeden Caley, a political aide to Mayor Gregor Robertson and a member of the group Canadians for Obama, of whom 17 travelled south to volunteer for Obama in Washington State caucuses.