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'Democrats Abroad' begin mobilizing American voters living in B.C.

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Some 115,000 Americans live in British Columbia and a partisan volunteer group is trying to mobilize as many of them as possible to vote in the fall’s U.S. election, which promises to be contentious and attention-grabbing on both sides of the border.

Democrats Abroad, which has been active in Metro Vancouver in the last several presidential elections, held a registration drive over the weekend in Burnaby, and will be holding a viewing party Thursday for the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

“We know it’s going to be a fight at the ballot box and U.S. citizens living abroad can really be the margin of victory,” said spokesperson Jennifer Phillips. “It’s a stressful year for a lot of people and the way that people can kind of feel more in control, especially politically, is to get involved.”

Eligible American citizens can register for an absentee ballot, which counts in the district of their last address in their home country. Those born overseas with U.S. citizenship will vote in the district of their parents’ last address.

Canadian government lays groundwork

Canadian politicians are already trying to strengthen the many ties between the two countries in the event of another Trump presidency, which could see the return of tariffs and other “buy American” policies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a number of his cabinet ministers have gone south of the border to make their pitch in person.

“It’s the responsibility of government…to have some kind of plan in place to maintain influence in Washington in various ways and to make sure Canadian interests remain at the forefront of policymakers there, both in terms of the president's office but also in the office holders in the various institutions around Washington,” said Stewart Prest, a University of British Columbia political scientist.

A healthy level of interest

Prest pointed out that many of the issues that will draw the attention of American voters – from the high cost of living to abortion to trade – will inevitably catch Canadians’ attention as well since the U.S. is a “very loud democracy” with big influence outside its borders.

“There is an inevitability of a lot of noise coming out of this election so I'd really encourage Canadians to be aware of what's going on but also try as best we can to maintain some degree of distance from the issue,” added Prest. “American politics tends to operate at a very high pitch and a very high velocity so it is easy to get swept up in the debates of the day.”

Canadians and Americans alike are welcome at the free Democrats Abroad watch party for the first U.S. presidential debate at The Pleasant in East Vancouver at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

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