A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty

American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

There are an estimated 620,000 eligible American voters in Canada, but in 2016, only five per cent actually voted

Soon Jenny Wiebe will drive from her Fredericton home to the Maine town where she was born, to retrieve the mail-in ballot her parents are holding for her.

The 55-year-old dual Canadian-U. S. citizen said she hasn’t decided how she will exercise her franchise in the historic Nov. 3 American election. She may vote in person at the town hall in Readfield, a focal point of the community of about 2,500 where she grew up and sang in a Methodist choir, and to which she regularly returns, despite the pandemic.

If nothing else, her vote will accomplish one thing: it will break the electoral deadlock in her own family: she’s expecting her 82-year-old father to continue voting Republican, and her 80-year-old mother to vote Democrat.

“It’s a family joke,” said Wiebe. “But they’re both like, ‘Don’t worry, Jen. Your ballot is safe, right on the fridge. I’m watching it.’ “

Wiebe said she’ll support the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket, but she’s also planning to vote for Susan Collins, Maine’s incumbent Republican senator, because she finds her a welcome voice of reason in the chaos that has characterized U.S. politics.

Wiebe is part of the growing wave of eligible American voters in Canada who are participating in an election that has shaped up as a referendum from afar on a controversial president, the Republican Donald Trump.

Measuring that participation definitively is difficult but Trump’s opponents in Canada are buoyed by what they see as encouraging trends. There are an estimated 620,000 eligible American voters in Canada, but in 2016, only five per cent, or about 33,000, actually voted.

Dianna English, the Canadian spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad, points to what her organization views as positive indicators: Canadian membership in the organization has grown by 90 per cent from 2016 to about 25,000 members. And the non-partisan Votefromabroad.org is seeing triple the website traffic from inquisitive foreign voters compared with 2016, up to about one million users.

Republicans in Canada point out that many Democrat votes will be cast in states the party won in 2016 and will likely win this time around. The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California, which the Democrats usually win handily.

“There would be no centralized area where we could find out where all these ballots went,” said Mark Fiegenbaum, a Toronto tax lawyer and chair of Republicans Overseas Canada.

“Any data that we get on how people are voting from Canada, in particular, would be surveying samples of people. And I would probably suspect, when you survey a bunch of people, that they’ll say they’re voting Democrat (but) we don’t know how they actually voted.”

Democrats are mounting a special effort to target the swing state of Michigan, which Trump won by a slender 11,000 votes in 2016. They believe there are more than double that many southern Ontario residents who are eligible to vote in Michigan.

Kathy Murphy lives in Windsor, but before the pandemic she travelled daily to Detroit to work as a paralegal.

“There’s easily 10,000 of us living here, and we could have taken Michigan,” she said.

Murphy’s daughter and stepson, both in their early 20s and living in other parts of Ontario, are voting in their first presidential election. She had them mail their ballots to her in sealed envelopes so she could forward them to the U.S. in one overnight courier package this past week.

“I couldn’t take the chance that we wouldn’t get them there in time,” said Murphy. “It was nice to have two new voters this year.”

Karen Hedetniemi, 56, has called Victoria home since moving from Washington state with her family in Grade 6. But it wasn’t until this past summer that she made her first attempt to vote in the U.S., when she applied to receive a mail-in ballot. She mailed it in late last month and has tracked it online.

“I’m voting for respectful and compassionate, informed and united leadership,” she said, while declining to name the candidate she chose. “I feel that there could be leadership that can offer that to the people, and the country would probably be a lot healthier.”

Fiegenbaum said Democrats clearly have a higher profile in Canada while Republicans “tend to be more silent.”

“I think people, a long time ago, made their decision,” he said. “I can’t imagine there’s undecided people at this point.”

Wiebe’s family in Maine bears that out to a certain extent.

Wiebe said she grew up in “an environment that was informed by both ideologies” and saw her family take an active role in local politics.

“I think pretty much at least three-quarters of my relatives vote Republican,” she said, and she doesn’t expect that to change this time around.

“It doesn’t have to do with Trump’s personality. It has to do with business interests. China. Smaller government. The perception that that’s a good thing.”

Jessica Sheridan, a Toronto-based Democratic supporter, said Canadians have a stake in the U.S. election and that makes it all the more important for Americans to vote from abroad.

“Canada’s democracy can actually be undermined by a neighbour to the south that does not have those same belief systems or values,” said Sheridan.

“We can’t see any more erosion as we have seen on the global stage. Canada needs a really strong ally, and so, for Americans who have that ability to vote, you need to exercise it. It’s a responsibility.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaelectionUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo submitted)
Ponoka Kids Summer Camp registration opens next week

Registration opens next week for the Ponoka Youth Centre/ Boys and Girls… Continue reading

Town of Ponoka logo
Town council approves 2021 capital and operating budgets

Ponoka town council approved the 2021 capital and operating budgets at its… Continue reading

(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe man to apply to withdraw manslaughter guilty plea

Tyler John Campbell wants to change plea after judge rejected seven-year sentence

Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Bihrl
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium, scientist says

Jeff Kneteman says Alberta Environment has known about the problem in bighorn sheep for years

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as supply dwindles

There aren’t any confirmed shipments of AstraZeneca coming, and the province only has 8,400 doses of it left

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

Most Read