Federal Election Monday, September 20

FAQs – Vote by mail

Special Ballot Drop Off

I'm a Canadian living in Canada. Can I vote by mail?

The deadline to apply to vote by mail has passed. If you applied before the deadline, there are options for returning your completed special ballot by election day, Monday, September 20.

  • For electors voting by special ballot from outside their riding: Make sure your ballot gets to Elections Canada in Ottawa by election day, 6:00 p.m., Eastern time.
  • For electors voting by special ballot from inside their riding: We must receive your ballot before the polls close on election day. You can bring your completed special ballot voting kit to your local Elections Canada office, or you can drop it off on election day at your assigned polling station or at any polling station in your riding.

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I'm a Canadian living abroad. Can I vote by mail?

The deadline to vote by mail for the general election currently under way has passed.

If you're a Canadian citizen and your home is outside Canada, you can apply to be added to the International Register of Electors—a list of Canadians living outside of Canada who can vote in federal elections.

When an election is called, we mail a special ballot voting kit to everyone on the International Register of Electors. The kit explains how to mark your special ballot and mail it in.

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Why do I have to apply to vote by mail?

Under the Canada Elections Act, electors who wish to vote by special ballot (including those voting by mail or at a local Elections Canada office) must first complete an Application for Registration and Special Ballot.

Through the application, electors establish their address for the purpose of voting (where they consider their home to be and where their vote will count). They must also specify the address where they want their special ballot to be sent, once their application has been approved. This can be the same as their address for voting purposes, or another address.

Like electors voting in person at advance polls or on election day, those voting by special ballot must include a proof of identity and address in their application in order to vote. In this way, the application process helps to maintain the integrity of the special ballot process.

Once an elector has applied to vote by special ballot, the voters list is marked to show that a ballot has been requested, and the elector is unable to vote another way.

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I've submitted my application. What happens now?

We will review your application as soon as possible; this process can take up to 72 hours from the time we receive your application.

To check the status of your application:

Electors who applied to vote by mail from within their home riding:

If you applied online, you can check the status of your request here, using the reference number you were given when you submitted your application.

If you applied in person, by fax or mail, please call your local Elections Canada Office.

Electors who applied to vote by mail from outside of their home riding, or from abroad:

To check the status of your application, please call: 1-800-463-6868

If your application is approved, a special ballot voting kit will be mailed to the address you provided.

Your voting kit will include:

  • a special ballot
  • an outer envelope and an inner envelope
  • a return envelope with prepaid postage
  • instructions on how to mark the special ballot and return it to Elections Canada

Please call your local Elections Canada office immediately if any of these items are missing or the information on the outer envelope is incorrect.

For voters living in Canada

Kits are mailed using Canada Post's general letter mail service. It may take several days for you to receive your kit, depending on your location.

Plan ahead to ensure there is enough time for your ballot to reach you and for it to return to Elections Canada by election day. Check your kit for information on the return address for your ballot and for specifics on the election-day deadline.

For Canadian voters living abroad

Ballots may take longer to arrive depending on the postal system in the country where you are located.

Plan ahead to ensure there is enough time for your ballot to reach you and for you to return it to Elections Canada in Ottawa by election day, Monday, September 20, 6:00 p.m., Eastern time.

By law, we cannot accept late application forms or count late ballots.

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I applied to vote by mail. Why did I receive a voter information card?

Depending on when you applied to vote by mail, your voter information card may have been sent before your name was crossed off the list of electors. However, the information on your voter information card is still useful. It includes the address and phone number of your local Elections Canada office. You can drop off your completed special ballot voting kit there or call if you have any questions.

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How can I check the status of my application?

Electors who applied to vote by mail from within their home riding:

If you applied online, you can check the status of your request here, using the reference number you were given when you submitted your application.

If you applied in person, by fax or mail, please call your local Elections Canada Office.

Electors who applied to vote by mail from outside of their home riding, or from abroad:

To check the status of your application, please call: 1-800-463-6868

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It has been 72 hours. I checked the status of my online application, but there is no update. What can I do?

If you applied to vote by mail and your status has not been updated after 72 business hours, please call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 for additional information on your vote-by-mail application.   

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How do I vote by special ballot?

The deadline to apply to vote by special ballot has passed. If you applied before the deadline, there are options for returning your completed special ballot by the deadline indicated in your voting kit.

When you vote by special ballot, your ballot won't have a list of candidates to choose from. Instead, there is a blank space to write the name of the candidate you're voting for. If you are voting by mail, we will send you a voting kit with detailed instructions. If you are voting at a local Elections Canada office, an election worker can help you if you have questions.

Once your application is accepted, we will give you a special ballot voting kit. This kit includes:

  • a special ballot
  • a blank white envelope
  • an envelope with your name, riding and a space where you can sign
  • a pre-addressed return envelope with prepaid postage
  • voting instructions

You can only vote once in an election, and you can only vote for a candidate running in your riding.

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Where do I return my completed ballot? What is the deadline?

