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Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview

D. Entitlement to Vote and Registration of Electors

Every Canadian citizen is guaranteed the right to vote by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 3). This right is, however, restricted by law. All jurisdictions require an elector to be at least 18 years old and a Canadian citizen. In Saskatchewan, individuals who are British subjects are also qualified to vote. However, some jurisdictions explicitly disqualify the Chief Electoral Officer, the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and/or returning officers from voting. In most provincial and territorial jurisdictions, the elector must also meet residency requirements. As a rule, electors must either be ordinarily resident (in the case of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario) or be a resident of their province or territory for a period of 6 to 12 months before polling day or before the issuance of the writ. (In New Brunswick, it is 40 days before polling day.) In Canada, Saskatchewan, Ontario, British Columbia, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, voters must prove both their identity and place of residence at the polls. In Quebec, voters must only prove their identity; however, they may provide only documentary proof of identity as listed in the legislation.

All jurisdictions require an elector to be registered on a list of electors before voting. Eleven jurisdictions produce their lists of electors from a permanent register (Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut). In all of these cases, except for Canada, the respective legislation provides for updates of the register through enumeration or a door-to-door canvassing of electors. In all cases, enumeration may take place outside the electoral period. In most cases, the permanent register may also be updated through data-sharing agreements with other government bodies. In jurisdictions without a permanent register of electors, enumeration takes place during the electoral period, usually in the first week or two weeks. In Manitoba, enumeration can start 75 days before a fixed election date. Preliminary lists of electors are produced from an extract of the permanent register of electors or following the enumeration, as the case may be (in Alberta, the preliminary list is called the official list). In Saskatchewan, the preliminary lists are prepared by enumerators; based on these, secondary lists are produced either by returning officers or by the Chief Electoral Officer for use during revision.

In all jurisdictions, there is a revision period, when names may be added to, deleted from, or corrected on the preliminary lists of electors. The length of the revision period varies from one jurisdiction to another. Following revision, revised or official lists of electors are produced for use at the polling stations on polling day or at the advance polls.

An elector whose name does not appear on a list of electors has the option to register on polling day, except in Quebec. This process usually requires the elector to produce identification, sign a declaration, take an oath, be vouched for by another elector, or a combination of the above.

Some jurisdictions require that preliminary lists, revised lists, and official lists be provided to candidates or political parties, or both, during the electoral period. Only the legislation of six jurisdictions (Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta and Nunavut) states clearly that the final list of electors (or post-polling day list in Alberta) for each district, which is produced after polling day and includes all revisions and polling day registrations, must also be provided to the elected member of that district and to political parties, where applicable.

