Federal Election Monday, September 20

FAQs – Counting and results

When will ballots be counted and how long will it take?

We expect that the counting of all ballots— except for local special ballots (including local mail-in ballots)—will be finished on election night. As always, we will start posting preliminary results on our website after the polls close in each riding. You can check here to see in which ridings the counting of ballots is finished. You can also check to see what percentage of special ballots in each riding have been counted. 

International and national mail-in ballots and special ballots from Canadian Forces and incarcerated electors will be counted at Elections Canada's facility in Ottawa. We expect to post the preliminary results of these counts, on our website on election night. However, if the counting of all the ballots received in Ottawa by the election day deadline cannot be completed on election night, the counting will continue after election day.

Returning officers can start counting local special ballots, including mail-in ballots, as soon as they have completed the necessary verification process. This process involves checking to make sure that electors who voted by special ballot did not also vote in person. This is an important and essential step that must take place before workers can start opening envelopes to count the ballots inside. The verification checks can begin only after polls close. Returning officers will start the verification checks on the morning of Tuesday, September 21, and it may take up to 24 hours to finish them, at which point the counting of local special ballots can begin. Therefore, some ridings may not start reporting results for local special ballots until Wednesday, September 22. All candidates in a riding may have representatives present at each counting location to observe the counting process.

Given the number of local special ballots we have received, we expect most of the country's 338 ridings to report the results of their local special ballot count on Tuesday, September 21, and the vast majority to finish counting by Wednesday, September 22. However, due to high volumes or logistical challenges, the full count may take up to four days in some ridings.

Regardless of whether ballots are counted at Elections Canada's facility in Ottawa, at individual polling stations on election night or at our local offices, they are counted by hand by two election workers in front of party representatives.

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Will political parties and candidates be allowed to witness the count?

By law, candidates can send representatives to witness the count at polling locations, the returning office or any other location in a riding where ballot counting is taking place. In addition, political parties will be invited to send representatives to observe the count of special ballots received at our Ottawa facility. This count can start as early as Day 14 before polling day if the volumes of special ballots we receive justify it. Parties may also submit names of people to work as Special Ballot Officers to count ballots at our Ottawa location. Candidates and their representatives will be required to wear masks. In many cases, they will witness the count through plexiglass barriers set up at the polls. In some cases, they may be asked to sit or stand two meters from the counting desks, which will not impede their ability to observe the count.

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Does Elections Canada use automated vote counting or vote tabulating machines?

Elections Canada does not use automatic ballot-counting machines to count ballots or tabulate results. We have trained and paid election workers who count ballots by hand in the presence of candidates, representatives, or other designated observers who are allowed to watch the counting of the votes.

While we do not use automatic ballot-counting machines, they are successfully and securely used in some other jurisdictions. Provincial, territorial and municipal governments determine their own election laws and procedures, as do political parties when it comes to their leadership contests.

Read more about our safeguards for counting votes

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Will Elections Canada let me know that my ballot has been received or counted?

All ballots received by the deadline will be counted.

Electors who have used the Online Voter Registration Service to request their mail-in ballot can check the status of their request (including whether their completed ballot kit has been received), using the Registration Request Reference Number displayed on the screen after they submitted their request. They can simply click on the "Check the status of your request" link on the Welcome page and enter the Registration Request Reference Number and their last name. FAQs – Vote by mail

In addition, when returning their completed ballot by mail, electors are free to use a mailing option with a tracking service (at their own expense).

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Will you accept mail-in ballots mailed by the deadline but received late?

Mail-in ballots received after the deadline (by the time polls close for ballots cast locally; by 6:00 p.m. ET for ballots mailed to our Ottawa facility) will not be counted. By law, Elections Canada does not set a "postmarked by" deadline. Therefore, it is important that you request your ballot and mail it back early, or drop it off at the returning office or at your assigned polling place by the deadline.

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Does Elections Canada allow voters to correct or "cure" their mail-in ballot if they forgot to include information or if some information is not clear?

There is no mechanism or process under the Canada Elections Act for electors to verify or correct their mail-in ballot after we have received it.

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Why can't returning officers start verifying and counting mail-in ballots as soon as they are received?

The Canada Elections Act states when each type of ballot can start to be counted. Local special ballots, including mail-in ballots, can only be counted after polls close. Some checks can be completed as the ballot envelopes are received, but others require information from polls on election night or the day after. While returning officers were able to conduct these checks on election night in previous elections, the volume of local electors who will be casting special ballots, including mail-in ballots, during the election will make it impossible to complete these checks on election night.

The verifications seek to answer the following questions:

  • Does the information on the outer envelope match the information in the application?
  • Did the elector sign the mandatory declaration?
  • Did the elector vote more than once?
  • Did Elections Canada receive the outer envelope on time?

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Can any ballots be counted early to save time?

We can start counting international and national mail-in ballots as well as ballots from Canadian Forces and incarcerated electors, which are all sent to and counted at our Ottawa facility, up to 14 days before election day if volumes justify it. Returning officers can also start counting ballots cast at local advance polls one hour before polls close in their riding on election night, if the volume of these ballots justifies the early count.

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Why was there a big increase in the number of votes reported all at once?

After the polls close on election night, votes cast on election day are counted at each individual polling station and are the first to be reported by each riding. Votes cast on advance polling days are also counted on election night at returning offices. However, because a larger number of voters are assigned to advance polling stations than to election day polling stations, the counting of votes from advance polls tends to take longer and the results are often reported later than those for election day polls. When an advance poll reports its results, a large number of votes is entered into our results reporting system all at once. This is the case for advance poll results in all 338 ridings. Votes cast at advance polling stations, like all others, are counted by hand by two election workers in front of party representatives.

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