Judicial Recount handbook
Appendix B – Counting Votes at the Close of Polling Day
The procedure for counting ballots on polling day provides the necessary context for a judicial recount. Information about the procedure on polling day may also be of relevance to the procedure used by the judge to count the ballots at a recount. This Appendix describes the polling day counting procedure, with references to the relevant sections of the Act and Elections Canada manuals in square brackets.
Counting Votes at the Close of Polling Day
Immediately after the close of a polling station, the deputy returning officer shall count the votes cast at his or her polling station in the presence of the poll clerk, any additional election officer appointed and whose duties include being present at the count and any candidates or their representatives who are present or, if no candidates or representatives are present, in the presence of at least two electors. [283(1)]
The deputy returning officer shall supply the poll clerk and those present at the count who request it with a Tally Sheet to keep their own score of the voting.
With the assistance of the poll clerk and any additional election officer appointed and whose duties include being present at the count, and under the scrutiny of candidates or their representatives, the deputy returning officer shall:
- Count the number of electors who voted at the polling station.
- Count the number of electors to whom a registration certificate was given under subsection 161(4).
- Make an entry at the end of the list of electors that states the number of electors who voted in this election at this polling station and, of these, the number of electors to whom a registration certificate was given. The deputy returning officer must sign the list and place the list in the envelope supplied for that purpose.
- Count the number of spoiled ballots, place them in the envelope supplied for the purpose, indicate on the envelope the number of spoiled ballots and seal it.
- Count the unused ballots that are not detached from the books of ballots, place them with the stubs of the used ballots in the envelope supplied for the purpose, indicate on the envelope the number of unused ballots and seal it.
- Total the number of electors who voted at the polling station and the number of spoiled and unused ballots in order to ascertain that all ballots that were provided by the returning officer are accounted for.
- Open the ballot box and empty the contents onto a table.
- Examine each ballot, show the ballot to each person who is present and ask the poll clerk to make a note on the Tally Sheet beside the name of the candidate for whom the vote was cast for the purpose of arriving at the total number of votes cast for each candidate.
- Reject ballots that meet the rejection criteria in the Act. [283(3), 284(1)]
Statement of the Vote
The deputy returning officer for each polling station shall prepare a Statement of the Vote setting out the number of votes in favour of each candidate and the number of rejected ballots. The original Statement of the Vote and a copy of it are placed in separate envelopes. [287(1)]
Contents of the Ballot Box
The spoiled ballots, unused ballots, rejected ballots and marked ballots, along with the list of electors and a copy of the Statement of the Vote, are placed in various envelopes, and these envelopes are placed in the ballot box. The items placed in a large envelope, which is then sealed, are the envelopes containing marked ballots, spoiled ballots, unused ballots and rejected ballots, the official list of electors and other election documents except the envelopes containing the original Statements of the Vote and the registration certificates. The form for each oath of an elector's residence taken under subsection 143(3) or paragraph 161(1)(b) or 169(2)(b) shall also be placed by the deputy returning officer in the envelope supplied for that purpose. The deputy returning officer shall then seal the ballot box. [287, 288, 288.01] The envelopes containing the registration, correction and oath of residence certificates are returned to the returning office.
Without delay after sealing the ballot box, the deputy returning officer will send the ballot box and other election documents to the returning officer. 
Validation of the Results
The returning officer oversees all polling stations within his or her electoral district. After the returning officer receives all of the ballot boxes from every polling station, the returning officer shall, at his or her office, proceed to validate the results using the original Statements of the Vote and the results of the count of special ballots that were counted at Elections Canada headquarters in Ottawa. 
The returning officer will verify and record the number of votes cast for each candidate, the number of valid votes, the number of rejected votes and the number of the total vote. [293(1), Returning Officer's Manual] The returning officer shall not open an envelope that appears to contain ballots. [295(3)]
Result of Voting
Without delay after the validation of results, the returning officer shall prepare a certificate (the Result of Voting form) setting out the number of votes cast for each candidate and forward the original to the Chief Electoral Officer and a copy of it to each candidate or his or her representative.  Without delay after six days following the completion of the validation of the results, the returning officer shall declare elected the candidate who obtained the largest number of votes by completing the return of the writ and forwarding the writ to the Chief Electoral Officer. [313(1)]
Counting Votes Cast by Special Ballot
A special ballot is cast differently than a regular ballot cast at a polling station on polling day or at the advance polls. Special ballots are received and counted at the returning office and at Elections Canada headquarters.