Table D.1 Registers of electors, enumeration and revision

Jurisdiction Contents of permanent register of electors Register of electors updated Enumeration period Revision period Polling day registration
Canada Surname, given names, gender, date of birth, civic address, mailing address and identifier assigned to elector by Chief Electoral Officer From information expressly provided to Chief Electoral Officer by a federal department or body or other reliable source – Starts as soon as possible after issue of writs and ends at 6:00 p.m. on 6th day before polling day Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence. An elector providing two pieces of identification proving identity may alternatively prove address by taking an oath in writing if attested for by another elector
Newfoundland and Labrador – Through enumeration, swear-ins, exchange of information with Chief Electoral Officer of Canada and individual applications Determined by returning officer Determined by Chief Electoral Officer Must provide documentary proof of identificationFootnote 1
Prince Edward Island Civic address (or mailing address, if different), including postal code, surname, given names, telephone number, gender, date of birth
  • From information obtained through a confirmation of electors
  • From information used for compiling lists of electors for a general election, by-election or referendum conducted by Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
  • From any other information obtained by or available to Chief Electoral Officer
  • From revisions as Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary
Determined by Chief Electoral Officer During period starting on nomination day and ending 3 days thereafter, except Sundays No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence. Elector must take an oath
Nova Scotia Given names and surname by which elector is known in polling division, date of birth, address, gender, mailing address, contact information, unique identifier assigned by the Chief Electoral Officer –
  • Between elections: commences within 20 days from the receipt of the notice of enumeration
  • During an election: commences no later than 5 days from the issuance of the writ
Starts as soon as possible after issue of writs and ends at 8:00 p.m. on 6th day before polling day Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence
New Brunswick Surname, given names, gender, date of birth, civic or mailing addresses, and optional telephone number Through targeted revision, administrators of treatment centres, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada or a provincial department or agency Determined by the returning officer From the day the returning officer receives the preliminary list to 4th day before polling day Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence or be vouched for by an eligible elector who is on the list of electors, as well as make a declaration of qualification to vote
Quebec Name, domiciliary address, gender and date of birth Through electors, the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec, school boards, the Public CuratorFootnote 2, the Registrar of Civil Status, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and municipal revision; through enumeration, agreements with municipal, provincial and federal bodies, municipal or referendum voters lists Ordered by Government on the recommendation of the parliamentary committee having examined the report of the Chief Electoral Officer From 21st to 4th day before polling day –
Ontario Name, age, gender and current address Through any source the Chief Electoral Officer deems reliable at least once each calendar year and as soon as possible after a writ is issued for a general election, unless the most recent previous updating was done within two months before the day the writ is issued – Up to and including the day before polling day Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence
Manitoba – – At least 43 days before fixed election date or at least three days before the close of nominations, in the case of any other election. In both cases an earlier date can be specified by the returning officer From Monday after day voters list is completed for 6 consecutive days Must take an oath in the prescribed form and provide documentary proof of identity and residence
Saskatchewan – – Starts immediately after writ is issued for constituency and ends within 10 days Any time from posting of secondaryFootnote 3 voters' list until 10:00 p.m. on revision day, the 4th day before polling day Must make a voter's declaration in addition to providing documentary proof of identity and residence. The voter may also be vouched for by eligible elector with proper identification
Alberta Name, residential address, mailing address, telephone number, gender, date of birth, citizenship and unique identifier number
  • Through door-to-door enumeration, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, a municipality, a public body as defined in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a public telephone directory or any other source available to Chief Electoral Officer
  • If available, through information collected under the Alberta Personal Income Tax Act with the consent of taxpayers, as well as through school information
Determined by Chief Electoral Officer Determined by Chief Electoral Officer with respect to enumeration; during election period, revisions taken from 5th day after issue of writ until the Saturday before advance polls Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence. May also prove identity by signing a declaration if accompanied by an elector whose name appears on the list of electors, has appropriate identification, and will vouch for him or her
British Columbia Name, residential address and other information determined by Chief Electoral Officer From voters, through enumeration, and the Insurance Corporation of BC The enumeration period in BC is not specified in the Act Closed period for general registration begins the day after the election is called and ends on the second day after polling day. Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence. May also be vouched for by another eligible elector, family member, or caretaker, who must also prove his or her identity and residence
Yukon Surname, initials and residence address –
  • Election period: ends no later than 13th day after issue of writs
  • Outside election period: ends no later than 21st day after Chief Electoral Officer gives public notice or 13 days after issue of writs
9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on 18th and 19th days after issue of writ. Day 20, 21, 25–28: 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Day 23–24: 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Must (1) make a declaration of qualification, (2) be vouched for by an elector with identification whose name appears on the list of electors for the same polling division, and (3) confirm his/her name and residence address. Name and address can be confirmed by DRO declaration in small polling locations
Northwest Territories Surname, given names, residential address, including house number and postal code, mailing address and postal code if different from residential address, telephone number, gender, date of birth, date on which elector commenced residence in community of residence From information obtained in an enumeration or provided by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Director of Medical Insurance, Student Financial Assistance Program and qualified persons who are inmates in correctional centres, from Deputy Minister of Justice as well as any other information obtained by Chief Electoral Officer Determined by Chief Electoral Officer Determined by Chief Electoral Officer Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence. May also be vouched for by authorized elector who is not a candidateFootnote 4
Nunavut Full name, gender, date of birth and residential address Through enumeration, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, municipal voters lists, or any source available to Chief Electoral Officer Determined by Chief Electoral Officer
  • No fixed revision period
  • Voters list revised continually during the election period
  • Objections to list allowed until 20th day before election day
Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence

Footnote 1 The legislation does not define identification; however, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador defines identification as identity and residence.

Footnote 2 Elsewhere known as Public Guardian or Public Trustee

Footnote 3 The secondary list is produced for revision purposes from the preliminary list prepared by enumerators.

Footnote 4 In the Northwest Territories, a single elector can vouch for up to five other electors in an election.

