Uncle Sam urges U.S. expats in Canada to vote in presidential election

A trickle of American citizens registered to vote for November’s presidential election on Wednesday, as Uncle Sam offered advice on doing so outside the newly flag-festooned U.S. consulate in downtown Toronto.

The event, part of a Canada-wide push to reach the large numbers of expat Americans, comes days after Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton squared off against Republican rival Donald Trump in what was one of the most-watched political events ever.

“We want to encourage all of the hundreds of thousands of Americans living in Ontario to register to vote and make sure they vote,” said Scott Renner, consular section chief, as he walked about in his Uncle Sam outfit.

“This year, we’ve definitely seen high levels of interest in registering to vote.”

One of those taking advantage of the opportunity was Annie Diep, in Canada since 2004. The first-time voter, originally from Florida, said she watched the debate and really wants to cast a ballot this time. Although still undecided about who she will vote for, Diep said she likes both candidates.

“I find it really different this year,” said Diep, as her 10-year-old daughter Catherine Le looked on.

“It is the first time that Hillary — a woman — is actually running for the presidency but then again, there is a person who has no background in politics who is also running to be president and I like that.”

Some expats have grumbled the registration and voting process — which can be done online — is cumbersome, and the consular drive aimed to smooth out the kinks with vote deadlines looming.

‘Imperative’ to vote 

On the sidewalk of the busy thoroughfare outside the consulate, officials like Renner explained the online process to those seeking information, accepted registrations, and even sent on the needed paperwork to the various states.

“It’s a little complicated because each state has its own individual rules how to do it,” Renner said. “But we have guidance for all the states and territories of the U.S.”

Sporting his ready-to-mail, postage-free registration card, Eli Kennenbaum said the process took just a few minutes. Kennenbaum, who came to Toronto from New York City six months ago, said it was “imperative” to vote this time with the direction of the country at stake.

“Both candidates represent very different sides of the coin in this election, as far as I’ve seen it in any election,” Kennenbaum said. “Every voter can make a difference.”

Consular push is non-partisan

Although too young to vote, Diep’s daughter has also caught election fever. The Clinton supporter said she found Monday’s debate “really exciting,” staying up to watch about 35 minutes of it before being packed off to bed.

“I liked the part where Donald Trump and Hillary were arguing back and forth,” she said.

One anti-Trump activist group has launched a global online campaign aimed at urging the millions of expat Americans to vote. In contrast, the consular push is non-partisan, and the U.S. embassy in Ottawa and consulates across the country have been taking part this week in the voting-awareness drive.

Renner, however, proclaimed the Toronto event special.

“I don’t know that anybody else has an Uncle Sam costume,” he said.

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