An Urgent Plea to The One Million People Living in Canada Who Are Eligible to Vote in U.S. Elections

Opinion: Close to a million people living in Canada still retain the ability to vote in U.S. elections. The potential influence of that many voters is profound and the stakes could not be higher.

My great-grandparents came to the U.S. by ship as refugees, arriving at Ellis Island in New York with only the clothes they were wearing. My great-grandfather supported his young family as an itinerant salesman travelling by horse and wagon, peddling mules and eyeglasses. The family eventually settled in southern Delaware, where they were able to do what would never have been possible in their home country: own land. They purchased farms, opened a store that provided supplies and free advice to local farmers, and eventually created an enterprise so successful that the family was able to send my father and his siblings to college, another impossible dream.

In 2001, when my wife and I decided to immigrate to Canada, a choice that our relative privilege allowed, my father simply could not understand. How could anyone raised in what he considered to be the greatest country in the world, the place that had provided freedom and prosperity to his family, leave? It was hard to explain to my father that we were not running away as much as we were running toward something — a community and a country that we had come to love and wanted to be a part of.

My father died in January of 2015, never having accepted that his youngest son had left the U.S. The gathering for his memorial included a large state police security detail in anticipation of the arrival of his long-time friend Joe Biden, who was then vice-president. In my eulogy, I spoke of my father’s love of the country that had given him so much, reflected on his deep personal commitment to the values of equal rights and democracy, and reflected on my own life and how it had been informed by his ideals.

My wife and I are now proud citizens of this wonderful albeit imperfect nation, but we have retained our American citizenship. Canada is our beloved home, but the United States is our homeland. Both hold a place in our hearts. And although we no longer reside in the U.S., we are incredibly distraught as we bear witness to a painful rupture in the American experiment being driven by the current president and the lockstep following he has in the Republican party. My father was loyal to the Democratic party, but he was more loyal to the idea that everyone had the right to their opinion and that America was a place where every opinion could be heard and respected. That foundational principle is now unravelling, as are many other aspects of a civil society, such as truth, a shared sense of community and purpose, and a mutual desire to protect the earth’s living systems that all of us depend on for our survival.

The U.S. and its policies have a disproportionately large impact on the whole world, and most acutely on those countries that share its borders. It is not just the smoke from climate-related fires in California, Oregon, and Washington that now drift across our border and into our lungs, it’s the rise of authoritarian rule that we once attributed to places like Russia or China, the racial injustice, the abandonment of civil discourse, the real possibility of widespread violence, and the seeming inability to act to prevent imminent climate collapse that impact everyone’s lives no matter where they live.

The current health pandemic may just be a trial run, an opportunity for each of us to look closely at how we live, discover the difference between what we want and what we really need, and re-evaluate our relationships to each other and the earth. But there is an even greater pandemic that no mask or social distancing will save us from — human-caused climate chaos. Now more than ever before, we need strong, clear responsible leadership to take the kind of bold action that will be required to save our home planet, our only ship at sea. The world will not survive another four years of U.S. climate denial under the current administration. A change in leadership is desperately needed.

Close to a million people living in Canada, dual citizens and permanent residents, still retain the ability to vote in U.S. elections through the state where they last resided. This is the largest voting block of any country outside of the U.S. The potential influence of that many voters is profound — if all of those individuals actually vote. In the 2016 U.S. election, less than six per cent of eligible Canadian voters voted, yet fewer than 100,000 people in a handful of key states determined the outcome of that election.

Imagine what would have happened if every eligible Canadian had cast a vote, imagine what could happen if every eligible Canadian actually voted in the upcoming U.S election. I used to say that every person on the planet should have the right to vote in U.S. elections, because the influence of the U.S. on the whole world is so overwhelming. But Canada alone can now actually tip the scales. The stakes could not be higher, those who can but choose not to vote will be complicit in the outcome.

I urge everyone in this great country who is eligible to register immediately through the state where you last resided. Do it now and vote as early as you can. A massive voter turnout, in person or by mail, will have a major impact on whether the outcome is accepted or contested.

The results of the upcoming U.S. election are no longer just an American problem — they belong to all of us.

About Michael Ableman

Michael Ableman is a Canadian-American farmer and author of five books. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives and farms on Salt Spring Island.

This story was originally published with the Vancouver Sun reproduced here with permission.

October 14, 2020 10:29 AM

  • w101 says:

    I have a few dual citizen family members in Ontario and Alberta... and they all voted for the current President as they feel he's doing a good job. Every single one of them... --just sayin...

  • Bill Cogswell says:

    Voting is meaningless.

    If I were to vote it would not be for Trump because of Trump but it would be to keep the despicable Democrats out of office.

  • w101 says:

    I think many people are setting themselves up for a huge disappointment if they think a 47 year Washington globalist with health and corruption issues is going to beat an incumbent who has massive support. There's data that show President Trump could pull in 21-25% of the black vote, and up to 40% of the Latino vote. That's a huge uptick from 2016.

    Mainstream polls are making the exact same "mistake" they did in 2016. One of the few polls that got it correct in 2016 was "The Trafalgar Group" Poll (the who is your neighbour voting for poll) currently has President Trump ahead in MI, FL, PA, AZ, OH, NC, MN(dead heat), WI(dead heat) and NY may even be in play depending on New York City turn out.

