Photo via the Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick
In an election where more than one Republican candidate has suggested building a wall on the northern border, it's probably unsurprising that there's lots of enthusiasm in Canada to elect a Democrat.And, unlike the Republicans, the Democrats even award delegates to those canuck voters.It's part of the Democrats Abroad initiative, which allows American citizens living outside the United States to cast ballots at local polling places and elect delegates to back candidates for the nomination.
On Tuesday night, those international voters — including a huddle of Democrats who congregated in The Senate bar in Canada's capital — will elect 21 delegates to back either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.Organizers said roughly two dozen Americans in Canada had cast ballots, which will be shipped to the Democrats Abroad headquarters, along with ballots from a handful of cities across the country including Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.Competing with a hockey game — the Ottawa Senators up against the St Louis Blues — the Americans crammed into a corner of the bar, around a makeshift voting place adorned with American flags.Related: Live Blog: Super Tuesday 2016"It's been really amazing to see people come out," said Krista Leben, from Colorado, who was helping staff the event. "I think the race has been so divisive, and we've got such interesting characters in the election, that it's motivated a lot of people to get out."Democrats Abroad, started in 2008, awarded four-and-a-half delegate votes to Barack Obama in 2008, and two-and-a-half to Clinton.The Republicans have no such system, and instead encourage supporters worldwide to mail their absentee ballots back to their home state — an option that Democrats also enjoy.Katie Wood, who has lived in Canada for most of the past decade, was voting in the international primary for the first time. She says she was conflicted between Sanders and Clinton.
"My beliefs align with what he's saying," Wood said. "I was in conflict in deciding if I could actually vote fo for him, or vote for Hillary, because of the female representation."Wood says Clinton is a little bit too "establishment" for her, although she added that the celebration of anti-establishment candidates — Trump especially — has been "all hype."In the end, she shrugged. Even if she figures Barack Obama has done a pretty good job: "people want change."The crowd at The Senate, located just down the street from the American embassy in Ottawa's Byward Market, seemed onside with Wood. The crowd went silent as Clinton was projected to win Virginia and Georgia, but erupted in cheers as Vermont was called for Sanders.The bar broke out in boos as CNN projected Trump to carry his first state.The first results to come in from the international primary came from a bar in New Zealand, where 28 far-flung Democrats cast their ballots for Sanders, while just six voted for Clinton.When it comes to the vote in Canada, Sanders can probably expect to do well. Many of his policies — including single-payer healthcare, more aggressive banking regulations, and higher taxes on the rich — have been billed as 'straight out of Canada.'While there might not be many delegates at stake — roughly as many as Vermont, the smallest Super Tuesday state — the campaigns have nevertheless campaigned for the international votes. Clinton surrogate Madeleine Albright joined Sanders himself for an online town hall aimed at the Democrats living outside of the U.S.
Related: Some Americans Are Seriously Considering Moving to an Island in Canada If Trump WinsWhile the Democrats vie for their votes, it's been the Republican field that has leaned into some outright Canada-bashing. Withdrawn candidate Scott Walker opened the debate by suggesting that he saw merit in building a wall on the border with Canada, Ben Carson suggested that American troops should patrol the border, while other candidates jostled to register their perennial outrage that America's healthcare system would look anything like their northern neighbours.Frontrunner Donald Trump has been hot and cold. On one hand, he dismissed the idea of beefing up border security in the north and complimented the Canadian healthcare system. On the other, he's promised to rip up and renegotiate the NAFTA and TPP agreements, and he's aggressively gone after Ted Cruz for being born in Canada.The voting for Democrats Abroad will continue for most of the week, until all the ballots are counted on March 8.Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @Justin_Ling