How will COVID-19 change voting? What you need to know for election day in Ottawa

This pandemic election has changed some things about how we vote, for those in Ottawa-Gatineau gearing up to vote in person on Monday, here's your questions answered.

Bring a mask, your own pencil, one or two pieces of ID, and voter card if you have one

Ottawans line up at an advanced polling station last weekend. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

This pandemic election has changed some things for those in Ottawa-Gatineau gearing up to vote in person on Monday.

Advanced polls are over and the deadline for mail-in voting has passed, but those who did participate in early voting will change how fast some ridings see results. 

A record number of Canadians have already voted in this federal election with more than one million special ballots sent out by mail and millions more voting in advanced polls.

Here are answers to some questions:

1. Do I need to wear a mask?

Masks will be required to vote in Ottawa-Gatineau per the provinces' public health regulations. For voters who don't bring their own, Elections Canada will have disposable masks available. 

If someone refuses to wear a mask, Elections Canada says they will be turned away. Those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons were encouraged to vote by mail, but if they did not, they will be permitted to vote in person. 

2. What COVID-19 protocols are in place?

Polling stations will have single-use pencils available for voters, but you can also bring your own pen or pencil. 

There will be hand sanitizer stations, clear physical distancing markers, and election workers will be behind Plexiglas barriers at polling stations. 

You will not need an appointment to vote, but COVID-19 protocols may mean things move slower, so budget extra time. 

Long lines appeared across Ottawa for advanced voting for the federal election. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The agency asks you don't bring children, if you can avoid it, to minimize the number of people going through polling stations. 

Voters who can't fill out a ballot by themselves can bring someone to help them, although that person will have to swear an oath of secrecy. Election workers can also provide assistance.

3. I have COVID-19 symptoms. Can I vote?

Elections Canada asked those with COVID-19 symptoms and those who had tested positive for the virus to apply to vote by mail. 

However, the deadline to apply for mail-in voting was Tuesday. If you have developed symptoms since, contact your local public health unit for guidance. 

If you have — or believe you have — COVID-19 and have not registered to vote by mail, you will not be able to vote. 

4. Do I need to be vaccinated to vote?

You will not be required to be vaccinated to vote. Even in Quebec, where the vaccine passport is in effect, it is not required to access government services. 

Polling staff will also not be required to be vaccinated, but Elections Canada says the majority will be. 

"Given the timing of the election, recruitment needs and logistical challenges, Elections Canada will not require election workers to be vaccinated," the agency says on its website. 

Residents of the Carleton riding physically distance while waiting in line at the Rideauview Community Centre on Sept. 10. (Joe Tunney/CBC)

5. What ID do I need to vote?

You need to prove your identity and address to vote in person, according to Elections Canada.

The agency recommends you bring your voter information card to avoid delays, but the card isn't required.

  • One piece of ID is enough if it's your driver's licence or any other officially issued piece of identification — either federal, provincial/territorial or local — that contains your name, photo and current address.

  • You can also use two pieces of ID together— like a birth certificate, library card, band membership card or credit card statement — as long as one has your current address.  

If you are homeless, you can still vote with a letter of confirmation from a soup kitchen or shelter, along with a piece of ID.

For more on what you need to bring with you, including a full list of acceptable identification, visit Elections Canada's website.

6. When and where do I vote?

If you're registered to vote, your voter information card should show the polling station you've been assigned to.

If you lost it or left it at home, you can also look up the information online by entering your postal code here.

Voters can also call 1-800-463-6868 or 1-800-361-8935 (TTY) to get the precise locations.

Polls are open in Ottawa-Gatineau from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

7. Can I get time off work to vote?

Aside from very specific cases involving workers in the transportation industry, everyone who is eligible to vote is allowed three consecutive hours to cast their ballots.

This means if you have a job in Ottawa that requires you to work from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on election day, your employer is legally bound by the Elections Act to give you extra time off at the start or at the end of your shift.

You cannot be docked pay to go vote, either.

It is, however, the employer's decision as to when you're given that three-hour window.

8. How do I watch the results?

CBC News will carry election results live in special coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBC TV and streaming live at and on CBC Gem, where there will also be an ASL stream.

The radio special begins at 7 p.m. ET on Radio One and the CBC Listen App.

We will also have full digital coverage of the local election races at as results come in.

  • Use Vote Compass to compare the party platforms with your views.
  • Find out who's ahead in the latest polls with our Poll Tracker.

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