Guidelines for Observing Special Ballot Voting Operations and Special Ballot Verification and Counting at Returning Offices (EC 78058)
Note: As of October 2022, some health and safety guidelines in this document no longer apply. Please refer to Update to COVID-19 Protocols for Observing Voting Operations at Polling Places and Offices (EC 20045B) for more information.
This document is Elections Canada's guideline OGI 2021-07, Part 2.
You have been chosen as a candidate's representative for this federal election. These guidelines have been prepared to help you perform your duties in accordance with applicable rules.
The following is provided for your guidance. The final authority is the Canada Elections Act. The returning officer, assistant returning officer, additional assistant returning officer or service point supervisor has the final say for its application in the office of the returning officer.
The primary role of election officers is to serve electors as they come to register and vote. Your role is to observe registration and voting proceedings under the Special Voting Rules and provide the level of scrutiny necessary to a fair and transparent process.
We suggest that you register and vote by special ballot or vote at your advance poll if your duties will make it impossible for you to vote on election day at the polling station where you are legally entitled to vote.
Special Voting Rules – Authorization of a Candidate's Representative
The Authorization of a Candidate's Representative (EC 20020) form authorizes you to act as a candidate's representative in an electoral district for this federal election. Speak with your candidate or official agent to obtain the authorization form.
Before you can be admitted to any service centre or polling place, you must present the form signed by your candidate or official agent. Show it to the returning officer, assistant returning officer, additional assistant returning officer or service point supervisor. The original form or a photocopy of the form will be accepted; a digital copy cannot be accepted. The service point supervisor will verify that the top section of the form has been duly completed, and you will be required to make a solemn declaration. If required, you will be provided with a Candidate's Representative Identification Badge (EC 20901) inside a Clear Plastic Badge Holder (EC 20909). You must not add or write anything on the badge.
Rules governing the conduct of local offices and polling stations differ. If you are observing proceedings at a polling place, please refer to the Guidelines for Candidates' Representatives (EC 20045).
You may visit any polling place or service centre in the same electoral district at any time during voting for this federal election without being required to make another solemn declaration, as long as you present a valid Candidate's Representative Identification Badge (EC 20901).
Responsibilities at the Service Centre
As a candidate's representative, you must:
- aid in maintaining the secrecy of the vote;
- respect the right of electors to an accessible voting process;
- be prepared to show your signed Authorization of a Candidate's Representative (EC 20020) form to the returning officer, assistant returning officer, additional assistant returning officer or service point supervisor, when requested;
- display the Candidate's Representative Identification Badge (EC 20901) when acting in the capacity of a candidate's representative; and
- respect the decisions of the returning officer, assistant returning officer, additional assistant returning officer or service point supervisor.
As a candidate's representative, you may:
- observe the registration and voting activities in any service centre or polling place in the same electoral district as the candidate you represent at any time during registration and voting for this federal election without being required to make another solemn declaration, as long as you present a copy of your signed authorization form;
- observe the sealing and unsealing of ballot boxes, or the transfer of outer envelopes to a secure storage medium, as need be;
- request to examine, but not handle, an elector's identification when the service agent is verifying proof of identity and residence—electors may vote even if they refuse to allow you to examine their identification, and election officers will keep a record of such situations;
- during office hours, examine certain official election material—such as the Record of Outer Envelopes Issued to Local SVR Electors (RO) (EC 78720)—provided it does not interfere with the registration or voting process;
- request, through the service agent, that an elector make a solemn declaration if you have reasonable doubt about the elector's qualification (age and citizenship) or residence in the electoral district when voting in person;
- be present in the office of the returning officer during the verification and counting of local special ballot votes—the deputy returning officer in charge will review your authorization form and administer your solemn declaration (if not already performed); and
- examine and object to any outer envelope or ballot being verified or counted—the deputy returning officer will keep a record of all objections.
