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Jack Knox: In tight race, Team Barack looks north for voters

Jun 07 2012

First sign that the sun has set on the tweenage tourism boom in Port Angeles: The Dazzled by Twilight store has disappeared, replaced by an antique shop. I am bereft. No more Team Edward vs. Team Jacob pendants.

That left me wandering up Lincoln Street this week to the 50-per-cent-off book sale at the Goodwill store, where what jumped out were the number of titles by angry writers of the Republican right: Rush Limbaugh's See, I Told You So, Ann Coulter's Guilty, Karl Rove's Courage and Consequence, Glenn Beck's Arguing With Idiots, Bill O'Reilly's Pinheads and Patriots.

A single copy of Hillary Clinton's Living History sat a couple of shelves down to the left. The sole Democrat, she looked lonely.

So, do all the Republican books mean our across-the-water neighbours in Clallam County are leaning that way, or, because the books were dumped at Goodwill, does the opposite hold true?

These are the uncertainties that drive pundits crazy as they try to predict a tight presidential election race - the latest CNN poll has Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by 49 per cent to 46.

The closeness of the contest is one of the reasons why Democrats Abroad are launching another voter registration drive for Americans living on Vancouver Island.

The group's Victoria-based chapter registered several hundred U.S.-born voters here prior to Obama's election in 2008. This time, they're concentrating on one big push, an Island-wide registration in Victoria, Sidney, the West Shore, Saltspring Island, Nanaimo, Campbell River and Denman Island on June 16.

"We're calling it Super Saturday," says Sandra Jones.

The Brooklyn-born Jones met her Canadian husband, a Victoria-raised private banker, when he was working in New York. They came to Canada in 1999, moving to Victoria seven years ago. She got involved in Democrats Abroad after George W. Bush was elected in 2000.

That election, in which Bush won Florida - and, in consequence, the presidency - by a mere 537 votes, offered proof that every ballot counts. As a result, the Democrats Abroad began shaking the bushes for votes among the six million Americans who live outside the U.S.

That includes an estimated 92,000 in B.C. The 2006 census found 6,125 Greater Victorians were born south of the line. They include two of our three members of Parliament, Elizabeth May and Randall Garrison.

Many Islanders don't even know they are eligible to vote, assuming they lost their U.S. citizenship when they gained their Canadian passports. That used to be the case, but with the concept of dual citizenship now accepted in the United States, people who were once told they had ceased to be Americans might be surprised to learn that is no longer true.

Not everyone is comfortable with that, arguing you should only hold one flag at a time - a touchy subject in a nation of immigrants.

(One in five Canadians is foreign-born, a ratio second only to Australia among western countries.) The counter argument is that dual citizens are affected by tax and pension policies in both countries, so merit a voice.

Besides, look at what France is doing: The 200,000 French citizens resident in Canada and the U.S. are, for the first time, electing their own representative in the French National Assembly this month. Two Canadians are among the 18 candidates for the Canadian-U.S. seat, one of 11 international constituencies.

Also note that it isn't just U.S.-born Canadians who get involved in presidential races. Native-born Canadians, including Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, volunteered for Obama's campaign in 2008, eager to witness history in the making.

Not as much buzz this time, though. "People don't get as excited about a second term," says Jones.

"What we want to do is get the excitement back."

Hence the June 16 registration drive, which includes 1: 30 to 4: 30 p.m. sign-up sessions at the Nellie McClung and Juan de Fuca libraries and Sidney's Peace Lutheran Church.

Changing rules mean some people who registered before might need to do so again.

Since Republicans Abroad isn't active outside of Ontario and Alberta, the drive is billed as non-partisan. "We're open to everybody," Jones says. Perhaps the registrants can identify themselves with pendants: Team Barack vs. Team Mitt.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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