The polls for the US Presidential election are open, but some expat Americans in New Zealand have switched off from the race between Barack Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney.
Early and foreign absentee voting began this week but two out of four Americans Te Waha Nui interviewed are not voting and only one had been actively following the election race.
US citizens living abroad on Election Day, November 6, can post in either the absentee ballot or emergency ballot.
The paperwork and the “uninspiring” candidates have contributed to North Shore photographer Melissa Nickerson’s apathy toward the election.
Nickerson, from Portland, Oregon, says she was disappointed with Obama’s first term so is not excited by the election news or debates back home.
“I certainly voted for him in 2008 and was glued to the TV screen on election night.”
She says this time around she has not closely followed the election build-up, but her friends back home say neither candidate looks appealing.
“So, if there’s no one inspirational, or at least trustworthy, then they aren’t getting my vote.”
Texan Republican Julia Loft, who now teaches in Auckland, says she regretted not voting in 2008 but still won’t be posting in her ballot this year.
“I know it sounds selfish but the decisions the American Government make don’t affect me.
“I still do care, but I’m not moving back. So in that case, it’s not really fair for me to vote because the Americans back home are living with it and I’m not.”
Loft still hopes Republican candidate Romney wins the necessary 270 Electoral College votes to move into the White House, because his religious values align closely with hers.
“Being a Mormon works against him because of the stereotypes. If he were a Baptist or a Catholic the race would be easier.”
However, Loft says her eight years in New Zealand mean she now opposes Republican Party views on immigration and healthcare.
“Coming here has changed everything. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite now, with regards to tough immigration laws and
“Some friends back home are against ‘Obamacare’ [health reforms], but living here I can see that a public healthcare system can work.”
Florida native Gabrielle Beans says her state’s status as a
“swing state” is the main reason she is voting for Obama from New Zealand.
“I have my papers and I will vote, because you can never be too sure who will win Florida.
“I never thought [George W.] Bush would win Florida but he did.”
Florida contributes 29 electoral votes to either candidate’s tally and a recent Florida Times-Union poll had President Obama ahead by just three percentage points.
Beans says she feels obliged to vote because she may return.
“The things that bothered me when I lived in the US still bother me now.
“So even though I’m not directly affected I still want things like a clean environment, better women’s rights, progressive taxes and universal healthcare.
“If I ever have kids that want to return to the US, I want those things for them.”
Vietnam War veteran and Democrat Larry Keim says he keeps updated with each campaign daily and will be ticking the box for Obama.
Keim, 61, is also registered in a swing state, Virginia, and sees the economy as the biggest issue facing America today.
“But Obama was given a bag of shit when he was elected.
“He even said that the recovery from his inherited crisis would be slow.
“So the Republicans are trying to paint him badly as a failure and hope by yelling it over and over it will somehow become true,” he says.
“But contrary to what many think, Americans aren’t stupid.
“They believe Obama can fix the economy and is thinking long term and for future generations.”
Keim says undecided expats and voters back home make their minds up during the Presidential debates.
University of Auckland political studies lecturer Dr Gavin Ellis says expats like Keim have many outlets on offer if they want political news from home.
“The role of social media, which really began with Obama’s campaign in 2008, has grown exponentially as a primary way to directly connect with voters across borders.”
“From Facebook friends and bloggers to the websites of CNN and the New York Times, expats are no longer limited to our mainstream media,” he says.