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U.S. citizens in Victoria ramp up for presidential election

Democrats Abroad Victoria Chapter members (from left): Heidi Burch, director of volunteer services, Dr. Giles Hogya, chair and Charles Meadow, chair emeritus stand in front of a billboard for U.S. president Barack Obama along the Pat Bay Highway. - Don Denton/News staff
Democrats Abroad Victoria Chapter members (from left): Heidi Burch, director of volunteer services, Dr. Giles Hogya, chair and Charles Meadow, chair emeritus stand in front of a billboard for U.S. president Barack Obama along the Pat Bay Highway.
— image credit: Don Denton/News staff

With the NHL season on hold, Victoria bar owners and restaurateurs are lamenting the loss of a guaranteed seat-filler.

But another bloodsport could attract an equally passionate crowd, should licensed establishments choose to deviate from sports programming.

The first of three U.S. presidential debates between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney takes place tonight. The remaining contests continue through this month.

“We thought we’d have a party to celebrate,” said Giles Hogya, chair of Democrats Abroad, Victoria chapter.

The organization, which helps register expatriate U.S. citizens to vote, is holding a fundraiser and viewing party in the Maple Room of the Sticky Wicket pub tonight.

“Although we are a political organization, our mandate is to register American voters,” Hogya said. Hundreds of U.S. citizens live on Vancouver Island, he noted.

Through the website votefromabroad.org, expats can find information on registering to vote in their home state, a process that often differs between states. The U.S. government also has an easy-to-follow website for expat voters, www.fvap.gov.

“Many Americans’ votes may be disqualified because the new law says you must register for every single federal election, not just once,” Hogya said.

Democrats Abroad Victoria held a Super Saturday in the spring from Victoria to Campbell River, registering roughly 200 U.S. citizens to vote in the presidential election.

The group then initiated a campaign in August to target U.S. voters living in Canada from 11 key swing states.

“No Republican candidate has ever won the White House without Ohio,” Hogya said.

“We have sent thousands of votes to swing states. And I’m going to be looking ... to see if our efforts have borne fruit.”

He attended the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina earlier this month and said the national party is “very conscious” of the fact that Canada can deliver thousands of votes.

“We’re major player,” Hogya said.

Ontario-based Republicans Abroad Canada has no active chapter in B.C., said spokesperson Kelli White, but the streamlining of online voter registration has made the organization’s efforts to inform expats much easier.

“The website, fvap.gov, even allows you to download an emergency absentee ballot in case your official absentee ballot doesn’t arrive from your voting state,” she said. “With all of the accessibility and streamlining that technology has allowed, the number of absentee votes in almost every state has increased.”

Tonight's presidential debate is the first of three, with a vice-presidential debate Oct. 11. The next commander-in-chief debates happen Oct. 16 and Oct. 22.

There are Democrats Abroad chapters in 51 countries and members in more than 120 countries, according to Hogya.

For more information on Democrats Abroad and to find out about future viewing parties, email davictoriachapter@gmail.com.

Find information on Republicans Abroad at republicansabroad.ca.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

 

 

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