How to vote by mail in the 2021 Canada election

Click to play video: 'Those who apply to vote by mail can’t change mind later: Perrault'
Those who apply to vote by mail can’t change mind later: Perrault
WATCH: Those who apply to vote by mail can’t change mind later, says Elections Canada – Aug 18, 2021

As Canadians gear up to vote in this year’s federal election on Sept. 20, many will be turning to mail-in voting in response to safety concerns prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found that almost 25 per cent of 1,500 Canadians surveyed feel the COVID-19 pandemic makes it unsafe to vote in person, while 16 per cent of those said they will vote by mail and 21 per cent said they were unsure which they would choose.

In order to ensure the safety of this year’s vote, Elections Canada is offering more options to vote by mail. Here’s how to do it.

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Applying to vote by mail

Canadians eligible to vote can apply online, by calling Elections Canada or in person at the nearest Elections Canada office. Updated voting guidelines viewed by Global News said applicants will need to provide either a valid proof of identity such as a driver’s licence, or another piece of ID like a passport and proof of current address, such as a recent piece of mail addressed to your home.

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For the first time, eligible Canadians living both at home and abroad may now apply online to vote by mail any time. Voters living in Canada have until the Tuesday before election day (Sept. 14) at 6 p.m. local time to apply to be on the register by filling out an application for registration and special ballot for Canadian Citizens Residing Outside Canada.

Applicants will be asked about their citizenship, age, email address, home and mailing address. The process can take up to 72 hours from the time of application. Once you’ve applied, you can check the status of their applications online using a reference number that will be emailed to you upon completion.

Elections Canada said it will call applicants if there are any issues with their requests, as long as they provide contact information.

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Election Canada’s chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault previously said voting in person is out of the question once a person has decided to vote by mail.

“By law, electors who apply to vote by mail cannot simply change their mind later on and vote another way,” Perrault said.

“If they have a problem with their kit, if they have not received their kit, they should contact us.… We’ll find a way to make sure that they can vote, but they cannot simply change their mind.”

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Click to play video: 'Mail-in ballots in some jurisdictions could take up to 5 days to count: Perrault'
Mail-in ballots in some jurisdictions could take up to 5 days to count: Perrault

Your application was approved. Now what?

Once accepted into the register, Elections Canada spokesperson Nathalie de Montigny said voters will receive a kit that contains instructions, details about deadlines, a pre-addressed and prepaid return envelope, additional security envelopes and a special ballot.

The updated guidelines said special ballots will have a blank space where voters can write the name of the candidate they have decided to vote for. This differs from the standard ballot, which Elections Canada said includes a list of candidates to choose from.

de Montigny said to make sure to write the first and last name of the candidate you’re voting for.

“You have to name the candidate’s name. You don’t have to write the party. In fact, if you only write the party, then it’s not going to count,” she said.

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de Montigny added that a candidate’s name would still count if it were spelled wrong, as long as it is clear which candidate’s name is being spelled.

Unsure of whose names are on the ballots? Elections Canada’s ‘Voter Information Service’ allows Canadians to search for their “list of candidates, locations of advance and election day polling places, the address of your local Elections Canada office and a map of your electoral district.”

“The final list of candidates is available about three weeks before election day,” the agency said.

All special mailing ballots must be delivered to Elections Canada by 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 20, before the polls close. They said no late ballots will be counted, and voters also have the option of dropping off their special ballot “either at their local Elections Canada office or at their polling place on election day.”

Canada Post said it may take “several days” for mailed ballots to be delivered, and advised voters to use Canada Post’s delivery standard calculator to make sure ballots are delivered to Elections Canada by the Sept. 20 deadline.

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How do you know your ballot’s safe?

Once you’ve voted, de Montigny said to place the completed special ballot in the unmarked envelope we provided and seal it.

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“Then place the unmarked envelope into the envelope with your information on it, seal it, then sign and date the declaration on the outer envelope,” she said.

Elections Canada said it updates its records to show when a ballot has been received to help ensure that nobody has voted more than once.

Once they open the mailing envelope, Elections Canada said they “put the signed outer envelope and unmarked inner envelope aside until other mandatory checks are completed.”

In order to verify the ballot, they also make sure that the information on the outer envelope matches its application and that each voter has signed a declaration that can be found on the outer envelope.

— With files from Global News’ Twinkle Ghosh and Sean Boynton

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