TORONTO -- The federal election campaign is underway and Canadians only have a few weeks before they head to the polls.

Canadian citizens aged 18 and older on election day who are registered to vote have a few options as to how they want to cast their ballot. looks at all the different ways Canadians can vote on or before Sept. 20 in the 2021 federal election.


For Canadians looking to get their vote in early, advance polls will be open from Sept. 10-13 and will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Canadians can find the address of their assigned advance polling station in their riding on their voter information card, online or by contacting Elections Canada.

Canadians also have the option to vote even earlier at an Elections Canada office, seven days a week. With an office in every riding, voters have until Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. to cast their ballot through this method using the special ballot process, which also has a mail-in option.

You can complete a special ballot application online or at your local Elections Canada office. Once your application has been accepted, this is the only way you can cast your vote. If you try to vote on election day or at an advance poll, your vote won't be counted.


Canadians looking to avoid polling stations can instead cast their vote by mail. However, voting by mail has a few steps to it, and Elections Canada advises those planning to use it to start the process as soon as possible.

To vote by mail, you first have to apply for a special ballot that has a blank space for the candidate’s name, which you fill in yourself. This differs from typical ballots, which have a list of candidates to choose from. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you know your candidate’s name, as simply writing down which party you prefer will not count.

To apply for the ballot, you’ll need copies of your ID and proof of address, or failing that, an affidavit from someone authorized to receive oaths in that province or territory. You can apply for a special ballot voting kit either online, by mail, or in person at an Elections Canada office, but your application must be received by Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

Once you have the special ballot and fill it out, you have to make sure it gets to Elections Canada by Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. ET for it to count. The ballot can be sent in by mail, using a prepaid envelope, but you also have the option of physically dropping it off at any polling location in your riding.

If you are voting from outside your riding, you have to make sure your ballot gets to Elections Canada in Ottawa by Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. ET for it to count. If you are voting within your own riding, you can mail it to the local returning office, have the ballot dropped off at the returning office, or drop it off at your polling place on election day.

Once you’ve applied for a special ballot kit, you are locked in to that process and are no longer eligible to vote in person and won’t be able to do so either at an advance poll or on election day.

For Canadians living abroad, voting by mail is the only option.


Canadians can vote at their assigned polling station on election day. According to Elections Canada, polls will be open for 12-hour periods and these hours will vary by time zone.

Canadians can register to vote ahead of time online or at their polling station when they arrive to vote on Sept. 20.

To vote in-person on election day, Canadians will need to bring proof of identify and address. This can be a driver's license or any other ID issued by a federal, provincial, or local Canadian government that has one's photo, full name and current address.

Alternatively, you can also show two pieces of these approved forms of identification with both pieces showing one's name, and at least one having your current address.

If you don't have any ID, you can still cast your ballot if you declare your identity and address in writing, and have someone who knows you and who is assigned to your polling station vouch for you.

However, the voucher must be able to prove their identity and address.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections Canada said on Aug. 18 that it will impose additional safety measures at polling stations.

"[Canadians] can expect to see essentially the kind of measures that they now have been seeing for the last 18 months. So, we will have people in charge of ensuring that the place is clean, that the electors are properly distanced. They will see for example these physical transparent barriers that will separate the poll workers," Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault said.

Perrault said masks will be distributed, hand sanitizing enforced, and disposable pencils required. However, polling workers will not be required to be fully immunized against COVID-19.


Despite the federal election taking place after the start of the school year, Elections Canada won't be running the Vote on Campus program, which set up special polling stations on campuses, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections Canada says its returning officers are working to set up polling stations on campuses for those students living in residence, but there may be fewer campus polling stations than usual.

For many students who will be away from their hometowns on election day, Elections Canada says they can alternatively choose to vote in the riding where their campus residence or student apartment is located on Sept. 20, or during advance polls between Sept. 10 to 13.

Students will have to show ID and proof of address when they arrive at the polling station. If living in residence on campus, students can ask their school to provide a letter of confirmation of residence if they do not have proof of address.

For those students who still wish to vote in their hometown riding, but can't travel back home for advance polls or election day, there is also the option to vote via a special ballot.

Between now and Sept. 14, post-secondary students can visit any Elections Canada office across the country and vote in whatever riding they consider to be their "home." Just be sure to bring ID and proof of address.

Students also have the option to vote by mail. Elections Canada will mail anyone a voting kit who fills out an online form or contacts an Elections Canada office before Sept. 14.

Voting by mail is also the only option if you're attending post-secondary school abroad.

With files from's Sarah Turnball, Cameron French and Tom Yun