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U.S. Election: Democrats, Republicans race to secure the ex-pat vote in Canada

Camille Mitchell is a volunteer with Democrats Abroad.

From her home in West Vancouver, the dual citizen has been contacting as many Americans in Canada as she can to register to vote.

“A lot of Americans living here don’t know they can vote from here. They think they have to fly there (to the United States) to vote,” said Mitchell.

“They don’t.”

There are approximately 660,000 American citizens in Canada, and in the last U.S. election, about five per cent of them cast their ballots. In trying to change that, Democrats have been aggressively recruiting ex-pats using ads on Facebook and Spotify.

“They have an incredibly well orchestrated campaign and we need to compliment them on their organizational skills, there’s no doubt about it,” admits John Richardson, a Toronto tax lawyer who also has dual citizenship.

His own group, Republicans Overseas, isn’t as organized, he concedes.

However, he takes exception to the fact that Democrats are aiming their campaign at dual citizens. For example, a Spotify ad which says, “Even if you’ve never lived a day in the U.S., you can vote in American elections.”

“The people who just happen to have a technical claim to citizenship and don’t identify as Americans shouldn’t vote in American elections,” said Richardson.

There’s nothing illegal about the ad, which only runs in Windsor, Ont., right across the bridge from Detroit, Michigan — a battleground state where, in 2016, Trump won by 11,000 votes.

So if Americans living in Windsor do vote, they’ll likely cast their ballots in Michigan.

But does the ex-pat vote matter? According to Simon Fraser University political scientist Andy Hira, it can.

“Remember, the U.S. voting system is based on the electoral college. Voting margins can be slim and it is not based on the popular vote,” said Hira.

He points to then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote in 2016, but ultimately losing the election.

The same thing happened to Al Gore in 2000. In both cases, either candidate lost in swing states.

“Americans living in Canada could have an impact on the election,” said Hira.

Hence the Democrats’ campaign in this country, where American political divisions evidently run just as deep.

“Imagine if every American overseas voted — the impact it would have on the election,” said Mitchell.

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