Thursday, November 05, 2009

Election day, away from home

Tuesday was election day. Did you vote? Did you notice? It was one of the small, quiet election days after all, with no presidents and only a few governors. Some cities voted for mayors and a couple of states voted on same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships.

I moved to the United States on January 1, 2001. A few weeks later, George W. Bush took office. I’ve been here through 9/11, the War on Terror, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush’s reelection and Hurricane Katrina. I held my breath and hoped during the 2008 campaign and was amazed and relieved when Obama was elected.

It’s been fascinating and frustrating time to live in this country. At the same time, my interested in Canadian politics has dwindled, stretched out to a thin elastic band connecting me to my home. Even the scandals seem quaint from a distance, when a federal politician is under investigation for getting a deck built for free at his cabin. Compared, oh, say, misleading the UN about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it seems like small potatoes, no? Still, I did send in my absentee ballot for the 2004 election. By the time the 2006 and 2008 elections took place, I couldn’t be bothered. Frankly, it seemed inappropriate to vote when I didn’t know what the parties had done in years, never mind the local candidates. In the end, these weren’t the elections that I really wanted to vote in.

At the same time, I’ve been reluctant to get involved in American politics and I’ve wondered what’s appropriate. If I volunteered for a campaign, would the fact that I’m not a citizen be a problem? Can I donate money? I don’t even know if there are laws about this, never mind the potential scandal of “X’s campaign being bankrolled by foreigners” (after all, my $20 can buy a lot of influence, can’t it?). Attending demonstrations is a risky activity when in the midst of a green card application – how do you explain that arrest? This is only a little paranoid. Friends in Denver attended peace rallies in the months leading up to the Iraq war. A few months later, the Denver police were found to have been surveiling and keeping files on many of the activists. A hasty apology was issued. Still, I may be kidding myself here – it’s not like I was particularly active in Canadian politics.

There’s been a weird comfort, though, in this lack of responsibility. There have been many times over the years when I’ve thought to myself that “they’re your crazy politicians, not mine”. I will likely apply for American citizenship at some time, but there are years of different visa statuses between here and there. I hope I can shake this habit of inaction before then.

4 Comments:

Blogger Amanda said...

I'm pretty sure I can't vote in Canadian elections anymore:

"Eligible Canadians who expect to be outside Canada on election day and during the advance polls, and who have a permanent residence in Canada, can vote by mail-in ballot."

When I went on exchange to the UK as a university student, we were told before we left that we couldn't participating in politics while abroad. However, that changed when I lived there - even on my working holiday visa, as a Canadian citizen resident in Scotland, I was allowed to vote in elections.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I'm pretty sure I can't vote in Canadian elections anymore:

"Eligible Canadians who expect to be outside Canada on election day and during the advance polls, and who have a permanent residence in Canada, can vote by mail-in ballot."

When I went on exchange to the UK as a university student, we were told before we left that we couldn't participating in politics while abroad. However, that changed when I lived there - even on my working holiday visa, as a Canadian citizen resident in Scotland, I was allowed to vote in elections.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:10 PM  
Blogger antijen said...

So, you prompted me to look this up properly. Here are the rules from Elections Canada:

"Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and are temporarily residing outside Canada may vote by special ballot in an election or referendum. They must have resided in Canada at any time before applying for registration, have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years immediately before making the application and intend to resume residence in Canada"

So. I was eligible then, but am not now. So much for mooning about in angst. ;-)

10:42 PM  

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