Table D.2 Right to vote and voter identification requirements at the polls

Jurisdiction Canadian citizenship requirement Minimum age Residency requirement Electoral officers who may not vote Inmates disqualification Mental disability disqualification Other disqualifications Voter identification requirements for registered electors at the poll
Canada Yes 18 Ordinarily resident CEO/ACEO – – – Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence or must provide proof of identity and have residence attested to by a registered elector
Newfoundland and Labrador Yes 18 Ordinarily resident – – – – No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence
Prince Edward Island Yes 18 6 months before date of writ CEO/ACEO/ RO – – – No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence
Nova Scotia Yes 18 6 months before date of writ CEO/ACEO – – – Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence, or must attest to name, address and eligibility to vote by signing the prescribed formFootnote 1
New Brunswick Yes 18 40 days immediately preceding the date of election CEO/ROFootnote 2 – – Any person who is convicted of having committed corrupt or illegal electoral practices is disqualified from voting for seven years No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence
Quebec Yes 18 6 months before polling day. Electors living outside of Quebec temporarily can also vote if they lived in Quebec for 12 months prior to departure – – Cannot vote if under curatorship due to incapacity Any person who is convicted of having committed corrupt electoral practices is disqualified from voting for five years Must present one of the legislated pieces of identification or take an oath and be vouched for by another elector
Ontario Yes 18 Ordinarily resides in the electoral district – – – – Must provide documentary proof of identity or make a declaration
Manitoba Yes 18 6 months before polling day CEO – – – No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence
Saskatchewan Yes, or British subject qualified as a voter on June 23, 1971 18 Ordinarily resident 6 months before date of writ CEO/ACEO – – Any person who is convicted of having committed corrupt electoral practices is disqualified from voting for five years Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence or be vouched for by eligible elector
Alberta Yes 18 Ordinarily resident 6 months before polling day – – – Any person who is convicted of having committed corrupt electoral practices is disqualified from voting for the eight years following receipt of the Court report by the CEO No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence
British Columbia Yes 18 6 months before polling day CEO/DCEO – – Any person who is convicted of vote buying, intimidation, corrupt voting or the subversion of an election under Part 12 of the Election Act is disqualified from voting for no longer than seven years Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence or be vouched for by eligible elector
Yukon Yes 18 12 months before polling day CEO/ACEO – – – No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence
Northwest Territories Yes 18 Ordinarily resident 12 months before polling day – – – Any person who is convicted of a major election offence is disqualified from voting for five years Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence or be vouched for by eligible elector who is not a candidate3
Nunavut Yes 18 12 consecutive months before polling day – – Person subject to a regime to protect his/her property or person due to incapacity, or involuntarily confined to a psychiatric or other institution as a result of being acquitted of a Criminal Code offence by reason of mental disorder. Any person who is convicted of an offence under the Nunavut Elections Act or any other elections offence in Nunavut or another province or territory is disqualified from voting for five years No requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence

Footnote 1 Comes into force on proclamation or on January 1, 2016, if not proclaimed in force before that day. There is no requirement to provide documentary proof of identity or residence at the polls until that time.

Footnote 2 Except when there is an equality of votes.

Footnote 3 In the Northwest Territories, a single elector can vouch for up to five other electors in an election.

