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Elections Canada has compiled a glossary of electoral terms and pictures. Click on a letter below to move to the terms that begin with that letter, or simply use your browser's scroll bar to view all of them.


Judicial recount (dépouillement judiciaire)

Second count of the votes conducted in front of a judge, automatically requested by the returning officer if two candidates are tied or the difference between the two leading candidates is less than 1/1000 of the votes cast. An elector may also apply to a judge for a recount within four days after the returning officer validates the results of the vote. The request is granted if it appears from affidavit evidence that a deputy returning officer incorrectly counted or rejected ballots, or incorrectly recorded the number of votes cast for a canddate; or the returning officer added the votes incorrectly.


Leadership contestant (candidat à la direction)

A person seeking to be the leader of his or her federal political party.

Level access (accès de plain-pied)

Flat or gently sloping access from the street to the inside of a polling place. Level access is essential so that electors using wheelchairs and others who have difficulty with stairs or curbs can exercise their right to vote.

List of electors (liste électorale)

The list of names and addresses of all registered electors that is used at a polling station when people vote. Also known as the voters list.


Mobile poll (bureau de scrutin itinérant)

A poll staffed by a deputy returning officer and a poll clerk, who travel on election day from institution to institution where seniors or persons with disabilities reside, to take their votes.


National Register of Electors (Registre national des électeurs)

A computerized database of Canadian citizens who have the right to vote. It is used to produce preliminary lists of electors for federal elections, by-elections and referendums. Data from the Register can also be shared with provincial, territorial and municipal electoral agencies to produce lists of electors. Canadians may choose whether to have their names listed in the Register. It is updated with information from federal, provincial and territorial administrative databases and voters lists between elections, and by electors themselves during elections.

Nomination contestant (candidat à l'investiture)

A person seeking to be named the official candidate of his or her political party in an electoral district during an election.

Nomination papers (acte de candidature)

An Elections Canada form that must be completed by candidates running for office in an electoral district. It must include the following: the signatures of the required number of electors from the electoral district; a letter of support from the party if the candidate is endorsed by a registered or eligible party; and the name of an official agent and auditor. Nomination papers must be submitted to the returning officer of the electoral district where the candidate wishes to seek election, along with a $1,000 deposit, which is refundable if the candidate's official agent submits the candidate's election expenses returns and unused official tax receipts within the required time.


Office of the returning officer (bureau du directeur du scrutin)

An office that is set up in each electoral district at the start of each general election, by-election or referendum. It is the place from which the returning officer and his or her staff serve the public during an electoral event. Also known as the local Elections Canada office.


Poll clerk (greffier du scrutin)

The election officer who assists the deputy returning officer at a polling station by checking to see if a person's name is on the list of electors and by dealing with the paperwork.

Polling day

See Election day.

Polling division (section de vote)

A small geographic section of an electoral district, for which a list of electors is prepared and a polling station is set up on election day. Each electoral district has many polling divisions.

Polling station (bureau de scrutin)

The place where electors go to vote. Each elector is assigned to a specific polling station, according to his or her residential address.


Redistribution (redécoupage)

The periodic readjustment of electoral district boundaries after a census to reflect population changes. Independent electoral boundaries commissions (one for each province) hold public hearings before they redraw the maps.

Referendum (référendum)

An electoral event in which electors are asked to answer "Yes" or "No" to a written question. Referendums are used by governments to consult the people on specific issues. The most recent federal referendum was in 1992 on a proposal to amend the Constitution.

Referendum Act (Loi référendaire)

The law that sets out the rules for holding federal referendums in Canada. Under this act, federal referendums may be held only on constitutional issues.

Registered party (parti enregistré)

A political party that runs at least one candidate in a general election or by-election and complies with the requirements of the Canada Elections Act may be registered. Benefits of registering with the Chief Electoral Officer include having the party name appear on the ballot, the right to issue tax receipts for monetary contributions, and partial reimbursement of election expenses. Registered parties must disclose their contributions received, election spending and other financial information.

Reminder card (carte de rappel)

A card that Elections Canada sends during an electoral event to every residence in the country, which reminds recipients of the dates for voting in advance or on election day. It also invites electors to call Elections Canada if they did not receive a voter information card about one week earlier.

Responsible government (responsabilité ministérielle)

A system of government in which members of the executive (that is, Cabinet ministers) are responsible to the elected members of the legislature, who are in turn responsible to the people.

Returning officer (directeur du scrutin)

The election or referendum officer responsible for organizing an electoral event in an electoral district. He or she sets up an office in the district and hires and supervises all of the staff, including the training officers, registration officers, revising agents, special ballot coordinators, community relations officers, field liaison officers, central poll supervisors, information officers, deputy returning officers and poll clerks.

Revising agent (agent réviseur)

An election or referendum officer who updates the lists of electors during the revision period of an electoral event. Revising agents receive applications from electors to have their names added to, corrected on, or deleted from the lists.

Revision (révision)

The process of adding new names to, correcting information on, and removing names from the lists of electors during the election period. The Chief Electoral Officer determines the day the revision starts, which is typically on the 33rd day before election day. The official revision period is usually four weeks in length.


See Electoral district.