As a candidate's representative, you may not:
- interfere with the registration or voting process, at the risk of being removed from the office;
- talk directly to an elector or act as an interpreter for an elector—you may direct your comments, questions or objections only to the returning officer, assistant returning officer, additional assistant returning officer or service point supervisor;
- attempt to obtain information about how any elector is going to vote or has voted, or attempt to influence an elector's choice of candidate;
- directly or indirectly induce an elector to show their marked ballot to any person;
- handle an elector's identification;
- take any photographs or make any audio or video recordings in the office of the returning officer or the service centre;
- sit at a service agent's desk;
- display partisan symbols or material inside or near the office, which may include the parking lot, grounds and sidewalk;
- display campaign literature or other material that could be taken as an indication of support for or opposition to the election of a candidate or political party; and
- use or wear colours or emblems in the office that would identify your candidate or party.
|Service Centre (During Registration and Voting Period)||2 per office|
|During the Counting of Special Ballot Votes||1 per team of deputy returning officer and poll clerk|
Special Voting Rules
Any elector who cannot or does not wish to vote at a polling station during an election 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 or additional assistant returning officer. If the elector is away from their electoral district, inside or outside Canada, they can also register to vote with Elections Canada in Ottawa. Voting by special ballot is governed by the Special Voting Rules, set out in Part 11 of the Canada Elections Act.
In offices of returning officers, registration and voting services are offered to two types of electors:
1. Local electors—Canadian electors in their electoral districts during the election
Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on election day and who, during an election, cannot or do not wish to vote at the advance or election day polls, may apply to vote by special ballot in their own electoral districts.
2. National electors—Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts during the election
Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on election day and who live in Canada but who expect to be absent from their electoral districts, either in Canada or abroad, during an election may apply to vote by special ballot.
Registration and Voting Procedures
Registering to Vote by Special Ballot
Service agents make sure that everyone who is eligible to register to be on the list of electors and to vote by special ballot gets that opportunity. They are required to check electors' proof of identity and residence. When an elector applies in person, a photocopy of their ID is not required, but the information is captured in REVISE, which will generate the Record of Outer Envelopes Issued to Local SVR Electors (RO) (EC 78720). Service agents must ensure that the elector's application is complete before they issue a special ballot voting kit to the elector. A multi-envelope system is used to protect the secrecy of the vote while also ensuring that adequate administrative measures are in place. The elector must complete and sign the declaration on the outer envelope that forms part of the voting kit. The declaration states that the elector is a Canadian citizen and will be at least 18 on election day, and that they have not already voted and will not attempt to vote again in the current electoral event.
When an elector applies by any other means, they must pick up their voting kit themselves or it is sent by mail to them. A third party cannot pick up a special ballot voting kit on the elector's behalf.
Electors who reside in a different electoral district or who will be completing their ballot while outside of the local Elections Canada office must always vote using a "blank special ballot." Electors who reside in the electoral district and who are voting immediately at the RO or AARO offices vote using a regular ballot once they are printed.
Once an elector's application to vote by special ballot is accepted and a special ballot voting kit is issued, they can only vote by special ballot in the current election. They cannot vote at the advance or election day polls.
Service agents record anything unusual that happens during registration in their office.
An elector who wishes to register to vote by special ballot does not need to be on the list of electors to do so. By registering to vote by special ballot, the elector will automatically have their name added to the list of electors.
A local elector who does not vote immediately, but rather leaves with their special ballot voting kit, is responsible for ensuring that the completed ballot reaches the office of the returning officer in their electoral district before the polls close in that electoral district or reaches Elections Canada headquarters no later than 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on election day. Otherwise, it cannot be counted. The ballot must be returned in the envelopes provided, either in person or by mail.
A national elector is responsible for ensuring that Elections Canada headquarters receives the ballot no later than 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on election day. Otherwise, it cannot be counted. The ballot must be sent in the envelopes provided.
A ballot received by fax or other electronic means cannot be counted.
Crossing Electors Off the List When They Register to Vote by Special Ballot
After service agents register electors in the system, they will automatically be crossed off the list of electors as having received a special ballot.
On the lists of electors, an "S" appears in the left margin next to electors' names to indicate that their Application for Registration and Special Ballot was accepted.
Placing Ballots in the Ballot Boxes
When an elector votes immediately in the office or returns their ballot there, the service agent ensures that the elector has completed and signed the outer envelope before depositing it in the ballot box.
