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Americans living in Simcoe County feeling unsettled after U.S. vote

'I’m a little bit in shock. The media and the pollsters had it wrong. I’m just surprised at the mindset of the American voters,' says dual citizen

Christi Seiberling Spriggs is on pins and needles today as she looks southward watching uncertainty unfold in the American election.

“I don’t know if I slept more than three hours last night” watching the results come in only to wake up to learn the situation still remains unclear, said Seiberling Spriggs, who hails from rural western Maryland and is now a dual citizen living in Canada since 1995. “My heart is still there.”

The American election is anything but predictable. Votes continued to be counted this morning in key states as Donald Trump and Joe Biden run neck-in-neck in the race to become president of the hugely influential nation.

And with Nevada announcing Wednesday morning that it has stopped counting, planning to resume at 9 a.m., Thursday, and a handful of other key states still counting ballots, the uncertainty will no doubt linger, leaving many American voters feeling helpless. 

After vacationing in Canada regularly, Seiberling Spriggs attended Brock University in St. Catharines as an exchange student where she met a young man and then moved to the Niagara area. In 1998, she moved to the Orillia-Washago area and now works as manager of conference services at YMCA Geneva Park on Lake Couchiching, north of Orillia.

Like many in the rural area where she was raised, Seiberling Spriggs became a registered Republican early on. But, after many years away, she began supporting the Democrats, moving from supporting the Republicans after voting for George W. Bush.

At least 640,000 Americans living in Canada were expected to vote in the U.S. election this year, matching the number who voted four years ago. Although voting numbers are up dramatically, that’s expected to be reflected here as well.

Seiberling Spriggs has registered her vote in every presidential election since she left. This year, she was emailed a ballot and mailed it back with a signed affidavit confirming her identity.

“It was fantastic; I had tracking. They let me know as soon as it arrived,” she said.

And, as expected, Maryland voted Democrat.

But, overall, the election has been anything but predictable. 

In Barrie, Kathy Harrison felt unsettled, so she connected with Democrats Abroad Canada via Zoom with other Americans living in Canada to follow the election results Tuesday night.

“I really needed to feel a sense of community with my fellow Americans,” said Harrison, an educational assistant at St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Barrie. “It’s inspiring to see so many people not even living in the United States anymore, but are still passionate about the lives of the American people and democracy.”

Hailing from Adrian, Wis., Harrison has been living in Canada as a permanent resident since 1988, moving to Barrie in 1995. And although she hasn’t voted faithfully since she left, she felt it was important to make her voice heard this year.

At 11 p.m., Tuesday, she signed off, but was up again at 4:30 a.m. this morning to get a handle on the situation in her homeland before heading off to work. And even though the picture still appeared to be as muddy as ever, she remains hopeful.

“I’m holding out hope that we’ll see a Democratic president,” she said.

But, no matter the outcome, she believes healing will have to soon begin in a country ever more polarized by its political views to ensure it remains a calm and peaceful nation.

In Penetanguishene, retired Toronto businessman James Miller is shaking his head at how things have unfolded, defying so many predictions.

Miller, who typically winters in Florida, was raised in Canada to American citizens as a dual citizen and, over time, found his allegiance to the Republican Party ebbing. During this year’s presidential race, he threw his support squarely behind the Democrats, but his vote was lost. Even though he registered to vote in Florida, his email ballot never arrived.

But that didn’t lessen his interest.

“I’m a little bit in shock,” he said Wednesday morning. “The media and the pollsters had it wrong. I’m just surprised at the mindset of the American voters.”

Miller still maintains close ties with his Republican friends and stays closely connected with the American news, even occasionally watching Fox News with its unabashed Republican leanings.

But he says he has yet to reconnect with his Republican roots.

“I’m very nervous for the U.S. and the rest of the world,” he said Wednesday.

Having been in Canada since 1968 to work at the University of Toronto as a professor of child study and given up his American citizenship, Andy Biemiller feels very much like a Canadian citizen looking south as an outsider. But he still cares about what happens in the U.S. and how things are ultimately settled there.

“I am just as happy in some ways being just a straight Canadian citizen,” said Biemiller, who has been living in Barrie with his American wife of 12 years. “I’ve always worked in Canada. This feels like home.”

But he’s concerned for the homeland where his dad once served as a Democratic congressman in Milwaukee.

He feels there’s an “awful mess” with Trump at the helm for the past four years and that the current state of the election reflects that.

“We didn’t get the landslide to put everything back on a much better course,” he said.

And although the Democrats appear to have gained the edge in the presidential race, he is concerned that the Republicans have control of the Senate.

“I am sad for my country right now,” said Seiberling Spriggs, citing a polarization that has resulted in a division and impacting how the U.S. is perceived on the world’s stage. “It’s hard to be on the other side to watch what’s going on in your country.

"You just want to be part of making a good change.”

About the Author: Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative

Marg. Buineman is an award-winning journalist covering justice issues and human interest stories for BarrieToday.
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