Voting by Special Ballot

(See also Voting by Special Ballot in By-elections, EC 90706.)

Special Voting Rules

Any elector who cannot or does not wish to vote at a polling station during an election or referendum may vote using a special ballot. With a special ballot, an elector can vote by mail or in person at the office of any returning officer. If the elector is away from his or her electoral district, inside or outside Canada, he or she can also register to vote with Elections Canada in Ottawa. Voting by special ballot is governed by the Special Voting Rules, set out at Part 11 of the Canada Elections Act. The Special Voting Rules apply to the following categories of electors:

  1. Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts during the election or referendum, whether in Canada or abroad
     
  2. Canadian electors in their electoral districts who cannot or do not wish to go to an ordinary or advance poll to vote
     
  3. Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside Canada
     
  4. Canadian Forces electors (including civilians employed as teachers or administrative support staff in Canadian Forces schools outside the country)
     
  5. incarcerated electors

In all these cases, the elector must have a civic address for his or her place of ordinary residence in Canada, for electoral purposes. The elector's vote will be counted for that electoral district.

A Special Voting Rules Administrator appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer oversees the administration of the Special Voting Rules.

General principles

To vote under the Special Voting Rules, electors other than Canadian Forces electors and incarcerated electors must:

Once an elector's application to vote by special ballot is approved, that is the only way he or she can vote. The elector cannot vote at the ordinary or advance polls. The only exception is that Canadian Forces electors may choose to vote in person at a civilian polling station, if they are living in the same electoral district as the address shown on their Statement of Ordinary Residence. They can do so only if they have not already voted under the Special Voting Rules. For further details, consult the backgrounder Voting by Special Ballot for Canadian Forces Electors (EC 90550).

Elections Canada draws up the lists of electors registered to vote by special ballot in each electoral district, and sends them to the returning officers before the advance polls and again before polling day. These lists include the surname, given name, civic address and mailing address of electors who have applied to vote by special ballot. The returning officers indicate on the list of electors that these electors have registered to vote by special ballot, to prevent them from voting twice.

An elector who votes under the Special Voting Rules uses a special ballot voting kit that includes:

An elector may vote only once at an election. The elector is only entitled to vote for a candidate running in his or her electoral district.

Categories of Electors and Manner of Voting by Special Ballot

1. Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts (but who have a place of ordinary residence in Canada – for example, travellers or snowbirds)

Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and who live in Canada but who expect to be absent from their electoral districts, either in Canada or abroad, during an electoral event may vote by special ballot.

Registration

An elector must register as soon as possible after an electoral event has been called by sending Elections Canada an Application for Registration and Special Ballot form. This form may be requested in person, by mail, by telephone or by fax from any office of the returning officer or from Elections Canada in Ottawa. It can also be downloaded from the Elections Canada Web site. This form is also available from Canadian embassies, high commissions or consular offices.

To exercise the right to vote during an electoral event, the elector's completed application must be received by any returning officer no later than 6:00 p.m., local time, or by Elections Canada in Ottawa no later than 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on the Tuesday before polling day. The application may be sent by fax. It must be accompanied by a photocopy of proof of identity and address of ordinary residence in Canada: either a single document bearing the elector's name, address of ordinary residence and signature (such as a driver's licence) or a combination of two documents, one with the elector's name and address of ordinary residence (such as a utilities bill) and the other bearing the elector's name and signature (such as a library card). Elections Canada verifies the elector's identity and determines his or her electoral district.

Manner of voting

Once the elector's application is approved, Elections Canada sends a personalized special ballot voting kit to the elector at the mailing address indicated on the application form. If the elector submits the application in person to the office of a returning officer and it is approved, he or she receives a special ballot voting kit immediately.

In the case of an election, the elector must obtain the names of the candidates in his or her electoral district. These names can be found at www.elections.ca, or obtained by calling the Elections Canada Enquiries Unit, or through Canadian embassies, diplomatic missions and consular posts after the candidates have been confirmed, on the 19th day before polling day.

In the case of a referendum, each referendum question is printed on a separate ballot.

To vote, the elector must first complete and sign the declaration on the outer envelope that forms part of the voting kit. The declaration states that the elector's name is as shown on the envelope, and that he or she has not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current electoral event. In the case of an election, the elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district – or, in the case of a referendum, by checking either "yes" or "no." The elector inserts the ballot into the series of envelopes in accordance with the instructions provided.

Finally, the elector is responsible for ensuring that Elections Canada in Ottawa receives the ballot no later than 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on polling day in order to be counted. The ballot must be sent in the envelopes provided. A ballot received by fax cannot be counted.

2. Canadian electors voting in their electoral districts

Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and who, during an electoral event, cannot or do not wish to vote at the ordinary or advance polls, may vote by special ballot in their own electoral districts.

