Voting in the 2008 Federal Election in Canada

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Sep 8, 2008

Find a quick guide detailing how to vote in the 2008 election in Canada. Topics include, voter eligibility, where to vote, how to get on the voters list, and why its good to vote.

Voter Eligibility

You are entitled to vote in federal elections and referendums if you are a Canadian citizen, and will be 18 or older on polling day.

There are special instructions for some eligible voters, which are provided below:

 Eligiable Voters

Special Instructions

Canadian citizens residing outside Canada

New Citizens

  • New citizens are registered through Citizenship and Immigration Canada by checking off the consent box on the citizenship application. Separate registration occurs if the consent box is not checked.

Military personnel (soldiers)


  • A Supreme Court ruling (Sauvé v. Canada) on October 31, 2002, granted all inmates the right to vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums. The judgment ruled that prohibiting this right under former section 51(e), now section 4(c), of the Canada Elections Act violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Prisoners wishing to vote can fill out an Application for Registration and Special Ballot available from their correctional institute.

Homeless People

  • An eligible voter who is homeless or without a fixed address can vote by registering with proof of identity and the address where s/he is staying OR by taking an oath as to identity and residence (another registered voter from the same electoral district, such as the administrator of a local shelter, must vouch for this information).

British Citizens

  • As of 1970, voting rights were restricted to Canadian citizens. However, British citizens eligible to vote as of June 25, 1968, were eligible to vote until 1975.

How do I get on the Voters List?

Most electors are registered in the National Register of Electors or Voters List from previous elections.

Elections Canada updates the Register from many sources: provincial and territorial motor vehicle registrars; tax forms from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; provincial and territorial vital statistics agencies; provincial electoral agencies; and information supplied by electors when they register to vote or revise their information during and between federal electoral events.

If you are not on the Voters List, you can register with Elections Canada.

When/where can I vote?

On Election Day, you can vote at a designated polling station in your riding. You can also vote at an advance poll prior to Election Day. Advance polls are held between noon and 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Monday, the 10th, 9th and 7th days before polling day. The ballots are kept in a sealed envelope until Election Day and are counted at the same time as the other ballots.

Information about where to vote is generally available through Elections Canada (website and toll-free number, (800) 463-6868), through election literature sent via postal mail and is also printed in your local newspaper. You can also contact your local Member of Parliament.

How do I vote?

Canadians vote by secret ballot; our electoral laws ensure that each voter's ballot is kept secret to ensure that the democratic process is as free and fair as possible.

There are strict procedures at the polling stations:

  • Voters present themselves to a deputy returning officer (an election official who supervises a polling station) for their polling division.
  • The poll clerk then checks to determine that each voter's name appears on the voters' list for that poll.
  • Once confirmed, the deputy returning officer removes an initialed and pre-folded ballot from the book—with its counterfoil still attached—and directs the voter to go behind the voting screen to mark the ballot in secret.
  • The ballot is then returned, folded, to the same deputy returning officer.
  • The deputy returning officer takes each ballot that is returned—without unfolding it—and checks that it is the same initialed ballot that was presented to the voter (the serial number on the counterfoil must match the serial number on the stub remaining in the book).
  • Once checked, the deputy returning officer removes and discards the counterfoil and returns the still folded ballot to the voter. The voter places the ballot in the ballot box, or asks the deputy returning officer to do so.
  • Once the voting is finished, the poll clerk checks off that voter's name on the voters' list

The integrity of voting is taken very seriously in Canada. It is an offence for any election officer, candidate or representative of a political candidate present at a polling station or at the counting of the votes, to betray the secrecy of the ballots.

Perhaps most importantly, Elections Canada does not collect or hold data on how any individual elector has voted.

Why vote?

Voting is the primary way of formally participating in Canada’s democratic system or “rule of the people.” You vote to choose someone to represent you in Parliament (the House of Commons). Currently, there are 308 elected representatives in Canada’s Parliament based on the federal electoral districts, which are determined according to population, historical treaties and geography. A Member of Parliament (MP) represents each constituency, or electoral district.

Visit the “Voters Information Service” section of the Elections Canada website to find out which electoral district you're in.