Don't want to vote in person? Here's how to mail in your ballot

Looking to avoid the polls this year? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a complete guide to voting by mail in the upcoming federal election.

Turn your mailbox into a ballot box by following these simple instructions

If you are voting by mail, it's important to know that the ballot in your special voting kit will be slightly different from the ones you might be used to seeing at a polling station.  (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

This story came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your federal election questions and story tips. We are listening: ask@cbc.ca. 

If you're worried about heading to the polls on election day and would rather mail in your ballot, you're not alone. Elections Canada officials say they're expecting between two and three million electors to vote by special ballot — most of them by mail — based on the agency's latest data.

A number of CBC News readers asked us about mail-in voting. Here's a quick guide on how to fill out your ballot in the comfort of your own home or while you're travelling.

Getting your special ballot at home or abroad

The first step to avoiding the polls on election day is applying for that special ballot online or at an Elections Canada office. The deadline to apply for this kit, or to get one in person, is Sept. 14.

If you don't have internet access, you can call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868 and they can help you find the nearest office to apply for a special ballot in person. 

Once your special ballot application is accepted by Elections Canada, you will receive a voting kit. It should include two envelopes and instructions on exactly how to mark your ballot.

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If you are a Canadian living outside the country and are eligible to vote, you can be added to the International Register of Electors. This means you will automatically receive a voting kit from Elections Canada when a general election, by-election or referendum is called.

If your application is accepted, mail will be the only way you can cast your vote, whether you are at home or abroad. If you try to vote using a regular ballot on election day or at an advance poll, it won't be counted.

Marking your ballot will look a little different

If you are voting by mail, it's important to know that the ballot you are mailed will be slightly different from the ones you might be used to seeing at a polling station. 

It won't have a list of the Member of Parliament candidates in your riding.

Instead, there will be a blank space for you to write the first and last name of the candidate you're voting for. 

According to the Elections Canada website, you do not have to include the name of the political party on your ballot. But if you forget the candidate's name and only write down the political party, your vote will not be counted.

If you don't know the candidates for your riding, you can search by postal code or region using the Voter Information Service.

  • Use Vote Compass to compare the party platforms with your views.

  • Find out who's ahead in the latest polls with our Poll Tracker.

Mailing it off 

Once you've marked your ballot, you'll need to place it in the unmarked inner envelope provided in your voting kit and seal it shut. 

Next, take that envelope and seal it into the outer envelope (the one that shows your information). 

After you've successfully stuffed the inner envelope into the outer envelope, you just have to sign and date the declaration on the front of that outer envelope. 

WATCH | Canada's chief electoral officer on mail-in voting:

Canada's Chief Electoral Officer on mail-in voting

1 year ago
Duration 1:42
Stéphane Perrault, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer says people who want to vote in the federal election by mail should do so early.

Now, there's just one more step.

If you haven't guessed already, it does involve another envelope. In your voting kit, you should have also received a pre-addressed return envelope. Just place your signed outer envelope in the return envelope and go to your nearest mailbox to make your voice heard in the federal election. 

If any of this sounds confusing, don't worry. The voter kit includes detailed instructions to guide you through the process.

For anyone voting from outside of their riding you'll need to be sure to leave enough time for your vote to get to Elections Canada by 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 20 — or it won't be counted.

For anyone voting by mail from within their riding, the deadline is when the polls close there on election day. Elections Canada says any details about the deadline specific to each elector will be included in their kit.

How to check your vote was received

If you're worried it might be too late to mail in your vote, the agency says you can use an expedited parcel service — at your own cost — or drop your completed special ballot off at your assigned polling station, or at any other polling location in your riding, on election day.

If you've already mailed off your ballot and want to make sure Elections Canada has received it, you can check by calling 1-800-463-6868.

Do you have a question about the federal election? Send them to ask@cbc.ca or leave it in the comments. We're answering as many as we can leading up to election day.



Tyler is a producer for the Ask CBC News team. He is also a social media editor who's been with the CBC since 2017. He is based in Toronto and has focused on Canadian and U.S. politics throughout his career.

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