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Voting Safeguards

The federal electoral process has many safeguards, including measures to inform voters, check their ID, and keep votes secret and secure.

Making sure voters know when, where and ways to register and vote

  • Elections Canada runs a major information campaign to tell voters where, when and ways to register and vote. We share this information in many ways, including online, through ads, and by mail.
  • Elections Canada puts all our ads and other public communications material on our website, i.e. in an archive of official Elections Canada communications products, so people can check that something they see really is from Elections Canada.
  • Elections Canada does not phone or text voters to tell them where or when to vote.
  • Voters with questions or concerns can call, write, email or visit an Elections Canada office for information and help.
  • Elections Canada monitors the media and social media for inaccurate information on the voting process. If we see inaccurate information that could prevent eligible electors from registering or voting, we provide the correct information and ask that it be corrected.

Checking voter ID

  • Voters must prove who they are and where they live. They can prove their identity and address in a variety of ways:
    • with a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID showing their name and address;
    • with two separate documents, for example, a healthcare card with their name and hydro bill with their name and address;
    • by having someone vouch for their identity and/or address and making a solemn declaration. The voucher must know the voter personally and appear on the list of electors in 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 voters cannot prove their identity and address, they cannot vote.

Enabling electors to vote by mail

The vote-by-mail process has several integrity features.

  • Electors must apply to vote by mail with proof of identity and address.
  • Elections Canada reviews the application and checks the ID. If we approve the application, we mail the elector a special ballot voting kit, which includes:
    • a special ballot
    • a plain inner envelope
    • an outer envelope to return the marked 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 saying that they are a qualified elector, have not yet voted, and will not try to vote again during the election. They 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; and
    • the elector has returned only one ballot.
  • We update our records to show that this elector’s ballot was returned.
  • To keep the secrecy of the vote, we remove the inner envelope containing the ballot from the outer envelope. By separating the envelopes, it is impossible to associate an elector’s identity with their vote.
  • To make sure electors vote only once, we use various controls. Once we have approved an elector’s application to vote by mail, we mark the voters list to show that the elector has already asked for a ballot so they will not be able to vote in another way, for example, at advance polls or on election day.

Making sure voting goes smoothly

  • At the polling station, trained, paid election workers serve voters.
  • Election workers follow specific procedures that enable 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 representative may observe voting without interfering. In fact, no one is allowed to interfere with voting.
  • At some polling stations, there are security personnel on site to help maintain order.

Marking and counting paper ballots by hand

  • We use paper ballots, marked and counted by hand.
  • A paper ballot is user-friendly and cannot be hacked.
  • Ballot papers come in booklets with unique, sequential serial numbers.
  • There are measures in place to carefully control the custody of ballots.
  • Ballots have several security features, including:
    • a specific colour paper
    • a tear-off strip (counterfoil), which includes a unique serial number

Keeping votes secret

  • Voting is secret. When you vote at an assigned polling station:
    • The election worker writes their initials and your assigned polling station number 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 no one sees 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 assigned polling station number on the back of the ballot; compares the counterfoil number against the stub number in the booklet and makes 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 taking pictures of a marked ballot.