How To: Vote in a Federal Election

by Apathy is Boring — April 1, 2011


COMMENT VOTER :: HOW TO VOTE

Fellow Canadians - duty is calling. A federal election is your chance to make your voice heard. Is it your first time? Don't be nervous. Just follow this step-by-step guide and cast your ballot like a pro.

 
Can I vote in a federal election?
What if I’m not registered to vote?
What ID do I need to bring with me?
Where is my polling station and when is it open?
How do I vote if I’m working on election day?
What if I can't make it to a polling station on election day?
What if I'm living abroad or won't be in my riding during the election?
What if I’m a student living away from home?
What if I'm homeless?
Where can I get more information about voting?
I still have questions. Who do I ask?
 
 

Can I vote in a federal election?

 
You can vote if you:
  • are a Canadian citizen;
  • are at least 18 years old on election day;
  • are listed in the register of electors.
 

What if I’m not registered to vote?

 
If you moved recently or you’re eligible to vote for the first time, you may not be in the register of electors. But don’t worry - getting on the list is quick and easy! There are two ways to get your name added to the register:
  • You can contact Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868;
  • You can register at the polling station either on election day or on an advance voting day.
 
If you’re currently living outside of Canada, there’s a good chance that you can still vote. If you’re just out of the country on election day, or if you’ve been living in another country for less than five years, you can still vote with a special ballot.
 

What ID do I need to bring with me?

 
You need to prove both your identity and your address in order to vote. There are three different ways to do this at the polling station:
  • Show one piece of government-issued photo ID that has your name and address, and is issued by the government (usually a driver’s licence, but you can click here for a list of acceptable items);
  • Show two pieces of authorized ID that have your name and address on them (for example, a health card and utility bill - you can see a list of items that would fit this category here);
  • Go to the polling station with someone else who is already registered to vote, and have them vouch for you (you can find out more about the vouching process here).
 

Where is my polling station and when is it open?

 
If you received a voter information card in the mail, it will have the the address and hours of your polling station for advance voting and Election Day. You can also find the location of your polling station here.
 
Polling stations open and close at different times depending on where you live. You can find these hours on your voter information card, when you look up your polling station, or in the table below.
Time Zone
Polls open and close in local time
Newfoundland Time
8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Atlantic Time
8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Eastern Time
9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Central Time
8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Mountain Time (including Saskatchewan)
7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pacific Time
7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
          

How do I vote if I’m working on election day?

 
Your employer legally has to give you three consecutive hours off work while the polls are open. If the polls are open for three hours before or after your shift, then that counts as your time to vote. Otherwise, your employer has to give you enough time off so that you have a total of three free hours to make it to the polls sometime on election day.
 

What if I can't make it to a polling station on election day?

 
There are advance voting days roughly two weeks before the election. Voting at an advance poll is just like voting at on election day - you just get to cast your ballot earlier. The advance polling days for the 2011 election are April 22, 23, and 25. You can also vote by special ballot, which is described in the next section.
 

What if I'm living abroad or won't be in my riding during the election?

 
You can vote using a special ballot which is sent through the mail. If you’re living abroad or in a different riding, this is the option for you. To get a special ballot, you can apply online or contact the returning officer for your riding directly. You can get all of the details about special ballots here.
 
It takes a while to get approved for a special ballot, so your application has to be received before 6:00pm on the Tuesday before the election day. Also, remember that you can’t change your mind: if you register to vote by special ballot, you’re no longer allowed to vote at an ordinary polling station.
 
There are advance voting days roughly two weeks before the election. Voting at an advance poll is just like voting at on election day - you just get to cast your ballot earlier. The advance polling days for the 2011 election are April 22, 23, and 25.
 
You can also vote using a special ballot which is sent through the mail. If you’re living abroad or in a different riding, this is the option for you. To get a special ballot, you can apply online or contact the returning officer for your riding directly. You can get all of the details about special ballots here.
 
It takes a while to get approved for a special ballot, so your application has to be received before 6:00pm on the Tuesday before the election day. Also, remember that you can’t change your mind: if you register to vote by special ballot, you’re no longer allowed to vote at an ordinary polling station.
 

What if I’m a student living away from home?

 
If you’re a post-secondary student who is eligible to vote and lives away from home, you have two options: you can either register to vote in your family's home riding, or you can register and vote in the riding where you currently live.
 
Once you’ve added your name to the voters list in your electoral district, you can vote using a special ballot any time at the local returning office, or by mail. To vote this way, students must register by 6:00pm on the Tuesday before the election day. Forms are available online on the Elections Canada's website, or from the office of your local returning officer.
 

What if I'm homeless?

 
Even if you’re homeless or don’t have a permanent address, you can still register to vote. Like all voters, you will have to provide proof of identity and address. The difference is that your address is defined as wherever you are currently staying (for example, a shelter where you eat or sleep).
 
To prove your identity, you need an official document with your name on it. To prove your address, talk to the administrator of the shelter where you stay or receive services (food, counselling, etc.). He or she can give you an attestation. And if you can’t secure documents to prove your identity or address, you can still have another voter vouch for you at the polling station.
 

Where can I get more information about voting?

 
If you need any more information about the election, check out the Elections Canada website. That’s where we got all of this wonderful stuff.
 

I still have questions. Who do I ask?

 
Don’t worry. We are here to support you in this journey towards democratic participation. Feel free to send us any of your questions on our I WILL VOTE Facebook event page. We’ll take care of the rest.
 

 

All of the information in this article comes from Elections Canada (http://www.elections.ca/).

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