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Voting by Special Ballot in By-elections

(See also Voting by Special Ballot, EC 90540, for general elections or referendums.)

Special Voting Rules

Any elector who cannot or does not wish to vote at a polling station during a federal by-election may vote using a special ballot. With a special ballot, an elector can vote by mail or in person at the office of his or her 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, as adapted for by-elections, apply to the following categories of electors:

  1. Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts during the by-election, 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 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 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 may do so only if they have not already voted under the Special Voting Rules. For further details, consult the backgrounder Voting in By-elections by Canadian Forces Electors (EC 90755).

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 election 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 a by-election, and only 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 election day and who live in an electoral district where a by-election is being held, but who expect to be absent from their electoral districts, either in Canada or abroad, may vote by special ballot.

Registration

An elector must register as soon as possible after a by-election has been called in his or her electoral district 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 where a by-election is being held or from Elections Canada in Ottawa. It can also be downloaded from the Elections Canada website. In addition, the form is available at Canadian embassies, high commissions or consular offices.

To exercise the right to vote during the by-election, the elector's completed application must be received by Elections Canada in Ottawa no later than 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on the 6th day before election day. The application may be sent by fax.

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.

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, high commissions or consular offices after the candidates have been confirmed, on the 19th day before election day.

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 by-election. The elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district. 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., Eastern Time, on election 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 election day and who, during a by-election, cannot or do not wish to vote at the ordinary or advance polls, may vote by special ballot in their own electoral districts.

In order for an elector to be eligible to vote at a by-election, the ordinary residence of the elector must have been in the electoral district on the first day of the revision period and must remain there until election day.

Registration

An elector must register as soon as possible after a by-election has been called in his or her electoral district, 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 the Elections Canada website.

To exercise the right to vote during the by-election, the elector must make sure the completed application reaches the office of his or her returning officer no later than 6:00 p.m., local time, on the 6th day before election 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 by 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 election day.

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 by-election. The elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in the electoral district. 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 election 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 must use a regular ballot if these ballots have already been printed at the time he or she is voting.

3. Canadian citizens residing outside Canada

Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on election day and are residing outside Canada may vote by special ballot in a by-election held in the electoral district in which their ordinary residence for electoral purposes is located. They must have resided in Canada at some point before applying for registration.

Registration

Elections Canada maintains a register of electors who are 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 website. In addition, the form is available at Canadian embassies, high commissions and consular offices.

To exercise the right to vote during a by-election, the elector's completed application must be received by Elections Canada in Ottawa no later than 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on the 6th day before election day. The application may be sent by fax. It must be accompanied by a photocopy of proof of identity (pages 2 and 3 of a Canadian passport, a 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 if his or her address is located in an electoral district where a by-election is being held.

Manner of voting

Once a by-election is called, Elections Canada sends a personalized special ballot voting kit to every elector in the register of electors residing outside Canada, and whose address, for electoral purposes, is located in the electoral district where the by-election is being held.

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, high commissions or consular offices after the candidates have been confirmed, on the 19th day before election day.

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 by-election. The elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district. 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., Eastern Time, on election 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 election 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 by-election that takes place 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 outside Canada.

Registration

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

Manner of voting

After a by-election is called, Elections Canada sends a personalized special ballot voting kit to every Canadian Forces elector whose Statement of Ordinary Residence lists an address in an electoral district where a by-election is taking place. In some cases, for example, if the elector is on peacekeeping duty, the voting kit may be sent to the commanding officer of the elector's unit to forward. The unit commanding officers also forward the voting kits to electors who are away from their units on duty, leave or furlough during a by-election.

The elector must obtain the names of the candidates running in his or her electoral district. Their names may be found at www.elections.ca, or by calling the Elections Canada Enquiries Unit, or through Canadian embassies, high commissions or consular offices, once the candidates have been confirmed, on the 19th day before election day. The list of candidates is also sent to each commanding officer, who must post copies of the list in a conspicuous place. Elections Canada also sends the list of candidates to each registered Canadian Forces elector entitled to vote at the by-election. A list of candidates in the elector's district may also be included in the voting kit, if the kit is sent after the candidates have been confirmed.

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 by-election. The elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district. 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., Eastern Time, on election day in order to be counted. Electors may mail the ballots themselves or have them forwarded by the commanding officers of their units. 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 by-election and continues to reside in that electoral district until election day.

5. Incarcerated electors

Canadians who will be 18 years of age or older on election day and who are currently incarcerated in a correctional institution or a federal penitentiary in Canada may vote by special ballot in a by-election. 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.

In order for the elector to be eligible to vote, his or her address of ordinary residence must be located in an electoral district in which a by-election is being held.

Definition of place 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 a by-election has been called.

The elector sends the completed and signed application to Elections Canada in Ottawa. It must be received no later than 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on the 6th day before election day. The application may be sent by fax.

Manner of voting

After the 19th day before election day, once the candidates are confirmed, Elections Canada sends a personalized special ballot voting kit to each elector whose application has been approved.

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 by-election. The elector then completes the ballot by writing on it the name of one of the candidates in his or her electoral district. 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., Eastern Time, on election day in order to be counted. The ballot must be sent in the envelopes provided. A ballot received by fax cannot be counted.

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 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., Eastern Time, on election 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 election day, by a deputy returning officer and a poll clerk appointed by the returning officer.

Communicating the results

As soon as all of the special ballots 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 involved in a by-election. The Chief Electoral Officer totals the results, by electoral district, of the vote by special ballot of Canadian Forces electors, Canadian citizens residing outside Canada and incarcerated electors. These three categories are designated as Group 1. After the polls close on election 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 election night. All the results of the special ballot votes are then added to the total results for each electoral district involved in a by-election.

May 2014