Excitement of US presidential race reaches NZ

DEMOCRAT: Wellington-based American Stacey Dempsey has voted for President Barack Obama in the federal election.
DEMOCRAT: Wellington-based American Stacey Dempsey has voted for President Barack Obama in the federal election.

No matter how much New Zealand feels like home, the eyes of many of the 11,000 Americans who live here will be turned towards the United States as it chooses its next president.

Polling day is November 6, but absentee votes can be cast earlier.

The Dominion Post spoke to two Wellington-based Americans - one Democrat, one Republican - who have already voted.

Democrat Wine industry sales manager Stacy Dempsey, formerly of California, has lived in New Zealand for 12 years. She cast her vote for incumbent Barack Obama by email.

Voting, she said, was a "big deal" in the US. "When you're a kid, they teach you that people fought in the Civil War for your right to vote.

"If you want to talk about politics, or say why you like this or don't like that about what's going on in the States, then I think you should exercise your right to representation."

But she understood that some expat Americans might choose not to vote. "Once you do leave, you make a conscious choice that you're going to contribute to your new country.

"I think a lot of people would vote in New Zealand, and not the States, for that reason - where they are contributing to the tax base, and where they feel they can make a difference."

Ms Dempsey also follows politics here, and gave her party vote to National in last year's election, though she said the two countries' styles were very different.

"I keep thinking you vote for John Key, but you don't. You just vote for the party." She connected this to low voter turnout here. "It's not so personal."

REPUBLICAN Edith Hall moved to Waikanae with her Kiwi husband after they met when he was working in Houston, Texas.

"Upon retirement, he talked me into coming down to New Zealand for ‘a few years' - and we've been here for 13, as of last month."

Mrs Hall, who is retired, cast her vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as soon as she received her ballot in the mail last month.

"I immediately completed it and posted it home the same day. I've always received my ballots promptly, with no problems. If people want to vote, they'll find a way."

She said she felt voting was a "right and an obligation", as she still felt strong ties to Texas. "I was born there, and I lived there all my working life.

"Even though I enjoy living in New Zealand, and I follow the politics to some extent, I don't quite keep up with it like I do back home."

The Dominion Post