Registration

An elector must register as soon as possible after an electoral event has been called, by sending an Application for Registration and Special Ballot form to the office of his or her returning officer. This form may be requested in person, by mail, by telephone or by fax from the office of the returning officer. It can also be downloaded from Elections Canada's Web site.

To vote by special ballot while in his or her own electoral district during an electoral event, the elector must make sure the completed application reaches the office of the returning officer for his or her own electoral district no later than 6:00 p.m., local time, on the Tuesday before polling day. The application can be sent by fax. It must be accompanied by a photocopy of proof of identity and address of ordinary residence in the electoral district: either a single document bearing the elector's name, address of ordinary residence and signature (such as a driver's licence) or a combination of two documents, one with the elector's name and address of ordinary residence (such as a utilities bill) and the other bearing the elector's name and signature (such as a library card). The elector's identity and electoral district are verified in the office of the returning officer.

Manner of voting

If the elector submits the application in person to the office of his or her returning officer, and if it is approved, he or she receives a special ballot voting kit and may vote immediately. If the elector submits the application by any other means, a voting kit is sent through the mail.

The elector must obtain the names of the candidates in his or her electoral district. These names can be found at www.elections.ca, or obtained by calling the Elections Canada Enquiries Unit or the office of the returning officer in the elector's district after the candidates have been confirmed, on the 19th day before polling day.

In the case of a referendum, each referendum question is printed on a separate ballot.

To vote, the elector must first complete and sign the declaration on the outer envelope that forms part of the voting kit. The declaration states that the elector's name is as shown on the envelope, and that he or she has not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current electoral event. In the case of an election, the elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district – or, in the case of a referendum, by checking either "yes" or "no." The elector inserts the ballot into the series of envelopes in accordance with the instructions provided.

Finally, the elector is responsible for ensuring that the completed ballot reaches the office of the returning officer in his or her electoral district before the close of the polls in that electoral district on polling day in order to be counted. The ballot must be sent in the envelopes provided. The ballot may be returned in person or by mail. A ballot received by fax cannot be counted.

An elector who is voting in person in the office of the returning officer may use a regular ballot if these ballots have already been printed at the time he or she is voting.

3. Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside Canada

Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and are temporarily residing outside Canada may vote by special ballot in an election or referendum. They must have resided in Canada at any time before applying for registration, have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years immediately before making the application and intend to resume residence in Canada.

The five-year limit does not apply to:

Registration

Elections Canada maintains a register of electors who are temporarily residing outside Canada. Electors may register by sending Elections Canada an Application for Registration and Special Ballot form. This form may be requested by mail, by telephone or by fax from Elections Canada. It can also be downloaded from Elections Canada's Web site. The form is also available from Canadian embassies, high commissions and consular offices. Electors can register to vote at any time.

To exercise the right to vote during an electoral event, the elector's completed application must be received by Elections Canada in Ottawa no later than 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on the Tuesday before polling day, and his or her name entered in the register of electors who are temporarily resident outside Canada. The application may be sent by fax. It must be accompanied by a photocopy of proof of identity (a copy – of pages 2 and 3 – of a Canadian passport, or birth or baptismal certificate attesting that the elector was born in Canada, or a Canadian citizenship certificate or card). Elections Canada verifies the elector's identity and determines his or her address for electoral purposes.

Manner of voting

Once an election or referendum is called, Elections Canada sends a personalized special ballot voting kit to every elector in the register of electors temporarily residing outside Canada.

In the case of an election, the elector must obtain the names of the candidates in his or her electoral district. These names can be found at www.elections.ca, or obtained by calling the Elections Canada Enquiries Unit, or through Canadian embassies, diplomatic missions and consular posts after the candidates have been confirmed, on the 19th day before polling day.

In the case of a referendum, each referendum question is printed on a separate ballot.

To vote, the elector must first complete and sign the declaration on the outer envelope that forms part of the voting kit. The declaration states that the elector's name is as shown on the envelope, and that he or she has not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current electoral event. In the case of an election, the elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district – or, in the case of a referendum, by checking either "yes" or "no." The elector inserts the ballot into the series of envelopes in accordance with the instructions provided.

The elector is responsible for ensuring that Elections Canada in Ottawa receives the special ballot no later than 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on polling day in order to be counted. The ballot must be sent in the envelopes provided. A ballot received by fax cannot be counted.

4. Canadian Forces electors

Canadian Forces electors are Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and are members of the regular force of the Canadian Forces, or members of the reserve force of the Canadian Forces on full-time training or service or on active service, members of the special force of the Canadian Forces, or a person who is employed outside Canada by the Canadian Forces as a teacher in, or as a member of the administrative support staff for, a Canadian Forces school. They can vote by special ballot in any election or referendum in the electoral district in which the address on their Statement of Ordinary Residence is located.