Table D.3 Lists of electors

Jurisdiction Preliminary list Preliminary list provided to Revised list Revised list provided to Official list Official list provided to Final list Final list provided to
Canada Prepared as soon as possible after issue of writ and published no later than the 31st day before polling day. Updated lists provided on the 19th day before polling day Sent to the returning officers and to each registered party or eligible party who requests it after initial preparation. Then sent to each candidate who requests it Prepared on the 11th day before polling day and published on the 7th day before polling day for use at advance polls Deputy returning officers and each candidate Prepared on the 3rd day before polling day for use on election day Deputy returning officers and each candidate Prepared as soon as possible after polling day Each registered party that endorsed a candidate in electoral district and to elected member
Newfoundland and Labrador – Returning officers – Returning officers – Returning officers – –
Prince Edward Island Provided as soon as possible after confirmation of electors Returning officers, each registered political party, and each deputy returning officer – – Provided on receipt of confirmation records from returning officer Appropriate electoral officials – –
Nova Scotia Provided to the returning officers as soon as possible after a writ of election. Then provided to each candidate as soon as possible after the receipt and certification of the list, but no later than the end of the 14th day before election day Returning officers and candidates in the electoral district Prepared, certified and delivered before an advance poll Appropriate poll officials and each candidate in the electoral district Prepared, certified and delivered before election day Appropriate poll officials and each candidate in the electoral district Prepared and provided as soon as possible after election day Each elected member and each registered party
New Brunswick Provided forthwith after the issue of the writ Returning officers, each political party that nominated candidates, and each independent candidate Prepared on the 10th and 3rd days before polling day and provided before both the advance and ordinary polling days Appropriate poll officials, and each party and candidate who was provided with preliminary list In all polling divisions, the revised list of electors shall be the official list. Therefore, prepared on the 10th and 3rd days before polling day and provided before both the advance and ordinary polling days Appropriate poll officials and each party and candidate who was provided with preliminary list Provided as soon as possible after polling day Each elected member and upon request to each registered political party
Quebec Provided upon issue of order for an election, as soon as changes received before election order have been processed Returning officers, and, no later than 27th day before polling day, to authorized parties, other parties that make a request, independent members and each candidate Provided no later than Saturday of 2nd week preceding polling week Each candidate and political parties – – Provided no later than Saturday of week preceding polling week Candidates and political parties
Ontario Provided as soon as possible after issue of writ Returning officers, municipal clerks and each candidate – – Prepared by attaching a copy of any additional lists to a copy of the original list up to and including the day immediately preceding polling day. Provided for use at the advance polls and on regular polling day Deputy returning officers – –
Manitoba Provided at least 40 days before fixed election date or at least 2 days before close of nominations, in the case of any other election The returning officer must provide the Chief Electoral Officer and each candidate in the election with a copy of the preliminary voters list. If requested, must provide to each registered political party Provided after the second Thursday before election day, once the revision period is complete and the record of revision has been received The returning officer must provide the Chief Electoral Officer and each candidate in the election with a copy of the preliminary voters list. If requested, must provide to each registered political party Prepared by attaching the revised voters list and all additional changes to the preliminary voters list after the close of revision Voting officers Provided as soon as possible after an election Each registered political party upon request
Saskatchewan Provided within 10 days of issue of writ. The secondary list must be reproduced and available for distribution within 14 days of the date of the issue of the writ Preliminary list is provided to the returning officers. Also forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer if he or she decides to prepare a secondary list. The secondary list is provided to returning officers if prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer, the Chief Electoral Officer if prepared by the returning officer, and the enumerators for revision. The voters' list is then provided to each candidate. Revision of the list takes place by adding or deleting names directly on the voters' list. Delivered immediately after certifying revised voters' list after the close of revision period, not later than 2nd day before polling day. Deputy returning officers The certified revised voters' list delivered to the deputy returning officer not later than 2nd day before polling day is the official voters' list Deputy returning officers and each candidate or representative upon request – –
Alberta Provided as soon as possible after issue of writ Each registered political party and members of Legislative Assembly who are not members of registered political parties Provided following commencement of revision period Candidates or candidates' official agents may request copies of additions to list of electors – – Provided as soon as possible after polling day Each registered political party and each member of Legislative Assembly
British Columbia – – – – Provided as soon as possible after election is called upon certification by the Chief Electoral Officer District registrars of voters, district electoral officers and candidates, as well as to individuals, organizations, registered parties and members of the Legislative Assembly on request – –
Yukon Prepared and delivered as soon as possible, no later than 13th day following the issue of a writ of election. If the Chief Electoral Officer anticipates a writ, may request list. Must give public notice of request as soon as possible. Prepared and delivered no later than the 21st day after notice or the 13th day following the issue of the writ, whichever comes first. Returning officers, Chief Electoral Officer, candidates and registered parties Provided as soon as applications have been processed, at end of revision or special revision Returning officers and deputy returning officers – Deputy returning officers (for polling day) and each registered political party (within 6 months of election) – –
Northwest Territories Issued with writ of election or plebiscite proclamation Returning officers and official agent for each candidate – – Provided within 5 days after revision period Returning officers and official agent for each candidate – –
Nunavut – – Revisions done whenever necessary to correct information Each candidate Provided as soon as possible after issue of writ, but no later than the 20th day before election day Returning officers and candidates who request it Provided as soon as possible after election day To member elected in each constituency