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Judicial Recount handbook

1. Introduction

1.1 About This Handbook

This handbook is intended for participants at a judicial recount or those who are involved in an application for a recount. These may include the returning officer, field liaison officer, judge, candidates, candidates' representatives, electors, members of a recount team, legal counsel and Elections Canada officials. The handbook explains the process for carrying out a judicial recount under the Canada Elections Act (the "Act").

A judicial recount is a process by which a judge is called upon to conduct a second or fresh count of the votes cast in an electoral district (i.e. riding) following an election. In a typical recount, teams of counters are assigned to review and tabulate each ballot. Recounts are automatic where there is a small margin of difference between the votes cast for the winning candidate and those cast for any other candidate. Judicial recounts may also take place upon the application of an elector where there is evidence that election officers have incorrectly counted, tabulated or rejected ballots. Schedule 4 of the Act (reproduced in Appendix A) sets out a detailed process for holding a judicial recount in both cases.

This handbook explains the rights of individual electors and candidates to request a judicial recount and who may attend the recount. It also sets out who may act as a judge as well as the responsibilities of a judge tasked with conducting a judicial recount. It details the process for conducting a judicial recount and how election officers may be required to provide evidence about the state of ballot boxes, individual ballots or other relevant information requested by the judge. Finally, it discusses the legal principles relevant to establishing the validity of a ballot.

Relevant sections of the Act are indicated in square brackets after each related statement.

Appendix D of this handbook contains samples of forms that are used or consulted in relation to the counting of ballots on election night. Appendix E of this handbook contains samples of forms that are used or consulted with respect to a recount.

This handbook deals with judicial recounts and does not address contested elections. Allegations that an elected candidate was not eligible to be a candidate or that there were irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of an election can be addressed only by an application to contest an election. [524]

A recount is not a process to deal with potential violations of the Act. Any alleged violations of the Act should be brought to the attention of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The Commissioner's website can be consulted at It is the duty of the Commissioner to ensure that the Act is complied with and enforced. [509.2]

1.2 Legal Disclaimer

This handbook has been updated to reflect the changes made in 2014 to the judicial recount provisions pursuant to amendments contained in the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23).Footnote 1 It is designed for information purposes only. The views expressed in this handbook are not law and are not intended to replace the official text of the Canada Elections Act. How the Act applies to any particular case will depend on the individual circumstances of that case. Elections Canada reserves the right to reconsider any interpretations expressed in this handbook, either generally or in light of the actual circumstances of any case and in accordance with continuing legislative and judicial developments.

This handbook mentions court decisions for illustration purposes. The jurisprudence cited is not exhaustive. Some cases refer to provincial legislation, which may differ from the Act. Cases may not be definitive and should be taken merely as a starting point for research.

1.3 Questions About This Handbook

Please direct any questions about this handbook to Elections Canada. We can be reached by telephone at 1-800-463-6868, by fax at 613-954-8584, by e-mail through our website at or by mail at Elections Canada, 30 Victoria Street, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0M6.

Footnote 1 S.C. 2014, c. 12.