Facts about voter registration, citizenship and voter ID
Who is eligible to register and vote?
To register and vote in a federal election, you must be a Canadian citizen aged 18 or older on election day and provide acceptable proof of identity and address.
How we register voters
Elections Canada takes many steps to keep voter registration information for millions of Canadians accurate and up to date, and to safeguard the integrity of voter registrations.
We manage voter registration information using the National Register of Electors (the Register), a permanent database of Canadians who are eligible to vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums.
We continually update the Register from a range of sources, including the Canada Revenue Agency; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; provincial and territorial driver's licence and vital statistics agencies; and information supplied by electors when they register to vote or update their registration.
These sources of information allow Elections Canada to:
- add eligible electors to the Register,
- update registered electors' records to reflect deaths and address changes;
- identify people who may be eligible to register.
We routinely take measures and employ safeguards to protect the integrity of voter registrations. For example, depending on the source of the information, we do not automatically add a person to the Register.
While we clearly communicate the citizenship requirement to vote, we depend on individuals to accurately indicate their Canadian citizenship. At the same time, there is no one piece of identification that is universally held by all Canadians to prove citizenship. Therefore, requiring documentary proof of citizenship when registering could disenfranchise many eligible electors.
The Canada Elections Act was amended in 2018 to allow the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to share information about non-citizens with the Chief Electoral Officer.
This information will allow Elections Canada to update the National Register of Electors on a regular basis by deleting information about individuals that are not electors because they are not Canadian citizens.
Voter registration notification letters
Elections Canada mails letters on voter registration to people who may be eligible to vote but are not registered. We mail these letters a few times a year, mostly outside election periods, to invite people to register.
We clearly inform them that, to vote in federal elections, they must have Canadian citizenship, be at least 18 years old on election day, and be registered to vote. The letter also explains that if a recipient is not a Canadian citizen, they should ignore the letter as they are not eligible to vote
Voter information cards
About three weeks before election day, Elections Canada mails personalized voter information cards to registered electors. The card tells them that they are registered to vote. It also tells them when and where to vote, the different ways they can vote, and how to get more information.
A voter information card is not the same as a voter registration notification letter. Voter registration notification letters are sent to potential electors between elections to encourage them to register if they are eligible, while voter information cards are sent to registered electors during elections.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada has authorized electors to use the voter information card to prove their address, as permitted under Bill C-76. Even though electors can now use the voter information card as proof of address, a second piece of ID will be required. Electors have not and will not be allowed to vote using a voter information card as their only piece of ID.
Affirming Canadian citizenship
Under the Canada Elections Act, electors must be registered and prove their identity and address in order to vote. They are not required to show documents to prove their Canadian citizenship when they register or vote at the federal level. However, when electors register, they are required to declare that they are 18 years of age or older and a Canadian citizen, either:
- directly through Elections Canada when completing a paper registration form, a special ballot application form, or online registration; or
- indirectly, when they register through a provincial or territorial election agency, or when they check boxes on their tax return consenting to share their information with Elections Canada, after indicating that they are Canadian citizens, or when new Canadians consent to share their information through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
How we explain voter eligibility criteria
It is illegal under the Canada Elections Act for a non-citizen to vote or to apply to register to vote, knowing they are not eligible. It is not an offence for a non-citizen or anyone under 18 to be registered in error.
To ensure that people understand the legal requirements to register and vote, Elections Canada outlines the eligibility criteria in several places, such as:
- voter registration notification letters, mailed periodically to potential electors (see above)
- voter registration request forms
- voter information cards, mailed to registered electors three weeks before election day (see above)
- the reminder brochure, mailed to every household in the country two weeks before election day
- a poster in every voting place
- Elections Canada's website, including our Online Voter Registration Service
- other Elections Canada information products, such as pamphlets, presentations, the Guide to the federal election