The deadline to apply to vote by special ballot has passed.

Electors are responsible for returning their completed ballot to the address on the pre-addressed return envelope in their special ballot voting kit.

If the return address is to the Special Voting Rules Administrator in Ottawa, we need to receive your ballot by election day, Monday, September 20, 6:00 p.m., Eastern time. If you prefer, you can use an expedited parcel service at your own cost.

If the return address is the local Elections Canada office in your riding, we need to receive your ballot by the time the polls close in your riding on election day, Monday, September 20.

Electors who will be in their riding and are concerned their completed special ballot kit—including the signed outer envelope and inner envelope with the marked ballot—cannot be returned to Elections Canada by mail in time can drop if off at their polling place—or at any polling place in their riding—on election day, Monday, September 20. They can also drop it off at their local Elections Canada office any time during the election.

Only special ballot kits with the return address of the elector's local Elections Canada office will be accepted.

To be counted, completed special ballot voting kits must be dropped off by the close of polls, either at the local Elections Canada office or at a polling place on election day.

You are responsible for returning your marked ballot by the deadline or it will not be counted.

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How do I vote using my voting kit?

When you vote by mail, you will receive a voting kit containing a special ballot.

Special ballots don't have a list of candidates to choose from. Instead, there is a blank space to write the name of the candidate you're voting for. The final list of candidates will be available after nominations close, three weeks before election day.

Follow the instructions in your kit and mail your ballot back to Elections Canada as soon as possible. Remember: Your ballot must arrive at Elections Canada by the deadline indicated on your voting kit.

See detailed information about voting by special ballot.

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How do I return my completed special ballot?

Your voting kit includes a postage-paid return envelope. Simply drop the envelope containing your completed kit into any mailbox or bring it to a Canada Post retail postal outlet to be returned to Elections Canada. There is no cost—you do not need to add a stamp.

It may take several days for your mailed ballot to be delivered. Please refer to Canada Post's delivery standard calculator to ensure there is enough time for your ballot to reach Elections Canada by the deadline indicated in your kit.

If you prefer, you can use an expedited parcel service at your own cost.

You can also deliver your completed special ballot in person to your local Elections Canada office, but, remember, your ballot must arrive at the address specified in your voting kit by election day. If the address in your kit is not the address of your local Elections Canada office, consider the time it will take for your ballot to get from your local office to its final destination.

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Can I check for mail delays that could impact my mail-in ballot?

If you are voting by mail and want information about potential delays, you can check the Canada Post Delivery Alerts page to see the latest about weather and postal events that may impact mail delivery in your neighbourhood.

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Can I track my ballot?

If you use the postage-paid envelope included in your kit, you will not have the option for end-to-end tracking of your ballot, but you can check to see if Elections Canada received your completed special ballot.   

To do so:

  • If you applied online to vote from within your electoral district, you can check the status of your ballot here, using the Registration Request Reference Number displayed on your screen after you submitted your request.  Simply click on the 'check the status of your request' link from the Welcome page and enter your Registration Request Reference Number and last name. 
  • If you applied in any other way, you can check the status of your application or returned ballot by contacting 1-800-463-6868.

If you prefer, at your own cost, you can use an expedited parcel service that provides an end-to-end tracking option.

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How do I know that Elections Canada received my completed ballot?

Elections Canada will not proactively contact you to confirm that we received your ballot, but there are ways you can check.

To do so:

  • If you applied online to vote from within your electoral district, you can check the status of your ballot here, using the Registration Request Reference Number displayed on your screen after you submitted your request.  Simply click on the 'check the status of your request' link from the Welcome page and enter your Registration Request Reference Number and Last Name. 
  • If you applied in any other way, you can check the status of your application or returned ballot by contacting 1-800-463-6868.
Remember that your ballot may be in the mail system for several days. Elections Canada can only confirm the status of your ballot once it has arrived and been processed. 

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Can I request a replacement voting kit?

The deadline to request a replacement voting kit has passed.

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I applied to vote by special ballot, but I didn't receive my ballot on time, or there is an issue preventing me from returning it.

In exceptional circumstances, poll workers are authorized to let electors change their voting status and allow voting in person, even if the elector has applied to vote by special ballot. To do so, electors must swear an oath and sign a form that includes an attestation that they have not previously voted in this election.

If you are unable to use your special ballot voting kit for reasons including the following:

  • You did not receive your special ballot voting kit;
  • You received a damaged kit; or
  • You made an error in completing your kit and have not yet returned it
  • You forgot your kit at home and are unable to retrieve it in time to vote.

You may be eligible to change your status and vote in person on election day.  If any of the above apply to you, go to your assigned polling station on election day and speak to staff about your situation.  If you have a damaged kit or a kit on which you made an error, bring it with you.

Remember: Electors who are voting by special ballot from inside their riding and are concerned about mailing their completed special ballot voting kit back on time can drop it off on election day, at their assigned poll or at any polling location in their riding.

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What safeguards are in place to make voting by mail secure?

Canada's federal vote-by-mail system includes several security features. Election Canada uses paper ballots, which are counted by hand and, if required, re-examined and audited. Each returned ballot is kept sealed until mandatory checks are completed. Learn more about these vote-by-mail security features and other safeguards.

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I don't have a reliable internet connection. How can I apply to vote by mail?

The deadline to apply to vote by mail has passed. If you applied before the deadline, there are options for returning your completed special ballot by the deadline indicated in your voting kit.

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Will vote by mail application forms be available at my local Canada Post office?

The deadline to apply to vote by special ballot has passed. If you applied before the deadline, there are options for returning your completed special ballot by the deadline indicated on your voting kit.

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Why is there a gap between the number of special ballot voting kits issued and the number of special ballots returned?

Elections Canada cannot speak to why ballots arrive late or not at all. Historically, there has always been a gap between the number of special ballots issued and the number of special ballots returned. Each elector is responsible for returning their ballot in time for it to be counted.

In the 43rd general election, 55 percent of national special ballots and 61 percent of international special ballots were returned in time to be counted. Of the remaining special ballots, 11.1 percent of national ballots and 11.8 percent of international ballots were returned late to the office of the Special Voting Rules Administrator in Ottawa, while 33.9 percent of national ballots and 27.2 percent of international ballots were not returned at all.

The Canada Elections Act states that ballots must be returned by the deadline in order to be counted.

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Special Ballot Drop Off

I have completed my special ballot kit, but I'm worried it won't arrive in time. Is there anything I can do?

If you are voting by special ballot from inside your riding and you're worried that you can't mail your ballot back to Elections Canada by the election day deadline, you can drop off your completed special ballot kit at your local Elections Canada office anytime before the polls close on election day. You can also drop it off at your assigned polling place—or at any polling place in your riding—on election day. You can find the addresses of your local office and election day polling place on your voter information card or at elections.ca.

If you are voting by special ballot from outside your riding (i.e. the return mailing envelope in your special ballot kit is addressed to the Special Voting Rules Administrator), you must mail your completed special ballot kit to the address on the return mailing envelope. We must receive your ballot in the mail by no later than 6:00 p.m., Eastern time, on election day. If you drop it off at a polling place, your vote will not be counted.

Each elector is responsible for making sure that their completed special ballot arrives in time at the return address indicated in their voting kit.

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I am voting by special ballot from inside my riding. Can I drop off my completed special ballot kit at any polling place in my riding?

Yes. But you must make sure the polling place where you want to drop it off is in your riding. You can enter the address of that polling place on elections.ca to verify whether it is in your riding.

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What happens if I drop off my special ballot kit at an office or polling place outside my riding on election day?

Under the special voting rules in the Canada Elections Act, your ballot will not be counted

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I am voting by special ballot from inside my riding and want to drop off my completed special ballot on election day. What do I need to know?

What do I need to bring with me?

You must bring your completed special ballot kit, which includes your ballot placed inside the inner envelope, and the signed outer envelope. The return envelope is optional.

What if I don't want to go to my polling place to drop off my special ballot kit?

You can have someone you trust drop off your special ballot kit at your polling place or at your local Elections Canada office.

How do I know where to drop it off at my polling place?

Election officers at each polling place can help electors drop their ballot in the correct place.

Will my ballot be kept secure if I drop it off at an Elections Canada office or a polling place?

All ballots and special ballot kits are kept secure at all times, whether at Elections Canada offices or at polling places.

What safeguards are in place to ensure the integrity of my ballot?

Any special ballot, whether dropped off or mailed, undergoes the same integrity checks. All special ballot kits are validated by comparing the information on the outer envelope with the information on the elector's application. If two ballot kits are received from the same elector, they are set aside and not counted and may be referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections for investigation. The list of electors at polling places is also checked against special ballot applications for any possible instances of double voting.

What happens to my special ballot kit after I drop it off at my polling place?

After the polls close on election night, your ballot is brought back to the local Elections Canada office for integrity checks and counting.

Will every polling location have an option for electors to drop off their special ballot on election day?

This option will be available at almost every polling location across Canada on election day. At a small number of polling locations in remote ridings, electors who show up at the polls to submit their marked special ballot will be asked to vote using a regular ballot instead. Ballots are counted at the returning office in order to protect the secrecy of the vote and ensure that in locations where only one or very few electors drop off their special ballot on election day, those electors cannot be identified when counting is done. If the distance between the polling location and the returning office is too great to ensure those special ballots can be delivered on or shortly after election night, we will ask those electors to vote using a regular ballot.

See the list of locations where election day special ballot drop-off points will not be available.

Electors whose assigned polling place is in one of these locations and who planned on using the special ballot drop-off service can still vote by regular ballot if they visit their polling place in person on election day.

Will I have to wait in line with voters who are voting in person?

No, you can let election workers know that you are there to drop off your completed special ballot and you will be allowed in to do so.

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