An elector who votes by special ballot shall:
- Receive a special ballot, an inner envelope and an outer envelope.
- Write the name of the candidate of his or her choice on the ballot.
- Place the ballot in the inner envelope and seal it.
- Place the inner envelope in the outer envelope and seal it.
- Sign the declaration on the outer envelope. [212, 213, 227(2), 238, 257, 258(1)]
Counting Special Ballots at the Returning Office
An elector who votes by special ballot in his or her electoral district must ensure that the ballot is received at the returning office before the close of the polling stations on polling day. [239(2)(a)]
A deputy returning officer and a poll clerk are appointed by the returning officer to verify the outer envelopes and to count the special ballots issued to electors in his or her electoral district and received in his or her office. [273(1)] The returning officer notifies the candidates of the time and place of the verification, and the candidates and their representatives may be present for the verification of the outer envelopes and the counting of the ballots. [274, 276(2)]
A deputy returning officer and a poll clerk follow these steps. They:
- Verify the outer envelopes by determining from the information on the outer envelope whether the elector is entitled to vote in the electoral district. [276(1)]
- Count all valid outer envelopes. [278(1)]
- Open the valid outer envelopes and place the inner envelopes into a ballot box provided by the returning officer. [278(2)]
A deputy returning officer sets aside every outer envelope unopened that falls within the criteria for setting aside outer envelopes under the Act and places them in the envelope for spoiled ballots. [277(1), Deputy Returning Officer's Manual]
After the close of polling stations, the deputy returning officer shall:
- Open the ballot box containing the inner envelopes and, together with the poll clerk, open the inner envelopes and count the votes. [278(3)]
- Reject ballots that meet the rejection criteria under the Act. 
Counting Special Ballots at Elections Canada Headquarters in Ottawa
An elector who votes by special ballot outside his or her electoral district must ensure that the ballot is received at the office of the special voting rules administrator in Ottawa not later than 6:00 p.m. on polling day. [239(2)(b)]
The counting of the special ballots is conducted by special ballot officers working in pairs, under the supervision of the special voting rules administrator. [264(1)]
The counting of special ballots at Elections Canada headquarters must commence on a date to be fixed by the Chief Electoral Officer or, if no date is fixed, on Wednesday, the fifth day before polling day. 
The special ballot officers shall set aside every outer envelope, unopened, that meets the criteria for spoiled envelopes under the Act. [267(1), (2)]
The special ballot officers shall, on examining a special ballot, reject it if it meets the rejection criteria under the Act. .
The special ballot officers shall prepare a Statement of the Vote and deliver it to the special voting rules administrator. [270(1)]
Without delay after the counting of the votes for every electoral district has been completed, the special voting rules administrator shall:
- Inform the Chief Electoral Officer of:
- the number of votes counted for each candidate for every electoral district
- the total number of votes counted for each electoral district
- the number of rejected ballots for each electoral district 
- Send to the Chief Electoral Officer in separate envelopes:
- the list of electors
- all other documents and election materials received from commanding officers, deputy returning officers and special ballot officers
- the oaths of office
- the complete files of correspondence, reports and records in his or her possession 
The Results of Votes Cast by Special Ballot
- Communication to returning officers
The Chief Electoral Officer shall, without delay after the closing of polling stations in an election, inform each returning officer of the results, for his or her electoral district, of the counting of special ballots at Elections Canada headquarters, giving the votes cast for each candidate and the number of rejected ballots. [280(1)]
- Release of information by returning officers
When a returning officer receives information from the Chief Electoral Officer respecting the results of the special ballots counted at Elections Canada headquarters, the returning officer shall add those results to the results of the special ballots counted at the returning office and release them as being the results of the vote under the Special Voting Rules. [280(2)]