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Elector's Guidebook to
Registering and Voting


In this Elector's Guidebook, you will find important information on when, where and the ways to register and vote, accessibility tools and services, and additional information about federal elections. This guidebook is meant to address barriers such as not knowing where to register and vote, being unable to provide the proper identification, and not understanding federal elections and the voting process.

When planning for the upcoming federal election, make sure you're well-informed so you can provide accurate information to your community and help them prepare to vote. We don't expect you to be an expert in federal elections, so we have put key information at your fingertips so you can help your members get ready. Here are the steps to help you prepare:

  1. Build or refresh your knowledge about federal elections
  2. Learn about the candidates
  3. Make sure you are registered to vote
  4. Make sure you have ID that can prove your identity and address
  5. Choose the way to vote that works best for you – particularly during the pandemic
  6. Vote!
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Build or refresh your knowledge about federal elections

When making a plan for the next federal election, it's always good to start with the basics. In this section, we provide information about and links related to the federal election and voting in Canada. It's important for voters to understand the impact of federal elections in their daily lives.

What should I know about the Canadian federal system?

Canada is a representative democracy. This means that citizens elect representatives to the House of Commons. Those representatives, along with the Senate, then make laws and decisions for the country and its people.

We have a first-past-the-post system (also called a single-member plurality.) This means electors vote once for one candidate in their riding (sometimes called an electoral district): the candidate who receives the most votes wins the seat in the House of Commons. This person is your member of Parliament.

Who is allowed to register and vote in a federal election?

To register and vote in the federal election, you must

  • be a Canadian citizen
  • be at least 18 years old on election day
  • prove your identity and address

Why should I vote?

Voting is the way you will choose someone to represent you in Canada's Parliament. That person will make decisions about issues that affect you and your community. By expressing your choice, you are exercising a right that is key to the democratic process of government that generations of Canadians have fought to build. For more information, see A History of the Vote in Canada.

What are federal elections all about?

When you vote in a federal election, you are choosing a person, your member of Parliament, to represent you in the House of Commons. Each member of Parliament has a seat in the House of Commons, where they debate and pass laws on your behalf.

Canada has 338 members of Parliament , one for each riding in Canada.

Candidates can represent a political party or they can be independent, meaning they have no association with a political party.

The political party with the most members elected to the House of Commons usually forms the government, and their leader becomes the prime minister.

The prime minister and members of Parliament decide on Canada's national policies and priorities. They make sure those policies are put into action. They guide the government's legislation through the House of Commons and the Senate.

To learn more about Canadian federal elections, explore these links:

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Learn about the candidates

Who are the candidates in my riding?

First, you need to know which riding is yours. Enter your postal code into Elections Canada's Voter Information Service. You will get the following information:

  • the name of your riding
  • a map of your riding
  • information about voter registration

During an election, this page will also tell you

  • where and when to vote
  • as they are confirmed, the names of candidates in your riding and their political party

What are Canadians voting for in a federal election?

Here are some of the things the federal government is responsible for:

  • citizenship and immigration
  • Indigenous lands and rights
  • banking regulations
  • natural resources and the environment
  • International affairs: how Canada deals with other countries

Did you know?

There are different types of elections:

  • federal
  • provincial/territorial
  • municipal

First Nations electors may also vote in band elections.

Each of these levels of government is responsible for different issues that may impact your life.

Want to learn more? Explore these links:

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Make sure you are registered to vote

The next step in your journey to the ballot box focuses on registering in a federal election. In this section, you will learn about registering to vote and why it's so important. Learn how easy it is to use the Elections Canada Online Voter Registration Service.

What is voter registration?

To vote in a federal election, you must be registered. You can register any time by visiting elections.ca, or by calling 1-800-463-6868. Once the election has been called you can register in person when you go to vote.

Elections Canada maintains a National Register of Electors, a permanent, continually updated database of Canadians who are eligible vote in federal elections. Elections Canada uses this database to create lists of electors: Canadians who are registered and eligible to vote during the federal election.

