Secondary menu

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, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Saskatchewan, 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. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Yukon authorize the inclusion of non-voters aged 16–17 years on the Register or on a provisional register. In all of these jurisdictions,  these persons will be transferred to the Permanent Register of Electors when they reach voting age. In New Brunswick and Quebec,  the Register may include those who may become electors within six months. The Register in Saskatchewan  may include those who may become electors before the next 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 Pre-registration of persons under 18 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
  • 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
16- and 17-year-olds may be placed on the register of electors Within 48 hours
of the date of the writ
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 16- and 17-year-olds may be placed on the register of electors
  • 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 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 May include persons who may become eligible to be electors within six months 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 May include persons who may become eligible to be electors within six months 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, current address, and unique identifier assigned by CEO 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 The CEO is required to establish a provisional register for those 16 and 17 years old who wish to be added 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 May include persons who will be eligible to vote at the next general election after the date the information is collected 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
  • 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
Permits the collection of information for those at least 16 years of age 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 16- and 17-year-olds do not have to be eligible to vote at the next election to be placed on the register of electors Chief Electoral Officer may at any time order the enumeration of all or part of one or more electoral districts
  • Any person may, during ordinary office hours on any of the first 19 days of an election period, apply to the revising officer to be revised.
  • Special revision (a) on the 20th, 21st and 25th to 28th days after the issue of the writ, between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and (b) on the 23rd and 24th days after the issue of the writ, between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m
Must either (1) present authorized ID, or (2) be vouched for by an elector whose name appears on the list of electors for the same electoral district, or (3) take a declaration stating that he/she is unable to produce ID or appoint a vouching elector.
With any of these 3 options, a declaration of qualification and identity must be taken
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 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.

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 if already on the List of Electors
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

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 A candidate, and a spouse or dependant of the candidate who lives with the candidate and is qualified as an elector, have the option of voting in the polling division where the candidate is ordinarily resident; where the candidate is temporarily resident during an election, if it is in the electoral district in which he or she is a candidate; where an office of the returning officer is located for the electoral district in which he or she is a candidate; or if the candidate was a member on the day before the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly immediately preceding the election, where the former member resided for the purpose of carrying out his or her duties as a member.

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, each candidate and party 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 ColumbiaFootnote 2 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 17th day following the issue of a writ of election. If the Chief Electoral Officer anticipates a writ, may request list 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 Deputy returning officers (for polling day), returning officers, candidates and each registered political party The revised copy of the List of Electors as certified by the revising officer is the official list of electors used at the poll. It includes additional names added during special revision Deputy returning officers (for polling day), returning officers, candidates and each registered political party Provided as soon as possible after the date of the return to the writ Each registered political party and each member of the Legislative Assembly
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

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.

Footnote 2 The Chief Electoral Officer may prepare, charge a fee for preparing and provide a list of voters to a registered political party or member of the Legislative Assembly, and to a candidate or an individual who was a candidate.