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A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshJeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

When is the Canadian election 2021?

Canadians will head to the polls on Sept. 20. But this election campaign, held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians are expected to cast their ballots early by mail.

Who can vote by mail in Canada?

All eligible voters can opt to vote by mail (in Canada, that’s every citizen who is 18 years old on election day, Sept. 20). Elections Canada says all eligible electors can request what the agency refers to as a “special ballot.” This is available to those voting outside their home riding and those voting from their home riding who prefer not to go to a polling place.

How do voters request a mail-in ballot?

Eligible votes must apply to vote by mail with proof of identity and address. Once a voter has applied to vote by mail in person or online, Elections Canada says you cannot vote at advance polls or on election day.

If voting by special ballot, you will not get a ballot with candidate names. Instead, Elections Canada will provide a ballot with a spot to write in the name of your preferred candidate. Voters don’t need to supply the name of the political party; however, if you provide only the political party (Liberal, Conservative, NDP, etc.), your vote will not be counted.

Once your special ballot is filled in, be sure to place the ballot in the unmarked envelope provided by Elections Canada and follow the agency’s directions, then return your ballot. Voters are not required to provide a stamp for the envelope, postage is prepaid.

What are the deadlines for mail-in ballots?

The deadline to apply to vote by mail online is Tuesday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m. Eastern time and online applications take about three days to process. If you apply at a local Elections Canada office, the deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m. local time.

Elections Canada recommends voters apply as soon as possible. This is to allow time for the voting kit to arrive and be returned by election day (Sept. 20).

For Canadians voting by mail from within their home riding, ballots must be returned by the time polls close in your riding. For those voting outside their home riding, ballots must be returned by 6 p.m. Eastern time on election day.

Elections Canada will not count any ballots that arrive after the deadline. Voters can contact Elections Canada (1-800-463-6868) to confirm that the ballot has been received.

How many mail-in ballots does Elections Canada expect?

Elections Canada expects more Canadians to vote by mail than in previous elections. The agency expects between two million and five million people to cast ballots by mail – a sharp increase from the roughly 50,000 who voted by mail in the last federal election in 2019. Elections Canada says pandemic-related hesitation to travel to voting locations is expected to drive the increase.

How will the spike in special ballots change the campaign?

The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP have released their platforms sooner to reach people who may be casting their ballots before Sept. 20. The Green Party have yet to release a full platform. In most cases, it’s believed to be party loyalists, not undecided voters, who are voting early which creates an advantage for the parties. Instead of focusing entirely on the typical single-day push to polls, campaigns can try to reach voters over multiple weeks.

The uptick in mail-in ballots, along with improvements made in targeting advance voters earlier, means parties can concentrate on swing ridings where the election is up for grabs, says Ken Boessenkool, a former Conservative party strategist and speech writer for Stephen Harper.

Did mail-in ballots spike in pandemic-era provincial elections?

Elections Canada said it has closely studied the five most recent provincial elections, which all saw spikes in mail-in, or special-ballot, voting because of the pandemic. For the federal election, it plans to hire more than 250,000 staff, has bought more than 18 million face masks for in-person voting and is reassuring voters its mail-in ballot verification system is secure.

How could mail-in ballots affect results on election night?

Elections Canada says millions of ballots may not be counted until well after the vote on Sept. 20.

The agency says results will be released in waves after the Sept. 20 vote. Whether the surge in mail-in ballots will affect results on election night depends on whether the number of ballots not counted on that night are numerous enough to make a difference.

Have a question about voting during Canada’s 2021 federal election? Email

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