Wednesday, June 19, 2024
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students

An eligible U.S. voter in the upcoming midterm elections holds up a VoteFromAbroad leaflet at the UBC campus.

Convincing expats to vote is easier in the age of Trump

Vancouver is home to the largest diaspora of eligible American voters in the world

By Vicente Biancardi da Camara , in City , on October 25, 2018

The Vancouver chapter of Democrats Abroad has had an easier time getting people registered to vote this year – ahead of the upcoming U.S. midterm elections – than any other midterm in recent memory, according to people working with the group.

Californian expat Camille Mitchell, who has worked with the group on previous elections, has noticed an increased level of engagement from local Democrats. What’s exciting for her this time is that there’s been a lot of enthusiasm from people registered in traditionally conservative areas in the U.S.

 “The people who are coming up to us asking how they can vote, where to go, how to do it […] seem to be so on top of the news and what’s happening,” said Mitchell. “They just want to know where to go.”

Getting the vote out

Vancouver is home to the largest diaspora of eligible American voters in the world. Estimates put their count at over 180,000, meaning that a strong showing from local Democrats could have a significant effect on various races being fought in the U.S. House and Senate.

Camille Mitchell wields a Democrats Abroad poster in a Vancouver café.

Democrats Abroad Vancouver has organized multiple events to get out the vote in recent months, including a protest in front of Trump tower in June. Still, they’ve found they don’t even need to promote particular policies or criticize the current administration to secure the public’s interest – they have it already.

“I think the world is going to be holding its breath,” said Mitchell of the upcoming elections.

Melek Ortabasi, a professor of world literature at Simon Fraser University who signed up to the Democrats Abroad after Trump was elected, joined because she felt that it was no longer fair to let the same old people shoulder the entire burden of activism.

But the process of getting out the vote was markedly less divisive than she would have expected in the current political climate. “I can’t honestly tell you that people came up to us saying ‘Oh my God, Trump has got to go,’ but I think that is what motivated people to come over.”

It’s not over yet

Even though engagement is up, however, the Vancouver Democrats Abroad worry that not enough people will take the time to vote.

Some states accept registrations and ballots later than others, so the Democrats Abroad members said they encourage anyone with American citizenship to check for the rules of their home state. They reiterated that they are always available to help people navigate this process, regardless of their political beliefs.