Getting out the vote

It's almost time to elect the next federal government. But people who are young, homeless, have been evicted, or have no permanent address may not be on the voters' list.

With election day coming up on October 19, we look at what they can do if they want to vote.

Why it matters

Voter turnout is often lowest among people who are young, poor, or marginalized. But democracy doesn't work the way it should unless all citizens have a say in who makes the laws.

Checking the voters' list

Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old can vote. But they must be on the voters' list.

Canadians who have received their voter information cards in the mail are on the list. Others can check the Online Voter Registration Service to see if they're on the list.

If a voter's name or address on the list is wrong, they have to update this information. If they haven't updated it in advance, they can do it when they go to vote.

And if a voter's name is not on the list, they can still be added to the list when they go to vote. They will need to prove their name and address.

Proving name and address

All citizens must prove who they are and where they live when they go to vote. The voter information card is not proof.

An Ontario driver's licence with the person's photograph, name, and current address can be used as proof of both name and address. But a lot of people without permanent housing don't have this.

A person can also prove their name and address if:
  • they have 2 documents from the list approved by Elections Canada, and
  • at least one of the documents shows their current address.
There are many types of documents on the approved list. For example, people may be able to use:
  • a bank statement
  • a rental agreement
  • a statement of government benefits
  • a utility, telephone, or mobile phone bill

Using the address of a shelter or soup kitchen

When someone doesn't have a permanent address, they might stay at a shelter or go to a soup kitchen for meals. If they do, they may be able to use the location of that service provider as their address.

The list of approved documents includes a form called Letter of Confirmation of Residence. If this form is completed and signed by the administrator of the shelter or soup kitchen, it can be used to prove a person's address. The person takes it to the local polling station when they go to vote.

But the administrator should check with the local returning officer to make sure the service provider is listed with Elections Canada. If it's not, the letter won't be accepted at the polling station.

Bringing someone to prove an address

A person who can't get any documents to prove their address but has 2 of the approved documents with their name may still be able to vote.

They can go to the polling station with someone, like a roommate, friend, or neighbour, who:
  • is on the voters' list,
  • has documents to prove their own name and address, and
  • votes at the same polling station.
Someone who lives in the same building, or close by, probably votes at the same polling station. The voter information card shows the polling station.

Both voters must sign a statement to prove the person's address and say under oath that their statement is true. The friend or neighbour can do this only once for the current election.

Getting identity documents

A person who doesn't have any of the approved documents might be able to get help from an Identification (ID) Clinic.

Many community agencies, housing help centres, and community health centres in Ontario have regular ID Clinics. They help people who are homeless or on low incomes apply for some of the documents that are approved by Elections Canada.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
October 2015
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.
View and order CLEO publications at

Information from hundreds of organizations on a wide range of legal topics, including Legal System - Elections, as well as key legal and community services across the province.

CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 506, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1Z8
Phone: 416-408-4420 Email: 

You are receiving On the Radar because you have subscribed to receive information about CLEO publications or have ordered CLEO publications in the past. To unsubscribe visit this page.