08/23/2019 10:06 EDT | Updated 08/26/2019 16:48 EDT

A Guide to Help You Understand Common Election Terms

As Canadians we should be proud to live in a country where our democratic process allows us to have a say. Voting gives us the chance to exercise our democratic right and help shape the Canada of tomorrow.  

Understanding the election process doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it can be hard to cut through the jargon sometimes, especially when some things have two names. In partnership with Elections Canada, we have compiled a glossary of common words and meanings so you can feel more confident come election time. 

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Elector (a.k.a. voter)

A person who is a Canadian citizen at least 18 years old on election day, and therefore eligible to vote.

Voters list (a.k.a. list of electors) 

The list of names and addresses of all registered electors that is used at a polling station when people vote. Most eligible voters are already registered in the National Register of Electors, which is used to create the voters list when an election is called. The fastest and easiest way to check or update your registration is to go to Elections Canada’s online registration service. If you’re registered, you’ll receive a voter information card in the mail with your name on it after an election is called telling you where and when to vote in your riding.

Voter information card

If you’re registered, you’ll get a voter information card with your name on it in the mail about two weeks after the election is called with the information on where, when and how you can vote. 

Riding (a.k.a. electoral district)

As Canadians, we live in one of 338 federal ridings. When you vote, you’re voting for an individual to represent you and your neighbours as a member of Parliament in the House of Commons in Ottawa. 

Elections Canada

Polling station 

A polling station is a place where you go to vote. You’ll receive information about your assigned polling stations for advance voting and election day on your voter information card or check online by entering your postal code in the Voter Information Service box after the election is called. It will indicate the locations, voting times and accessibility of your polling station. More often than not, your polling station is located very close to where you live.

Election day (a.k.a. polling day) 

This is the day most people go to vote. Unless it falls on a holiday, election day must be on a Monday. 

Advance polling days (a.k.a. advance polls) 

This refers to polling stations that are open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday the week before election day. Electors can find the address of their assigned advance polling station on the back of their voter information card or by entering their postal code in the Voters Information Services box after the election is called. 


Special ballot voting process

Any elector who can’t or doesn’t want to vote at their assigned polling station during advanced polls or on election day can vote using the special ballot process when voting by mail or in person at any one of more than 500 Elections Canada offices, as well as over 110 campuses across the country on select days. The special ballot differs from a regular ballot in that it is blank and the elector writes the name of their preferred candidate in their riding.


A candidate is a person running for public office. Most candidates running in a federal election are aligned with a political party––but sometimes people run as independent candidates, meaning they are not affiliated with any political party. You can find the complete list of who’s running in your riding in the fall election about three weeks before election day by entering your postal code in our Voter Information Service online. You can go online to find other information on your riding and past elections results anytime.   


Find the official information you need to register and vote at Elections Canada