    --And the "Primary Model" by PhD Helmut Norpoth that has accurately predicted 25 of 27 Presidential elections also predicted 2016 correctly. That model's prediction has Trump at 91% chance of win, with 362 Electoral votes for Trump, and 176 for Biden.

  • Paul says:

    As an American ex-pat living here in Canada I felt compelled for the first time ever to vote in a US election. My ballot is already signed, sealed and (hopefully) delivered. It may be meaningless in the grand scheme of the chaos we are witnessing but at least I know that I did what I could, no mater how small, to add my voice to those denouncing injustice.

  • Paul says:

    The hope is that in 12 months or so, Mr. Biden has a stroke and his VP takes office. She looks like the best option out of any of them.

  • jane7 says:

    Here's some important information: Local elections offices in the US are often not familiar with the special regulations that federal law has in place to help voters who live outside the country, so VOTEFROMABROAD.ORG is the website that is best for registering, requesting a ballot, and finding out the best way to return it.  They have an online help chat desk at bottom right of every page (red circle) and you can also email: INFO@DEMOCRATSABROAD.ORG for voting help. Teams of volunteers are very motivated and dedicated to help make sure your vote is counted.

  • Annie says:

    Here's something to help get the word out about ousting Trump. Whoever said 'satire is dead' was premature. If you think this book might be helpful in spreading the word, please help me get it it out there. You can contact me if needed at and below is the Amazon link.

  • Linda MacIntosh says:

    Beautifully written Michael. Thank you so much for doing this as part of your ‘make a better world’ philosophy. I have forwarded this to many in hopes of giving aid to the purpose.

  • Linda MacIntosh says:

    I am disappointed to see the GENERALIZING within this comment. It is exactly what keeps government being Partisan versus co-operative. Trump is not representing the people or the Republican Party as it was originally designed. He is dangerous and damaging to a large part of the country. Let’s put PARTY aside and get someone in there who will work with the OTHER bodies of the Government.

  • Robby Parker says:

    There is NOTHING URGENT about this at all. We have been voting for the lesser of two evils since before I was born. What we experience now is an accumulation of bad collective decision making and an inability to give up our comforts and stand up for our convictions. By voting you become an enabler. You say what they are and have been doing is ok. The amount of money spent on elections while people can't pay rent is a disgrace. The lobby and campaign donations are what dictate policy and law. If you believe there is a democracy, if you believe central banks and governments are making decisions that are in the best interest of its citizens, if you believe what you read in the paper and what you hear on the news is true and worth repeating, are sadly mistaken. There is a darkness, an evil beyond evil, and a corruption in politics that has existed since before the time of Julius Caesar that is so unbelievable nobody believes it. The information is available for those who prioritize truth over comfort and being right.
    Solution: Build a sovereign autonomous local network and economy of exchange. Love, forgive, meditate.

  • Robby Parker says:

    It may happen A LOT faster than you think. Lol.

  • Robby Parker says:

    Be careful of the Us vs.Them mentality. There is only ONE of us. I would be curious to hear what specifically you hate about democrats. If it dishonesty you don't like then remove dishonesty from your own speech and actions, if it is hypocrisy you don't like, remove it from your speech and actions, if it is hatred and violence you do not like then find where they live within you and eradicate them.
    How do we eradicate the darkness within us. We acknowledge and embrace it. Forgive it. Let it go. Over, and Over, and Over again.
    If we all did this the world would transform before our very eyes instantaneously.
    This way we vote every moment of everyday.

  • Flybykite says:

    Imagine believing that Trump and Biden are the 2 smartest and most qualified Americans carefully selected by fellow Americans to lead their nation.

    Let's say you do vote, now, after you've voted, go ahead and try to verify that your vote actually gets counted correctly. Hint: you can't, (perhaps by design? ) although the tech making it possible has been readily available for a decade.
    I'll vote when voters can independently verify their vote post election, with publicly audited results! Don't trust, verify! Until then, it's a crooked web of lies and unworthy of my time.
    The only true vote is how we choose to use our money/value.

  • Brenda Walker says:

    The notion that Trump will pull 21-25% of the African-American vote is a fantasy. Women outpace men overall, but A-A women outpace A-A men by even greater margins than with other groups. The opposition to Trump has increased over the last three years because A-A women have seen their wages drop forcing them to hold more than one job. (How much does low unemployment help you if you have to work more than one job to survive?) They are disproportionately essential workers, and have also been disproportionately impacted by rising unemployment this year, particularly in the last month for single mothers.

    The Trump campaign has been boasting about support for HBCU's and criminal justice reform. Despite what the media may portray, these two things have little to no impact on most African-Americans who actually vote. Most haven't attended HBCU's and the majority of those who do are in southern states that Trump is going to win anyway. It's pandering and is a transparent move, just like the campaign's support of putting Kanye West on the ballot in some states, as if the people don't know that Kanye suffers from mentally illness.

    The campaign has specifically targeted A-A men, particularly those who follow conspiracy theories. That group is the most likely to have a felony conviction and can't vote. Ironically, one of the swing states that Trump must win is Florida, where the government has made it harder for felons to vote despite new law giving them that right.

    Whatever gains Trump might make with African-American men who actually vote, it will not make up for the European-American women who say they won't vote for him this time. His best chance is if those women are the ones who responded to pollsters based on social desirability. But if they really have changed their minds, it's over.