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Voting while living abroad

When moving away from your home country, it may be tempting to completely forget about local news and political drama, especially if you’ll be gone for a long time. But for democratic states, general or local elections are the only time when we, as citizens, have direct political power, and I think it’s important to use this power to impact future policies. There are many general elections coming up until the end of 2019 all around the world, one of them being the Canadian federal election, on October 21st. Knowing this, I looked up online how I could vote outside of the country and figured out how I could vote from Stockholm. Here is my experience and my tips!

This fall’s canadian elections are said to be critical for future environmental policies. After signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, the canadian government bought a pipeline and approved the extension of another and reduced its promised GHG emissions objectives. With 500 000 people in Montréal participating in the global climate strike on September 27th and scientific reports urging for legally binding environmental policies piling up, it became clear that the environment was going to be a central subject of these elections, a special place usually held by tax reduction and employment. Should the country keep subsidizing the oil sand industry and invest in an ocean-to-ocean energy trade system, or turn its back on fossil fuels and invest in clean energy generation and electrification? 

Greta Thunberg the Global Climate Strike in Montréal, on September 27th
PC: Global News

In this context, I thought it was critical for me to vote. With the time difference, it gets a little complicated to watch the live debates and press conferences, but I was still able to get summaries and read most of the news in between classes here to make the most informed decision possible. So how do you get to vote if you are not physically in your home country?

Not all countries allow “special ballot voting”, but I am lucky that Canada not only allows it, but makes it quite easy. I would suggest to first look online, either on your national government or election organisation website for any info. If you can’t find anything there, I suggest contacting your embassy or consulate here in Sweden: they should be able to give you the necessary information. 

I was able to find everything online, and sent an e-form with my address here in Stockholm, a government-issued ID scanned copy and all my personal details to the election organisation. It was free and very simple, and then I just had to wait for my voting ballot to come in the mail.

After looking in my mailbox everyday like it was 1999, I finally got my letter about two weeks later, and only had to fill out my ballot (hoping nothing critical would happen in the campaign afterwards) and send it! The envelope even had the address already , so it was a very easy process. 

My voting kit

Canada’s federal voting system consists of a one-round, “first-past-the-post” election. Since I only have to vote for my riding’s representative, it is pretty easy to vote outside of the country: I only have to send in a single vote. Some other election systems might require more than one vote and might complicate the matter of out-of-country voting.

I highly recommend getting informed about out-of-country voting in your country. If it is possible to vote while in Sweden, I suggest filling all forms in advance in order to make sure your ballot will get to your country on time (take into account the postal service delays!)

Good luck and happy elections!