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Voting in a Federal By-election

In a federal election, we choose members of Parliament (MPs) to represent us in Ottawa. A by-election occurs when a seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant between general elections because the sitting MP passed away, resigns or becomes ineligible to sit for some other reason. A by-election is held on a date determined by the Governor in Council (the governor general acting on the advice of the prime minister and Cabinet). More than one by-election may be held at the same time.

To vote in a federal by-election, you must:

  • be a Canadian citizen
  • be at least 18 years old on election day
  • prove your identity and address
  • live in the electoral district where the by-election is taking place (from the start of revision—which normally begins on the fourth day after the by-election is called—until election day)


When you vote, you must prove your identity and address (for a list of accepted documents, click here).
You have three options:

  • Show one piece of identification issued by a Canadian government, whether federal, provincial or local, that contains your photo, name and address (for example, a driver's licence); or
  • Show two pieces of identification from a list authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Both must have your name and one must also have your address (such as a health card and utility bill); or
  • Declare your identity and address in writing and have someone who knows you and who is assigned to your polling place vouch for you. The voucher must be able to prove their identity and address. A person can vouch for only one person (except in long-term care institutions).

Note: Pieces of identification must be in either English or French. In Nunavut, pieces of identification will also be accepted in Inuktitut. Expired documents are accepted.

Make sure you are on the list of electors

Elections Canada produces the lists of electors from information in the National Register of Electors. After the by-election is called, Elections Canada will mail a voter information card to everyone on the list of electors. Please carefully read the card you receive and make sure that your name and address are correct.

  • If your name and address are correct, keep the card. It shows that you are registered to vote, and tells you when and where to vote.
  • If your name and address on the card aren’t correct, you will need to call Elections Canada. You will find the phone number of your local Elections Canada office on the back of the card.

If you don’t receive a voter information card, it may mean that you aren’t registered on the list of electors. You can register at your assigned polling station during advance polls or on election day, but to save time, register ahead of election day. For more information on how to register to vote, call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.

There are three ways you can vote

1. On election day

  • If you have a voter information card, take it with you when you go to vote at the polling station at the address shown on the card.
  • If you don't have a voter information card, and you didn't register earlier, you can still register to vote at the polling station on election day by proving your identity and address, as described above. You can find your poll location through Elections Canada's Voter Information Service or call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.

2. At an advance poll

  • If you don't want to vote on election day, you can vote earlier at an advance poll. The voter information card tells you the dates and address. Take it with you to the polling station. If you need to, you can also register at the advance poll.

3. Vote by special ballot

  • Any eligible elector can apply to vote by special ballot. You can apply at your local Elections Canada office, by mail, fax or through the Elections Canada website. Apply early—the last day to request a special ballot is 6:00 p.m. on the sixth day before election day.
  • Once you apply for a special ballot, you can only vote that way, and can't vote at the advance polls or on election day. If you request a voting kit and don't receive it, contact Elections Canada.

It's our Vote!

August 2019