More information on Elections Canada’s privacy policy.

Most Canadians who are eligible to vote are already registered. Some Canadians may not be registered, or may be registered at a previous address, particularly if they have recently moved, recently became a Canadian citizen, or are voting for the first time. It is always good to check and update your information. To learn how to register, see "How do you register between elections?".

Why should I register or update my registration before the election?

If you register or update your registration before the election, Elections Canada will mail you a voter information card after the election is called. It tells you where and when you can vote.

You can always register when you go to vote, if you haven't already registered.

[Link to infographic: Did you get a voter information card in the mail?]

Voter information cards are mailed to all registered electors. Expect to receive your card about two weeks before election day. The voter information card tells you

  • Where and when you can vote, including the locations of your assigned polling station for election day and advance polling days;
  • The accessibility of your assigned election day and advance polling stations ;
  • How to request voting assistance in advance, including language and sign language interpretation ; and
  • The address of the closest Elections Canada office where you can register and vote by special ballot.

When you get your voter information card, check the name and address on it. If you didn't get a voter information card, or the information on the card is incorrect, your voter information may not be up to date. Visit elections.ca to register or update your address, or call us at 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY) for assistance. You can also register when you go to vote.

To make the voting process simpler, when you go to vote you can use your voter information card as a proof of address if your name and address are spelled correctly on the card . You will still need to bring one other piece of ID with your name.

How do I register between elections?

You have two options:

  1. online, using the Voter Registration Service at elections.ca
  2. by mail: Call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 to request a registration form. You'll need to fill in your information and return it by mail, with proof of identity and address.

How do I register once the election is called?

You can register before you go to vote or when you go to vote.

  1. Register before you go to vote:
    • Online (before the Tuesday before election day): Visit elections.ca and use the Online Voter Registration Service to register or update your information.
  2. Register when you go to vote:
    • At any Elections Canada office across Canada before the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m.
    • At your assigned polling station on election day or on advance polling days. Make sure to bring accepted ID.

Confirming your place of residence: Which riding do you call home?

Your place of residence or home address is the place where you normally live, or the place you consider to be your home . You must have ID with that address to register or vote.

If you leave your home temporarily (for school, work or any other reason) but intend to return , you can still use your home address as your place of residence.

Once you've decided on your place of residence, bring ID with that address when you go to register and vote.

What identification documents do I need when registering online?

If you register online, you may be asked for the number from

  • a driver's licence from any province or territory except Quebec
  • provincial or territorial ID card from Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan or Yukon (ID cards from certain provinces and territories are accepted and others excluded due to information-sharing agreements with Elections Canada)

If you don't have the above forms of ID, you may use the  Document Submission  feature of the Online Voter Registration Service to provide another form of identification. Here's the list of accepted ID.

Do I have to register every time there's a federal election?

No. Once your information is in the National Register of Electors, you stay registered.

Visit elections.ca or call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 to check or update your address and other information. For example, if you have moved, you may need to update it.

If you have changed your name, you must request an update from Elections Canada, fill it in, provide ID and send the completed form to Elections Canada.

About two weeks before election day, you should receive a voter information card in the mail. If you don't get a card, or if the information on the card is wrong, you may not be registered or your voter information may not be up to date.

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Make sure you have ID that can prove your identity and address

Voter identification on Elections Canada's web site

To vote in a federal election, you must prove your identity and address. An important part of your voting plan involves having all the information for proving your identity and address. There are a number of options. In this section, find the one that works best for you, and plan to come prepared when you vote.

How do I prove my identity and address?

You have three options to prove your identity and address:

  1. Show one piece of government-issued ID with your photo, name and current address. Example: your driver's licence.
  2. Show two pieces of ID. Both must have your name, and at least one must have your current address. Example: your voter information card and a bank statement, or a utility bill and your student ID card. Don't have these? No problem! There are other pieces of accepted ID.
  3. If you don't have ID on that list, you can still vote if you declare your identity and address in writing and have someone who knows you and who is assigned to your polling station vouch for you. The voucher must be able to prove their identity and address. A person can vouch for only one person (except in long-term-care facilities).

