Local turnout among American expatriates is unprecedented on the eve of Tuesday’s U.S. election, according to Jennifer Phillips, a Vancouver-based communications secretary for Democrats Abroad.
“We’ve seen extreme enthusiasm globally. Traffic on our website VotefromAbroad.org tripled compared to 2016.”
Phillips said among Democrats Abroad there was a 90-per-cent increase in requests for absentee ballots over 2016, and 80 per cent of those who ordered them have confirmed voting.
“We’ve seen this over-riding feeling of excitement and engagement, and we’re hoping we’ve done our job early enough, and that our votes are in and are verified,” said Phillips.
Canada is home to around 622,500 Americans who are eligible to vote in the U.S. election.
Mark Feigenbaum, a Toronto-based cross-border tax lawyer and chairman of Republicans Overseas Canada, said he believes expat voting could tip the scales if the presidential race is close.
“In the 2000 election, we found out that overseas votes made a difference in Florida — they had to count all the overseas votes. This year, it’s going to be a large number.”
In that disputed election, George W. Bush pulled ahead in Florida after overseas absentee ballots were counted after election day, giving him an official total of 537 more votes than Democratic challenger Al Gore.
“The interest is widespread on every side,” said Feigenbaum, although he believes “there is less interest in the actual issues and more into the character and personalities (of the candidates).”
Paul Quirk, a professor of political science and specialist in U.S. politics at the University of B.C., said he believes the issues are driving the record turnout. “People are regarding the stakes in this election as more urgent than normal because of the severity of the conflicts between the Trump administration and the Democrats.”
Historically, early voting has favoured the Democrats, Quirk said, but he expects a heavy Republican turnout on election day.
“One of the main reasons there is so much interest in the election is the virus. Polls show that 70 per cent of the American public disapproves of Trump’s approach to it.”
Another element influencing turnout on the Democrat side is President Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election.
“Trump is visibly or openly challenging the legitimacy of the electoral system, and people perceive that free and fair elections are at risk.”
Quirk said election watchers should keep an eye on Florida, where Democrat Joe Biden has a narrow lead in polls.
“If Biden does win Florida, we will know that by 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. our time. If Biden wins Florida, Trump has hardly any plausible path to winning,” said Quirk, who looks to pollsters FiveThirtyEight and The Economist to gauge possible outcomes.
“Biden’s chances are 90 per cent, according to FiveThirtyEight, and 95 per cent in the case of The Economist,” said Quirk.
Numbers favouring Biden don’t seem to matter to B.C. gamblers. Matt Lee, a spokesperson at the B.C. Lottery Corp., said British Columbians have wagered more than $1.4 million (68 per cent of all bets) on Trump, although he is the underdog, with current odds at 2.35.
Bettors who backing Joe Biden have shelled out more than $622,000 (or 29 per cent of the wagers). Biden’s odds are 1.58.
To date, an estimated 12,000-plus bets totalling approximately $3 million have been placed on the U.S. election this year, including state betting, electoral college voting, and popular vote betting, which makes this race the most popular “novelty” bet in B.C. Lottery Corp. history, said Lee.