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Voting Safeguards

Regardless of how Canadians choose to vote, there are safeguards in place to make sure that only eligible individuals vote, that they vote only once and that they cast a vote for a candidate only in the riding (electoral district) where they are registered.

Checking voter ID

  • Voters must prove who they are and where they live. They can prove their identity and address in many ways:
    • By showing a driver' s license or any other card issued by a Canadian government (federal, provincial/territorial or local) with their photo, name and current address.
    • By showing two separate documents—for example, a health care card with their name and a hydro bill with their name and address.
    • By having someone vouch for their identity and address and making a written declaration. The voucher must know the voter personally and appear on the list of electors at the same polling station as the voter. The voucher must not have vouched for another voter or have had their own identity and residence vouched for.
  • If a voter cannot prove their identity and address, they cannot vote.

Enabling electors to vote by special ballot

The special ballot process has several integrity features:

  • Electors must provide proof of identity and address when applying to vote by special ballot.
  • Electors living abroad must provide a copy of one of the following pieces of ID with their application:
    • pages 2 and 3 of their Canadian passport
    • the front and back sides of their Canadian citizenship or card
    • a birth certificate showing that they were born in Canada
  • Elections Canada reviews the application and checks the ID. If we approve the application and the elector has chosen to receive their special ballot by mail, we send them a special ballot voting kit, which includes:
    • a special ballot
    • a plain inner envelope
    • an outer envelope for returning the completed ballot
  • On their special ballot, the elector writes the name of their chosen candidate and puts the ballot in the plain inner envelope. They then put the inner envelope in the larger outer envelope.
  • On the outer envelope, the elector signs a declaration confirming that they are eligible to vote, have not yet voted and will not try to vote again during the election. They then mail the package back to Elections Canada.
  • When Elections Canada receives the package, we check that the unique identifier on the outer envelope corresponds to the approved application. We then check that:
    • the elector's name and electoral district code on the outer envelope match those on the application form
    • the elector has signed the declaration on the outer envelope
    • the elector has returned only one ballot
  • We update our records to show that the elector's ballot was returned.
  • To protect the secrecy of the vote, we remove the inner envelope containing the ballot and separate it from the outer envelope. This makes it impossible to associate an elector's identity with their vote.
  • To make sure that electors vote only once, we use various controls. Once we have approved an elector's application to vote by special ballot, we mark the voters list to show that the elector has already asked for a ballot. This prevents them from being able to vote another way—for example, at advance polls or on election day.

Making sure voting goes smoothly

  • At the polling station, trained and paid election workers serve voters.
  • Election workers follow specific procedures to ensure compliance with the Canada Elections Act and keep records of everything they do.
  • Each polling station (table with a voters list and ballot box) is staffed by an election worker. Only authorized people are allowed inside the polling place.
  • Candidates or their representatives may observe voting without interfering. In fact, no one is allowed to interfere with voting.
  • At some polling stations, security personnel are on site to help maintain order.

Marking and counting paper ballots

  • There are measures in place to carefully control the custody of ballots.
  • We use paper ballots, marked and counted by hand, as outlined in the Canada Elections Act.
  • Ballots come in booklets with unique, sequential serial numbers to ensure that only ballots handled by election officers are deposited in the ballot box. On receiving a marked ballot, an election officer—without unfolding the ballot—examines its serial number to verify that the ballot is indeed the same one that was handed to the elector by the election officer. The serial number is then removed, and the elector places it in the ballot box.
  • There are measures in place to carefully control the custody of ballots.
  • Ballots have several other security features, including:
    • a specific opacity
    • a tear-off strip (counterfoil), which includes a unique serial number

Keeping votes secret

  • Voting is completely secret.
  • When you vote at your assigned polling station:
    • The election worker writes their initials and the number of your assigned polling station on the back of the ballot, removes the ballot from its booklet, folds it while making sure the counterfoil is visible, and hands it to you. You go behind a privacy screen to mark your ballot.
    • On your ballot, you make a mark in the circle beside the name of your chosen candidate.
    • You refold your ballot in the same way you received it so that no one can see how you marked it.
    • You bring your folded ballot back to the election worker who gave it to you.
    • The election worker checks their initials and the number of the assigned polling station on the back of the ballot; compares the counterfoil number against the stub number in the booklet to make sure they are the same; takes off the counterfoil and tears it up; and gives the ballot back to you to put in the ballot box. You slide your ballot into the ballot box where it is mixed in with other ballots. No one will know how you voted.
  • It is illegal to break the secrecy of the vote, including by taking pictures of a marked ballot. This prevents people from being intimidated or influenced to vote a certain way.
  • The Canada Elections Act also prohibits undue influence by foreign entities on whether and how Canadian electors vote.