Elections Canada accepts the following forms of identification:

  • Original ID cards and documents, including e-statements and e-invoices
  • Documents issued electronically: you can print them or show them on a mobile device
  • Expired pieces of ID
  • Different pieces of ID from the same source if the documents serve different purposes. Example: an invoice and a transcript from the same school.
  • Proof of address only: your voter information card (if your name and address are correct on the card). You will still need to bring one other piece of ID containing your name.

For a piece of ID to be accepted, your name and/or address must be printed on the document. They can't be added by hand unless they are added by the issuer of the document, like a residence administrator. For example, a current or expired Canadian passport may be used as a proof of identity (your name) but not as a proof of address, because the passport holder writes their current address by hand in the passport.

Some voters may have trouble proving their address. If you live in or receive services from any of the following places, you can ask for a letter of confirmation of residence. This includes

  • a student residence
  • a First Nations band or reserve
  • an Inuit local authority
  • a seniors' residence
  • a long-term-care facility
  • a shelter or soup kitchen
  • a community-based residential facility

If you need a letter of confirmation of residence:

  • Contact your place of residence as soon as possible after the election is called. They may issue a letter of confirmation on their official letterhead or use the Elections Canada template Letter of Confirmation of Residence available at elections.ca.
  • [LINK] available at elections.ca
  • You will need to show a second piece of ID with your name.
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Choose the way to vote that works best for you

Infographic: Ways you can vote in a federal election

During a pandemic, things can take a bit more time. That's why it is more important than ever that you make a plan and choose the voting option that works best for you.
Your health and safety is our priority: measures are in place to keep you safe, no matter how you choose to vote.

Knowing the different voting options and what to expect when you cast your vote can help you choose a time and place to vote that is easiest for you. Remember, you can vote almost any time during the election period, and voting early can reduce line-ups and crowds during the pandemic.

If you have tested positive for or have symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been in contact with someone who has the virus, visit elections.ca to apply to vote by mail. Deadlines apply.

In this section, you will learn about all the voting options. Pick the one that's most convenient for you and include it in your voting plan.

What are the voting options?

You can vote at the following times and places:

