Manitobans in U.S. watching election closely

Manitobans living in North Dakota and Minnesota say they will be watching the U.S. election race unfold tonight.
Some U.S. election signs in North Dakota last week. Americans head to the polls on Tuesday.

Manitobans living in the United States say they will be watching the race to the White House unfold tonight.

America Votes

Watch CBC News: Winnipeg at 6 p.m. for complete U.S. election coverage featuring stories, interviews and guests.

In the weeks leading up to the 2012 U.S. election battle between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Manitoba natives in North Dakota and Minnesota say they have noticed differences between Canadian and U.S. campaigns.

"When there's an election at home, they're like, 'Oh, there's an election coming up' … like you don't know," said Alanna Dawson of Headingley, Man., who is studying music at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Alanna Dawson, who is studying music at Minnesota State University Moorhead, says elections are a bigger deal in the U.S. as they are back home. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

"But it's a huge deal down here."

Kevin Robson, a former Winnipegger living in Grand Forks, North Dakota,  says politics seem more personal and local in the U.S.

"Political figures, certainly locally in Grand Forks and in North Dakota, are more in the community," he observed.

"Members of the city council, the mayor, you see them everyday — they may be your doctor or your something else — whereas in Winnipeg, it seemed like those were full-time professional jobs."

Staying mum on vote

A dual citizen with an American mother and Canadian father, Robson once played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — as his father did — and now works at a Canadian hotel in Grand Forks.

Dual Canadian-U.S. citizen Kevin Robson says he intends to vote on Tuesday, but he won't say how. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

Robson said he intends to cast his ballot on Tuesday, but he won't say how he votes, noting that voters in the state tend to play their cards close to their vests.

Atif Farid Mohammad, a Manitoban studying in Grand Forks, said even though he won't be voting on Tuesday, his friends there have dragged him into the election debate.

"When the Obama health care was a hot issue, they were basically mocking me that being a Canadian, like, Obama is bringing in socialized health care," Mohammad said.

Mohammad said he thinks political candidates in Manitoba are quite accessible, while his U.S. friends complained that it was often difficult to meet the candidates face-to-face.

Election-watching in Winnipeg

The U.S. election is also drawing the interest of political observers in Winnipeg.

The University of Manitoba is hosting an election forum on Tuesday evening, as the results come in.

Among those who will be at the forum is Paul Lawrie, a history professor at the University of Winnipeg, who said his American history students will keep a close eye on what he describes as "the polarization of the electorate."

"This is one of the most polarized election seasons that we've seen in a number of years," Lawrie said, adding that there is a shrinking base of independent voters.

Lawrie said he and his students believe social media has accelerated the spread of partisan views and made the campaign bitter at times.

Lauren Effertz, a Minnesota native who is studying film at the University of Manitoba, said she cast her U.S. election ballot early.

A first-time voter, Effertz said her classmates were surprised to hear how different election ballots are in U.S. compared to Canada.

She said she cast ballots for state and local leaders and judges, and she also had to vote on several Minnesota state constitutional amendments.

"They're really complicated and you got to be able to pay attention because sometimes the language can be very confusing," she said of the ballots.