The B&B Guide to Absentee Voting for Americans Abroad

Graphic by Erin Sass

With the United States presidential primaries under way, politics south of the border seems more topical than ever at McGill. As the deadline for voter registration inches ever closer, many American students are anticipating the first time they will be able to make their political voices heard.

Although many students are eager to perform their civic duty, the process of registering to vote and filling out an absentee ballot can be confusing. This guide from The Bull & Bear simplifies this process into a few simple steps.


Are you eligible to vote?

Most American citizens above 18 years of age studying in Canada are eligible to vote, with certain states allowing American citizens who have never previously resided in the US to vote. You can click here for a list of these states.

Did you register to vote?

Voter registration methods and deadlines differ by state. Most states set their deadlines between mid-February and May, with some allowing for registration the day of the election. To see your state’s registration period, click here. To see how to register in your state, click here. A license number, social security number, and zip code are generally asked to verify registration. Note that states ask you to register with a political party; depending on your state and party, this may impact your ability to vote in the primaries.  If you have previously registered to vote, you do not have to re-register for this election.  

Can you vote as an absentee in your state?

While all states allow some form of absentee voting, some allow any US citizen to submit an absentee ballot, while others have more specific criteria. To see your state’s absentee voter criteria, click here.

Did you apply to receive your absentee ballot?

The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), available here, serves as both a registration to vote and a form to receive an absentee ballot. It is important to fill this out as soon as possible to ensure that your absentee ballot comes before your state’s deadline. The FPCA form requires information such as your voting address (your residence in the US) and social security number.  

Can you vote in the primaries?

States set their own dates for primary elections. To see the deadline for voting in the primaries for your state, click here. Some states block your ability to vote in the primaries based on the party you are registered with. For example, registered Independents are not allowed to vote in any closed-primary election. To see what type of primary election your state holds, click here

Did you receive your absentee ballot?

If you have received your absentee ballot, you only need to mail it back to cast your vote. If you have not received your absentee ballot, you may be eligible to submit the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). In some states, the FWAB can serve as a registration to vote as well as  a ballot. To check your eligibility for the FWAB, click here. For a copy of the FWAB, click here

Will you be back in the States before the election?

If you will be back in the state where you are registered to vote before the election, you may be eligible to vote early. Although most states have some form of early voting, states differ in how early one can vote. This is particularly useful for students going back during Reading Week who are worried their ballot won’t arrive in time for their state’s primary. To see your state’s early voting rules and deadlines, click here

Can you submit your ballot on time?

Deadlines for the submission of absentee ballots differ by state. Some states allow the ballot to be received on election day, while others require an absentee ballot to arrive a week before the election. To see the absentee ballot deadline for your state, click here

The Bull & Bear has included flowcharts to further simplify the absentee voting process for the general and primary elections. Most important is remembering to submit the FPCA and your absentee ballot as soon as possible; don’t let your vote get stuck in customs!


A Guide to the Primaries 


A Guide to the General Election 

Flowcharts by Anna Marukhnyak

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