  • On election day
    • Where: You vote at your assigned polling station in your community based on where you live. Soon after an election is called, to find your polling station, check your voter information card or use our online Voter Information Service.
    • When: Your assigned polling station will be open for 12 hours (hours of operation vary by province and territory). Do not enter the polling station if you think you have COVID-19; follow your public health authority's guidelines and stay home.
    • What to expect:
      • Wear a mask. If you don't have one, we can provide one for you. 
      • At your polling station, poll workers will be wearing masks.
      • There will be hand sanitizer stations, clear physical distancing markers and poll workers will be behind a plexiglass barrier.
      • Practice physical distancing by staying at least two metres away from voters and poll workers
      • When you enter the polling station, an election worker will greet you and show you to the right table. If you need help, ask an election worker.
      • You show your proof of identity and address to an election worker.
      • An election worker checks your name on the list of electors and gives you a folded ballot.
      • You go behind the voting screen, mark your ballot and refold it to keep it secret. We will provide you with a single-use pencil to mark your ballot, or you can bring your own pen or pencil.
      • You return your ballot to the election worker. They will remove the tab so your ballot can't be traced back to you.
      • You put your ballot in the ballot box.
  • On advance polling days
    • Where: You vote at your assigned advance polling station in your community based on where you live. It might be the same polling station you would vote at on election day, or it might be a different one. Safety measures will be in place. Check ahead of time to make sure you're heading to the right polling station: you can find this information on your voter information card or online at the Voter Information Service.
    • When: Your assigned polling station will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday the week before election day. If you think you have COVID-19, follow your public health authority's guidelines and stay home and apply to vote by mail before the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m. 
    • What to expect: The voting process and the safety measures in place on advance polling days are the same as for voting on election day.
  • At any Elections Canada office across Canada [Link to infographic: Vote at an Elections Canada office]
    • Where: You can vote in person at any of the over 500 Elections Canada offices across the country. Every riding in Canada has an Elections Canada office. Visit elections.ca to find the office nearest you.
    • [Link to EC 90347 Reference sheet and infographic: Vote on Campus locations]
    • When: You can vote at any Elections Canada office by the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m. Keep in mind that the final list of candidates is not confirmed until 19 days before election day.
      Elections Canada offices are open seven days a week once the election is called (hours of operation may vary). If you think you have COVID-19, follow your public health authority's guidelines and stay home.
    • What to expect: Voting at an Elections Canada office is different than voting on election day or advance polling days. Here, you will vote using the special ballot process.
      • Wear a mask. If you don't have one, we can provide one for you. 
      • Poll workers will be wearing masks.
      • There will be hand sanitizer stations, clear physical distancing markers and workers will be behind a plexiglass barrier.
      • Practice physical distancing by staying at least two metres away from voters and office workers.
      • An election worker will greet you at the counter and ask for proof of identity and address.
      • The election worker will add, update or confirm your information and ask you to verify it on the computer screen.
      • You will be given a ballot and instructions.
      • You can ask for the list of candidates for your riding if you need it.
      • You go behind the voting screen, mark your ballot and return to the election worker. We will provide you with a single-use pencil to mark your ballot, or you can bring your own pen or pencil.
      • The election worker will give you two envelopes. First, you put the ballot in the unmarked inner envelope and seal it. Then, you put that envelope in the outer envelope and seal it.
      • You read the declaration on this outer envelope and sign it, then put the envelope in the ballot box.
      More information on voting by special ballot.
  • By mail
    • Where: If it is more convenient for you, if you have tested positive for or have symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been in contact with someone who has the virus, you can visit elections.ca to apply to vote by mail.
    • When: You will need to apply so that Elections Canada can send you a special ballot voting kit in the mail. The deadline to apply to vote by mail is the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m. Apply as soon as possible after the election is called to allow enough time for your special ballot voting kit to reach you and for you to return your marked ballot to Elections Canada by election day. Once you've applied to vote by mail or at an Elections Canada office, it's the ONLY way you can vote in this election.
      Here is how to apply to vote by mail:
      • apply online at elections.ca,
      • at any Elections Canada office across Canada, or
      • by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 to request an application form.
    • What to expect: When you vote by mail, you are voting by special ballot.
      • Your special ballot is blank: it won't have the names of any candidates in your riding. To vote by mail, you will need to write the first and last name of the candidate you're voting for. If you write only the name of a political party, your vote won't be counted.
      • The list of candidates is not final right away. Candidates continue to be confirmed until about three (3) weeks before election day. If you already know who you are voting for, you can mark your ballot at any time. If you aren't sure, or prefer to wait until all of the candidates in your riding have been confirmed, you can simply wait until the final list has been published.

        You can find the names of candidates in your riding at elections.ca. The list is updated regularly as candidates are confirmed, and the final list is published shortly after the nomination period ends (about three [3] weeks before election day)
      • The voting kit comes with easy-to-follow instructions.
      • Write the name of the candidate you want to vote for on the ballot.
      • Put your ballot in the blank envelope.
      • Then, put that blank envelope in the bigger envelope with your name and riding on it, and seal it.
      • Mail the ballot to Elections Canada. Plan ahead as much as possible to make sure it will arrive on time.
        • If you're voting by special ballot from within your riding, we must receive your marked ballot before the polls close in your riding on election day.
        • If you're voting by special ballot while away from your riding, we must receive your marked ballot in the mail by 6:00 p.m. EST on election day.

