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 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. In Nunavut, a voter who is on the voters list may be required to prove their identity if an election officer or candidate's representative has doubts concerning their identity or right to vote.
All jurisdictions require an elector to be registered on a list of electors before voting. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon authorize the inclusion in the Register of non-voters aged 16–17 years. Prince Edward Island will also consider anyone aged 16 or older on or by November 7, 2016, eligible to vote in the upcoming plebiscite held from October 29 to November 7, 2016. Prince Edward Island is allowing these youth to vote seeing as they will be legal for the upcoming 2019 election. Twelve jurisdictions produce their lists of electors from a permanent register (Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, 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 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||Residential address, mailing address, legal name, contact information and day, month and year of birth, a unique identification number assigned by the Chief Electoral Officer, any other identification number if one has been assigned by other persons who provide information under section 24.12 to the Chief Electoral Officer and other information required to be included in an application for registration as prescribed by the Chief Electoral Officer||
||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||–||
||Starts as soon as possible after issue of writs and ends at 6:00 p.m. on 3rd 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|
|ManitobaFootnote 3||–||–||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 the day the preliminary voters list is completed until the second Thursday before election day, in the case of a fixed election date||Must take an oath in the prescribed form and provide documentary proof of identity and residence|
|Saskatchewan||Surname, given name, middle name, date of birth, gender, telephone number(s), residential address, mailing address, postal code, constituency, polling division number||Whenever the Chief Electoral Officer considers it necessary, using enumeration methods, using information provided by Elections Canada, using information held by a public institution, or from personal information supplied by individual citizens applying for voter registration or updating their registration details||Optional. The scheduled period, area of coverage, and specific methods of enumeration that apply are to be determined by the Chief Electoral Officer||Period determined by Chief Electoral Officer at each election. Usually revision starts on writ day and ends five days before the start of advance voting||Registration at the time of voting is available during advance voting and on election day. Voter must complete a registration form and provide documentary proof of identity and address of residence. In the absence of acceptable documentation, the registering voter may be vouched for by another registered voter with appropriate documentation|
|Alberta||Name, residential address, mailing address, telephone number, gender, date of birth, citizenship and unique identifier number||
||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, National Register of Electors, local government voters lists 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 and given name, date of birth, gender and residence address (and if different, mailing address). The Chief Electoral Officer may also assign a unique identifier to each person included in the register of electors||–||
||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||
||Must provide documentary proof of identity and residence|
Return to source of Footnote 1 The legislation does not define identification; however, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador defines identification as identity and residence.
Return to source of Footnote 2 Elsewhere known as Public Guardian or Public Trustee
Return to source of Footnote 3 For the elections held in 2020 and afterwards, the enumerator must also ask each eligible voter enumerated to provide his or her gender and date of birth.
Return to source of Footnote 4 In the Northwest Territories, a single elector can vouch for up to five other electors within his or her electoral district 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 ScotiaFootnote 1||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 2|
|New Brunswick||Yes||18||40 days immediately preceding the date of election||CEO/ROFootnote 3||–||–||Any person who is convicted of having committed corrupt or illegal electoral practices is disqualified from voting||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 candidateFootnote 4|
|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|
Return to source of 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.
Return to source of Footnote 2 Except when there is an equality of votes.
Return to source of Footnote 3 Candidate at a general election and any spouse of the candidate who lives with the candidate have the option of voting in any polling division in the electoral district in which the candidate is running.
Return to source of Footnote 4 In the Northwest Territories, a single elector can vouch for up to five other electors within his or her electoral district 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||–||–|
|ManitobaFootnote 1||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||Produced from the voter registry as soon as possible after the issuance of election writs. At the same time, Voter Information Cards (VICs) are produced and mailed to all registered voters whose names appear on the preliminary list||Preliminary list for each constituency is provided to the returning officers, and to the registered political parties, by the Chief Electoral Officer. In turn, each constituency returning officer provides an electronic copy of the preliminary voters list to each candidate in their constituency, plus one paper copy if requested by the candidate||Election period revision of voter registrations takes place during a revision period determined by the Chief Electoral Officer. Registration records are added, corrected or deleted directly on the permanent voter registry. Following the formal close of revisions, the revised list is produced from the registry||Deputy returning officers after the signed and certified copies are produced in the returning office. Returning officer provides an electronic copy of the revised list to each candidate in their constituency, plus one paper copy if requested by the candidate||The revised voters list, signed by the returning officer, is considered the official voters list for the election||Deputy returning officers for each advance voting and polling day voting stations at the time of ballot box pick-up. Returning officer provides electronic copy to candidates; Chief Electoral Officer provides electronic copy to registered political parties||Produced following election after all registrations taken at time of voting are processed and the voter registry data is cleansed||Provincial registered political parties who have signed an information sharing agreement regarding registry data between elections|
|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 by a public body, Chief Electoral Officer, or an electoral authority 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|
Return to source of Footnote 1 A voter's gender and date of birth must not be included on the preliminary voters list or on any subsequent voters list that is prepared under the Elections Act.