US elections 2020: Expats in New Zealand anxious for state of country

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American expats in New Zealand are anxiously waiting for the polls to close as the US election nears its climax.

A voter drops of her ballot at the Granby Town Hall  in Granby, Colorado on November 3, 2020.

A voter drops of her ballot at the Granby Town Hall in Granby, Colorado on November 3, 2020. Photo: Jason Connolly / AFP

Millions of people are heading to the polls today, adding to the record 100 million votes that have already been cast early.

National polls suggest 77-year-old Democratic candidate Joe Biden has the lead.

Madeline Nash, her husband, and her two kids looked at moving to New Zealand after the 2016 presidential election.

Her oldest child was just about to start school and during the hour-long school tours they went on, 20 minutes were spent explaining the school’s shooter protocol.

“It was just frightening, it was really scary to think that that’s what we were setting ourselves up for. The way things were going in the US maybe it would be all right, maybe it wouldn’t,” Nash said.

In June 2018, they finally made the big move from Austin, Texas to Auckland. Nash said America had become a very polarising place and partisan politics had been amplified since 2016.

“People aren’t even living in the same world anymore. There are two different Americas and it’s really painful to watch.”

In regards to the election, her family said they were “hoping for the best and preparing for the worst”.

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Nash said the hyper-partisanship had caused family rifts.

“It really is like there’s just two different sets of facts, two different realities for looking at things and two totally different perspectives. There’s so much mudslinging that it’s very difficult to communicate or talk to someone who is coming from a different reality,” she said.

Sean Colgan, a Trump voter, grew up in Philadelphia and Colarado.

He and his wife and kids moved to New Zealand about three years ago from Florida.

Colgan blames the left for the political unrest in the United States, saying if any violence occurs it will be from Joe Biden’s supporters not Donald Trump’s.

“People generally on the left will not engage in any constructive conversation using facts.”

Jade De La Paz, a US citizen, moved to New Zealand in 2018 to complete her PhD at Otago University.

She is concerned about the unrest in America, no matter the election outcome.

“Even just scrolling through the news, it’s just really bad and it’s really stressful because you feel really powerless,” she said.

De La Paz has friends and family who still live in America and said it was emotional and scary to think about their safety.

“You feel for them, and you care for them, and you worry about what they’re going through,” De La Paz said.

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“Part of me wants to text my mum and be like, hey, maybe hole up on your farm during the election day because who knows what’s going to happen.”

In January, De La Paz ran a voter registration drive in Auckland to get expats registered to vote.

“For me this election is really important on a presidential side, but also for the Senate, for the House, and all the other minor elections, because this is basically a fight for democracy,” she said.

“I don’t care who you vote for, just vote.”

A picture of how America has voted will be known from about midday today New Zealand time.

How to follow the US election results on RNZ:

Checkpoint has a four-hour US election special from 4pm on Wednesday, hosted by Lisa Owen. You can see a live stream on our website, listen on 101FM, or watch on Freeview Channel 50, Sky Channel 83, Facebook or YouTube.

RNZ’s online coverage includes a live blog with results, reaction and analysis as it happens.

Morning Report on Thursday will focus on the election results with reaction from the US, New Zealand and around the world.

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