Did you know? Keeping your vote secret

For voting by special ballot: When it's time to count the ballots, the election worker will remove all the unmarked inner envelopes from their signed outer envelopes. The election worker will then return only the unmarked inner envelopes to the ballot box and mix them up. This way, no envelope can be traced back to the voter, and your vote remains secret.

Accessibility Tools and Services

Learn more about all of Elections Canada's accessibility tools and services. Think about whether you will need any assistance at the polls and who can help you.

If you have a disability, require extra help or are helping someone else, choose the voting option that will best meet your needs.

With a little planning, you can ensure that your voting experience will be as easy and accessible as possible. Keep in mind that you may need to make arrangements for some of these services before you vote. Infographic: Voting Tools and Services

How do I know if my polling station will be accessible to me?

All electors are assigned to polling stations for election day and advance polling days. Once the election is called, you can make sure your assigned polling stations meets your accessibility needs by

  • checking your voter information card
  • visiting elections.ca and entering your postal code into the Voter Information Service box ; or
  • calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY)

If your assigned polling station doesn't meet your accessibility needs, or if you live in a community where there is no polling station within a reasonable distance from your home, call us at 1‑800‑463‑6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY). We will help you find an alternate polling station or discuss other ways you may be able to vote.

What accessibility tools and services are available?

Elections Canada offers many tools and services to make voting in the federal election easier. If you need help during the voting process, you can call Elections Canada, visit any Elections Canada office, or speak to an election worker when you go to vote.

Voting assistance tools and services available on election day at polling stations include

  • a larger ballot with candidates' names in large print
  • lists of candidates in large print and Braille
  • tactile and Braille voting templates
  • magnifiers
  • accessible polling stations. Almost all polling stations are accessible. Visit elections.ca to see if yours meets your needs before you go to vote. If the accessibility of the polling station does not meet your needs, you can contact us before 6:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before election day to make arrangements.
  • language and sign language interpretation (and other assistance upon request in advance)
  • assistance in marking a ballot (you can bring someone you know or ask an election worker)
  • large-grip pencil (limited quantities) You can also bring your own pen or pencil

You are also welcome to bring help when you vote: for example, a friend or family member, your service animal, or an assistive device, such as a mobile device or smart phone.

To request voting assistance in advance, including language and sign language interpretation, you need to call the Elections Canada office in your riding by the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m. You can find this number

  • on your voter information card
  • by entering your postal code into the Voter Information Service box at elections.ca
  • by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY)

Can I bring my own assistive device when voting?

Yes. When voting, you may use an assistive device, such as your own pencil, to mark the ballot, or a personal mobile device, such as a smart phone, to read the ballot behind the voting screen.

What are the options for voters living in a hospital, long-term-care institution or seniors' residence?

In some ridings, election workers take mobile polls to certain facilities (such as long-term-care institutions or seniors' residences) at scheduled times to allow electors who are staying there to vote.

This service is not available at all facilities and, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative voting services may be required at some facilities. To learn more about the services offered at facilities in your riding, call your local Elections Canada office or reach us at 1-800-463-6868.

Voting in acute-care facilities (hospitals where people stay short term) is different.  Electors do not live in these facilities and, therefore, must vote by special ballot. Elections Canada adopts procedures allowing these electors to register and vote by special ballot from the facility where they are receiving care. 

Can I vote at home?

Electors who are unable to read or unable to vote using the special ballot process because of a disability may, upon request, vote at home. Electors who request to vote at home must meet the criteria outlined in the Canada Elections Act. All other voting options (including voting by mail) must be considered first.

If you or a family member requires this service, you must contact the Elections Canada office in your riding to request this voting option before by the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m.

If your request is approved, an election officer will come to your home and assist you in voting.

Did you know?

For all the official information you need to vote, visit elections.ca. The website is fully accessible and has voting information in multiple languages. You can also order products in many other formats, including large print, Braille and audio.

While most eligible voters can vote using one of the options listed above, some voters cannot use these options. Elections Canada has special services for these groups:

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Vote!

Where is my polling station?

Voter Information Service

Whether you are voting on election day or during advance polling days, here is where to find the date, hours of operation and address of your assigned polling station and Elections Canada office soon after the election is called:

  • on your voter information card
  • on the Elections Canada website
  • by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY)

What if I don't have the right ID when I go to vote?

  • If you don't have a government-issued ID with your photo, name and current address, check the complete list of accepted ID at elections. ca. or with an election worker to see if you have two other acceptable pieces of ID. You can use your voter information card to prove your address if your name and address are spelled correctly on the card. You will still need to bring one other piece of ID with your name.
  • You may have one acceptable piece of ID in your wallet, and an acceptable e-statement or e-invoice on your phone.
  • If you don't have ID, you can still vote if you declare your identity and address in writing and have someone who knows you and who is assigned to your polling station vouch for you. The voucher must be able to prove their identity and address. A person can vouch for only one person (except in long-term care facilities).

What if I forgot to register in advance?

  • You can register when you go to vote
    • at any Elections Canada office across Canada
      • Go to any Elections Canada office before the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to bring accepted ID.
    • at your assigned polling station
      • Go to your assigned polling station on election day or on an advance polling day. Be sure to bring accepted ID.

What if I’m working all day on election day?

  • You can get time off from work to vote in a federal election on election day. By law, eligible electors must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on election day. If your hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, your employer must give you time off without any penalties or pay deductions.

Can I get help marking my ballot?

  • Yes. If you need help marking your ballot, you can bring someone to help you or ask an election worker for assistance. Just let an election worker know if you brought someone to help you or if you need assistance.
  • If you bring a helper, they will be required to make a solemn declaration to make sure they respect the secrecy of your vote. The deputy returning officer will administer the declaration.
  • If you do not have a trusted helper, an election worker can help you mark your ballot. This will always be done in the presence of another election worker. In these situations, no one else may be present.
  • A relative, spouse or partner may assist more than one elector. A friend or helper may assist only one elector (and they will have to make a solemn declaration swearing that they have assisted only one person).
  • A person who assists you does not need to be an eligible elector (An eligible elector is a Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old.)

What if I have a vision impairment? What if I forget my glasses at home?

In 2019, the ballot was redesigned to be larger than before to make it easier to handle and read. To improve readability, we have made the background grey instead of black, increased the font sizes and replaced dots with dashes.

Your polling station will also have many tools to make voting easier for everyone, including people who are blind or who have vision impairment.

These tools include:

  • ballot with candidate names in large print
  • tactile and Braille voting templates
  • the list of candidates in large print and Braille
  • magnifiers

Note: Braille lists of candidates are only available on election day. Large print is available on advance polling days and on election day.

Can I bring my own assistive device when voting?

Yes. You may use an assistive device when voting, such as your own pencil to mark the ballot, or a personal mobile device, such as a smart phone, to read the ballot behind the voting screen. Since 2019, the ballot has been redesigned to be easier to read using a screen reader on your smart phone or other device.

Can I bring a support animal?

Yes. You can probably bring your support animal to most polling stations. In some exceptional cases, local laws might regulate the presence of service animals in public spaces. To find out whether your service animal will be permitted in your polling station, contact your Elections Canada office.

What if I don’t speak or read English or French?

We can usually get you an interpreter to help you vote, if you ask ahead of time. The deadline to ask for interpretation services is the Tuesday before election day at 6:00 p.m.. If you require service in a language other than English or French,

  • visit elections.ca for voting information in multiple languages
  • call 1-800-463-6868: we offer language interpretation services by phone
  • call your nearest Elections Canada office ahead of time to request language interpretation at your assigned polling station on election day

Did you know?

You are not allowed to take photos inside a polling station, including selfies and photos of your ballot. Electors with a visual impairment can use their smart phones or devices to verify the accuracy of their marking using screen readers. If you want to share your voting experience on social media, you can always take a selfie outside the polling station.

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