open Secondary menu

Division 6 – Counting of Votes at the Office of the Chief Electoral OfficerSpecial Ballot Report – 44th General Election

Counting Procedures at the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Verification process

Prior to being sorted by electoral district and then counted, the outer envelope of each special ballot kit returned to the OCEO is examined by a pair of special ballot officers (SBOs); the information on the envelope is compared to the information in the elector's application. If the SBOs determine that the outer envelope meets any of the exclusion criteria set out in CEA sections 267(1) or (2), the envelope is set aside unopened and the reason why is recorded on a large yellow sticker. These labels are subsequently signed by the two SBOs and the Special Voting Rules Administrator. All the sealed outer envelopes are then sorted by electoral district.


Given the number of special ballots counted at the OCEO (nearly 186,000 in the 44th general election and 262,000 in the 43rd), this count must begin before election day. SBOs—who are appointed by the CEO on the recommendation of political parties in a ratio set out in the CEA—count the ballots.

When political parties do not recommend enough SBOs, the CEO appoints more of them. Counting begins on a date the CEO sets, if no earlier date is set, five days before election day. During the 44th general election, counting started on the 11th day before election day (Friday, September 10, 2021) and finished the day after election day. Once the count was finished, the results for each of the 338 electoral districts were sent to each returning officer to be added to the overall voting results in their respective district.

In this election, access to the OCEO at the 440 Coventry location was granted to representatives of political parties for the first time. They were thus able to observe the counting process on days when counting was taking place. Political parties were notified of the count days via the Political Entities Service Centre.

Setting Aside of Outer Envelopes

SBOs will set aside any outer envelope if:

  • The information concerning the elector as described on the outer envelope does not correspond to the information that appears in the Application for Registration and Special Ballot.
  • The outer envelope declaration was not signed by the elector.
  • The correct electoral district of the elector cannot be ascertained.
  • The outer envelope was received after 6:00 p.m., Ottawa time, on election day.
  • The elector has voted more than once.
Table 1. Number of Outer Envelopes for Electors Under Division 6
Elector Category Outer Envelopes Issued Outer Envelopes Received Valid Outer Envelopes Outer Envelopes Set Aside During the Count Late Outer Envelopes Outer Envelopes Not Returned
Canadian Forces electors 17,062 16,868 16,742 25 101 194
Incarcerated electors 14,386 14,193 14,134 59 0 193
International electors 55,696 38,955 27,035 221 11,699 16,741
National electors 171,998 144,891 125,061 700 19,130 27,107
Local electors 0** 2,798* 2,756* 42* 0 0
Total 259,142 217,705 185,728 1,047 30,930 44,235

*Refers to local outer envelopes that were sent by mistake to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer and counted exceptionally at Elections Canada headquarters.

**Local ballot kits are issued by the Office of the Returning Officer and are reported on elsewhere in this report.

Table 2 illustrates the number of outer envelopes set aside unopened under each subsection of CEA section 267.

Table 2. Number of Outer Envelopes Set Aside at the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer Under Division 6
Elector Category Canada Elections Act
Section 267(1)(a) 267(1)(b) 267(1)(c) 267(1)(d) 267(2)  
Section Description Elector information does not match the application Missing signature on outer envelope Correct electoral district cannot be ascertained Late arrival of outer envelope Elector has voted more than once Total by Elector Category
Local electors 7 34 0 0 1 42
International electors 0 220 0 11,699 1 11,920
National electors 11 686 2 19,130 1 19,830
Canadian Forces electors 0 20 5 101 0 126
Incarcerated electors 2 52 5 0 0 59
Total 20 1,012 121 30,930 32 31,977


1 The address provided on the application is either incomplete, cannot be linked to a specific electoral district or is a non-residential address (i.e. a business address).

2 Potential violations of the Canada Elections Act are referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections.