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Use of alternative voting methodsEstimation of Voter Turnout by Age Group and Gender at the 2021 General Election

Alternative voting methods include:

  • advance polls,
  • voting at an Elections Canada office,
  • voting by mail, or
  • other special ballot methods.

More and more Canadians are choosing alternatives to voting on election day. The popularity of these alternative voting methods has soared in the last two elections, reaching its highest peak in the 2021 election.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a visible effect on the number of voters choosing to vote by mail from inside their electoral district. Prior to 2021, it was extremely rare for electors to choose this method of voting. However, in 2021, Elections Canada heavily promoted vote by mail as a COVID-19-safe way of voting. As a result, over 500,000 people chose to cast their ballots this way.

The COVID-19 pandemic was not, however, the only contributing factor. The increase in popularity of alternative voting methods has been on a steady upward trend since the 42nd general election in 2015, with advance polls being the favourite alternative voting method.

Table 5 shows the number and percentage of ballots cast by each voting method for the 2019 and 2021 general elections.

Table 5: Ballots cast by voting method11
Voting method 2019 general election ballots cast % of Ballots cast 2021 general election ballots cast % of Ballots cast
Electors voting by mail from inside their electoral district 4,980 0.03% 507,722 2.95%
Electors voting at a local office from inside their electoral district 392,141 2.14% 375,093 2.18%
Electors absent from their electoral district voting by mail, at a local office, Canadian Forces base, or correctional facility 228,755 1.25% 158,693 0.92%
Electors living outside of Canada voting by mail 34,144 0.19% 27,035 0.16%
Electors voting at their assigned advance polling station 4,879,312 26.59% 5,895,072 34.25%
Total alternative voting methods 5,539,332 30.19% 6,963,615 40.46%
Electors voting at their assigned election day polling station 12,811,027 69.81% 10,246,196 59.54%
Total 18,350,359 100% 17,209,811 100%

Figure 12: Use of Advance Polls or Special Ballot by Age Group, 38th to 44th General Elections

Figure 12: Use of Advance Polls or Special Ballot by Age Group, 38th to 44th General Elections

Text version of "Figure 12: Use of Advance Polls or Special Ballot by Age Group, 38th to 44th General Elections"
General Election Age group
18–24 25–34 35–44 45–54 55–64 65–74 75+
38th GE, 2004 3.0% 3.2% 4.3% 6.3% 9.5% 12.0% 10.2%
39th GE, 2006 4.5% 4.1% 5.3% 8.0% 12.8% 16.4% 13.7%
40th GE, 2008 2.8% 3.3% 4.2% 6.4% 10.8% 14.6% 12.2%
41st GE, 2011 5.0% 4.7% 5.7% 8.7% 13.4% 17.2% 14.4%
42nd GE, 2015 12.4% 10.4% 11.4% 14.7% 20.2% 26.0% 20.3%
43rd GE, 2019 28.9% 23.9% 24.3% 27.5% 32.6% 38.4% 35.4%

Figure 12 shows the trends in the use of these methods, broken down by age group, in the last six general elections.

The proportion of electors using these alternative methods soared to a new all-time high in 2021. In this election, 40.5% of voters used such methods, compared with 30.2% in 2019. As was seen in previous elections, this proportion also increases with age.

For the youngest voters (18-24), the use of alternative voting methods has stabilised after a sustained growth in the past elections.

For the oldest voters, aged 65-74 and 75+, their preference for alternative voting methods continued to grow. Voters aged 6574 had the highest proportion (53.5%), followed by those aged 75 and over (52.9%). This is the first general election where poll day voting was not the preferred method of voting for all age groups.

Footnote

11 Source: Elections Canada; Report on the 44th General Election of September 20, 2021; https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rep/off/sta_ge44&document=p2&lang=e