A Guide to Voting in the Canadian Federal Election

If you are a Canadian citizen you have the chance to choose who represents you in federal politics. During a federal election, you can elect your local Member of Parliament (MP); and your vote helps choose the Prime Minister.

In This Article

Who can vote?

To vote in a Canadian federal election you must be:

  • A Canadian citizen (Temporary and permanent residents cannot vote);
  • 18 years old or older on election day;
  • Residents in the electoral district; and
  • Registered on the Voters List (also called the list of electors).

If you meet the first 3 requirements, but are not on the Voters List, you must add your name to the list.

Can I take time off work to vote?

Every voter must have 3 consecutive hours off work to vote. If you have 3 consecutive hours of your own time available during polling hours, your employer does not need to give you additional time for voting. However, if you do not have this time available, you must request this time from your employer.

Your employer must give you time off with pay; but your employer can choose when the time will be given.

Can I vote by mail?

If you are eligible to vote in the federal election and can do it from almost anywhere inside or outside of Canada.

You may register to vote by special ballot if your primary residence is in Canada but you expect to be outside your electoral district on the day of the election, either in Canada or elsewhere. This may be useful if you are a student or a traveller and are not in your electoral district on polling day or during the advance polls.

Find more information about voting by mail, here.

IMPORTANT: If you register to vote by mail-in ballot, this is the only way you can vote. You cannot vote at the ordinary or advance polls.

How do I add my name to the Voter's List?

The Voters List is a list of people who are registered and eligible to vote in the federal election. The Voters List can have mistakes from old information and often, names are missing from this list. If you are not on the Voters List, you can add your name on or before election day.

How do I know if I am on the Voters List?

When the election is announced, Elections Canada creates lists of voters using information from the National Register of Electors.

The National Register of Electors is a database of Canadians who are qualified to vote. A few weeks before the election, Elections Canada will send you a Voter Information Card if your name is on the voters lists. The card will tell you that you are registered, and where and when to vote. It also has information about the date and location of advance polls.

Take this card with you when you go to vote.

If your name or address on the card is incorrect, you can contact your local returning officer in person or by telephone, fax or mail to correct it. In most cases, the returning officer will ask you for additional information as proof of identity. You can also register or make corrections on election day at your polling station.

How do I vote if I do not get a Voter Information Card?

If you are not on the National Register of Electors and did not receive a Voter Information Card, and you want to add your name to the list before election day, you must ask your local returning officer for a registration form in person, or by telephone, fax or mail.

If your name is not listed in the National Register of Electors on election day, you must show proof of identity and residence:

  • A copy of 1 document that shows your name, address and signature (such as a driver's licence); or
  • Copies of 2 identity documents: 1 with your name and address, 1 with at least your name (such as your health card and hydro bill).

Your voter notification card cannot be used as identification. See examples of acceptable identification.

If you do not have acceptable identification, you must swear an oath before you can get a ballot.

Who am I voting for?

In a federal election, you are voting for a Member of Parliament (MP). Ontario is represented by 102 MPs. The people who are trying to get elected are called candidates.

You are also voting for the prime minister of Canada. The prime minister is the leader of the political party that has the most candidates elected. You do not vote for the prime minister directly (unless they are also the MP for your riding). When you vote for candidates who belong to a political party, you also support the leader of that party.

How do I choose who to vote for?

Each candidate has different ideas about what is important, how to spend tax money, and how to solve problems. You need to decide what is important to you, and what you think is best for Canada. Then you need to find out which candidate and which political party you agree with most.

In an election period, the candidates will try to let people know what they think is important by distributing flyers, visiting door to door, speaking at community meetings, and getting stories in the newspaper or on the radio. Groups in your community may also organize an All Candidates Meeting where candidates from all the parties will come to speak and answer your questions.

You can also find out more about what candidates and their party think about issues by phoning their election offices or visiting their websites. You can find contact information and the website addresses for all registered political parties in Canada on the Elections Canada website.

What does the ballot look like?

The ballots look like this:

The ballot is a list of names of all the candidates in your riding. The ballot will have a white circle beside each candidate's name. The candidates' political parties will be on the ballot.

The Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) will explain to you what to do with the ballot. It is the DRO's job to answer any questions you have about the ballot.

You will go behind a screen so you can vote in private. No one should see how you vote. Unfold your ballot. Find the name of the person you want to vote for. Mark an "X" in the white circle beside this person's name.

After you mark your "X," refold your ballot. Give it back to the DRO, and they will put your ballot in the ballot box. You are finished voting.

To make sure your vote counts - be careful not to spoil your ballot:

  • Do not sign your name on the ballot.
  • You can only make one "X" on your ballot.
  • Do not write anything else on your ballot.

If you make a mistake while marking your ballot, you can get a new one. Take your ballot back to the DRO. Say you have made a mistake. The DRO will give you a new ballot.

Can I get help while voting?

Yes. If you find voting difficult for any reason, a friend or relative can help you vote. You can also ask the Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) to help you vote. 

If you don't speak or read English, you can bring someone to translate or interpret for you.

If you do have help marking the ballot, make sure that the person helping you does not try to influence who you vote for; that is against the law.

Find more information about the help you can get to vote on the Elections Canada website.

How do I vote if I have special needs?

Elections Canada has services for people with disabilities and people with other special needs. For example, you can ask for a sign-language interpreter or an interpreter for another language. You can also request to vote at home if you cannot go to a polling station or mark your ballot due to a disability. Find more information about services for voters with special needs.

Who can I call if I have any questions about voting?

During the campaign period you can call or visit your returning officer. Each riding has a returning officer. Returning officers answer questions from the public. Returning officers try to make sure that the voters list is correct and as complete as possible and make sure that all the voting is done properly.

If you have any questions about voting, or to get the phone number and location for your returning officer, contact Elections Canada:

  • In Canada: 1-800-463-6868
  • TTY: 1-800-361-8935
  • Fax: 1-888-524-1444
  • Website: elections.ca

For More Information

  • Elections Canada - The official site for federal elections in Canada. Use this site to find your electoral riding and answers to frequently asked questions about voting in Canada.
  • Voter Information Guide - This Elections Canada guide is available in more than 30 languages.
  • Election Words To Know - Elections Canada has compiled a glossary of electoral terms and pictures.
Last updated: April 19, 2021 4000626