People living with members of the Canadian Forces outside Canada are not included in the category of Canadian Forces electors, but may vote as Canadians residing temporarily outside Canada.

Registration

The Department of National Defence maintains a permanent register of Canadian Forces electors. When they enrol, each completes a Statement of Ordinary Residence that determines the electoral district for which his or her vote will be counted.

Manner of voting

Canadian Forces electors vote by special ballot. During a general election or referendum, instructions for voting are posted at the polling station in each unit and a deputy returning officer is on hand to issue voting materials. Each polling station has a complete list of candidates.

To vote, the elector must first complete and sign the declaration on the outer envelope that forms part of the voting kit. The declaration states that the elector's name is as shown on the envelope, and that he or she has not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current electoral event. In the case of an election, the elector completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district – or, in the case of a referendum, by checking either "yes" or "no." The elector inserts the ballot into the series of envelopes in accordance with the instructions provided.

The elector is responsible for ensuring that Elections Canada in Ottawa receives the ballot no later than 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on polling day in order to be counted. Electors may mail the ballots themselves or, in most cases, during a general election or referendum, leave them with the deputy returning officer to forward by special arrangement. The ballot must be sent in the envelopes provided. A ballot received by fax cannot be counted.

Instead of voting by special ballot, a Canadian Forces elector who is residing in the electoral district of his or her address on his or her Statement of Ordinary Residence may vote at the civilian polling station in that electoral district, provided that he or she has not already voted in the electoral event and continues to reside in that electoral district until polling day.

5. Incarcerated electors

Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on polling day and who are in a correctional institution or a federal penitentiary in Canada may vote by special ballot in an election or referendum. A staff member in each institution is appointed liaison officer and facilitates the process of registering and voting. The liaison officer answers questions about the manner of voting and helps the electors to register.

Definition of address of ordinary residence

For electoral purposes, the incarcerated elector's place of ordinary residence is not the institution in which he or she is serving a sentence. It is the first of the following places for which the elector knows the civic and mailing addresses:

  1. his or her residence before being incarcerated; or
     
  2. the residence of the spouse, the common-law partner, a relative or dependant of the elector, a relative of his or her spouse or common-law partner or a person with whom the elector would live if not incarcerated; or
     
  3. the place of his or her arrest; or
     
  4. the last court where the elector was convicted and sentenced.

Registration

The incarcerated elector must fill out an Application for Registration and Special Ballot form, which is available from the liaison officer once an election or referendum has been called. The elector returns the completed application form to the liaison officer, who validates it.

Manner of voting

During a general election or referendum, incarcerated electors vote in their institutions on the 10th day before polling day. A polling station is set up at 9:00 a.m. to gather the votes and remains open until all those who wish to vote have done so, but no later than 8:00 p.m. Each polling station has the complete list of candidates.

In the case of a referendum, each referendum question is printed on a separate ballot.

To vote, the elector must first complete and sign the declaration on the outer envelope that forms part of the voting kit. The declaration states that the elector's name is as shown on the envelope, and that he or she has not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current electoral event. In the case of an election, the elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district – or, in the case of a referendum, by checking either "yes" or "no." The elector inserts the ballot into the series of envelopes in accordance with the instructions provided.

Results of Voting by Special Ballot

Counting of votes

Special ballots are counted in two different ways, depending on the category of electors.

Processing and counting the votes at the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

The special ballots of Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts, Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside Canada, Canadian Forces electors and incarcerated electors are processed and counted as follows, provided they have been received at Elections Canada in Ottawa no later than 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on polling day:

Counting the ballots at the office of the returning officer

The ballots of electors voting in their own electoral districts are counted in the office of each returning officer, after the polls close on polling day, by deputy returning officers and poll clerks appointed by the returning officer.

Communicating the results

As soon as all of the special ballots for every electoral district are counted at Elections Canada in Ottawa, the Special Voting Rules Administrator informs the Chief Electoral Officer of the results of the special ballot vote for each electoral district. The Chief Electoral Officer totals the results, for each electoral district, of the vote by special ballot of Canadian Forces electors, Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside Canada and incarcerated electors. These three categories are designated as Group 1. After the polls close on polling day, the Group 1 results for each electoral district are sent to the appropriate returning officer.

The other category of electors whose votes are counted in Ottawa is Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts. The results of these votes are tallied separately from Group 1 and sent to the appropriate returning officer, who adds them to the results for electors voting by special ballot in their own electoral districts. These two categories – Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts and electors voting by special ballot in their own electoral districts – are designated as Group 2.

The results of the two groups are reported separately on polling night. All the results of the special ballot votes are then added to the total results for each electoral district.



May 2008