Ballots for national electors are returned to Elections Canada in Ottawa (before the deadline) for processing. Ballots for local electors are kept in the RO Office for the count.
Ballot Counting Procedures
Ballots from local electors are counted in the office of the returning officer by teams of deputy returning officers and poll clerks. They may only be counted once the polls have closed in the electoral district.
The special ballots of other electors (electors temporarily away from their electoral districts, incarcerated electors, Canadian Forces electors and electors residing outside Canada) are counted at Elections Canada headquarters by special ballot officers, under the supervision of the Special Voting Rules Administrator.
With the updates to the verification and count of local special ballot process, the timeframe during which the verification and count of local special ballots takes place will differ for an election called during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to note that candidates still have the right to witness all components of the verification and count, regardless of when they take place, including:
- The verification of outer envelopes against the local record
- The processing of Voting Status Certificates from polling locations
- The separation of inner envelopes and outer envelopes
- The count of local special ballots
The returning officer will be able to confirm when each part of the verification and counting process will take place so the candidate can attend or send their representative as a witness.
Counting Local Ballots at the Office of the Returning Officer
- The deputy returning officer and poll clerk open the ballot box and verify each outer envelope to ensure that it is from a registered elector and that no previous ballot has been issued to that elector.
- They then open the outer envelopes, remove the sealed inner envelopes containing the ballots and deposit them in a sealed ballot box.
- Finally, they open the ballot box, remove ballots from their inner envelopes and count the votes. These procedures ensure the secrecy of the vote.
As a candidate's representative present during the count, you must:
- become familiar with the rules governing the counting of the votes;
- present your signed Authorization of a Candidate's Representative (EC 20020) form to the deputy returning officer, or make a solemn declaration and sign the form with the deputy returning officer if you have not already done so;
- maintain and aid in maintaining the secrecy of the vote;
- display your Candidate's Representative Identification Badge (EC 20901) whenever you are acting in the role of a candidate's representative; and
- respect the decisions of the deputy returning officer.
As a candidate's representative present during the count, you may:
- examine any ballot;
- object to any ballot being counted and have the objection recorded by the deputy returning officer;
- write your name on any seal (after the count);
- write your name on the Statement of the Vote (after the count); and
- request to receive a copy of the Statement of the Vote.
As a candidate's representative present during the count, you may not:
- return or be replaced if you leave before the counting of the votes is completed;
- interfere with the counting of the ballot papers;
- handle any ballots during the count;
- try to obtain any information as to how an elector has voted;
- communicate any information as to how an elector has voted; or
- take any photographs, or make any audio or video recordings.
Communication of Results
Once the special ballots for every electoral district are counted at Elections Canada headquarters, voting results are communicated to each returning officer. Those results, known as "SVR Group 1," include:
- Canadian Forces electors
- Canadian citizens residing outside of Canada
- Incarcerated electors whose address for voting purposes was in the electoral district
- Votes of electors temporarily outside of their electoral district
Each returning officer enters these results and then enters the ones for "SVR Group 2," which comprises those of local electors who returned their ballot to their local Elections Canada office.
New COVID-19 Measures in RO/AARO Offices
It is your responsibility to become familiar with the health and safety protocols at an Elections Canada office. Everyone must follow health and safety protocols, signage messages and instructions at all locations.
In the RO or AARO office, the additional assistant returning officer or service point supervisor is responsible for the application of and adherence to health and safety measures. Therefore, you should follow the measures outlined below, which include but are not limited to:
- Wearing a mask in the office at all times, including during the count of local special ballots (Elections Canada will supply a mask or you may bring your own. Your mask must be neutral in colour and not indicate support or opposition to any candidate or political party on the ballot.)
- Staying at least two metres from others, including election workers and office staff, at all times
- Washing your hands often or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable
- Staying home if you are sick or if you have been in contact with someone who has or is suspected of having COVID-19
- Avoiding touching surfaces where possible
- Providing your name and phone number for contact tracing purposes, where applicable (recommended but not mandatory)
- Bringing your own pen to sign ballot box seals
If you have questions about your role, please contact the returning officer for the electoral district in which you will be working. You may also contact Elections Canada:
Phone: 1-800-463-6868 or 613-993-2975
30 Victoria Street