The glossary below is a useful list of definitions for the terms we use when talking about elections.
Electors who want to vote in person before election day may vote at any advance voting location in their electoral district. After a general election or by-election has been called, the Voter Information Service will give the dates and times for advance voting locations.
A ballot is an electoral document that lists the candidates who are running for office. To vote, the voter marks an X beside the candidate of their choice.
An official document that a deputy returning officer uses to keep track of all the ballots that have been assigned to their poll. This accounting includes the valid ballots cast for each candidate, rejected ballots, unmarked ballots, cancelled ballots, declined ballots and any unused ballots.
This is a period during an election when no political party, constituency association, candidate or third party may broadcast political advertising.
A by-election is an election called in one or more electoral districts between general elections to replace a Member of Provincial Parliament who has vacated their seat in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
If a voter has made a mistake and marked their ballot incorrectly, they may return the incorrectly marked ballot to the election official at the voting location. The election official will cancel the ballot and reissue a new ballot. The election official will then write “cancelled” on the back of the ballot. Cancelled ballots are not placed in the ballot box, and are not part of the official results.
A candidate is a person who, after the Writ is issued, has either had their nomination paper accepted by a returning officer or has been registered as a candidate under the Election Finances Act.
This document may be issued by the executive director of a homeless shelter or food bank to an elector who does not have other documentation to establish their name and address. This certificate enables the elector to vote.
A Certificate to Vote is a document issued by a returning officer between the fifth day before Election Day and the day before Election Day. The elector shows this document to election officials at their voting location when they go to vote on Election Day. It tells the election officials that they have been added to the list of electors.
The Chief Electoral Officer, or CEO, is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (the Cabinet). The CEO has overall responsibility for conducting Ontario provincial elections.
A constituency association is an organization in an electoral district that supports a specific political party.
Ontario’s election law allows voters to decline their ballot. This is a public process and is done out loud. The election official will mark “declined” on the election documentation and your ballot will not be placed in the ballot box but in an envelope for declined ballots. Declined ballots will be counted and reported after the polls close on election night and included in the official results as “declined ballots".
This election official is appointed by a returning officer and is responsible for the conduct of the election at a specific polling station (see below).
An election clerk is appointed by the chief electoral officer. They are the second in command in a returning office. They report to the returning officer.
This is the final day to vote in an election.
The election period begins the day the Writ (see below) is issued and ends on Election Day.
An elector is a person who is eligible to vote in an Ontario provincial election.
A candidate may be endorsed by the leader of their political party. This endorsement allows the party name to be placed below the candidate’s name on the ballot. Endorsements are filed by the party leader before close of nominations in the election period.
The general election date is fixed in the Election Act as the first Thursday in October in the fourth year following a general election.
The Ontario Gazette is the Government of Ontario’s official publication for legislative decisions, proclamations of new statutes, all regulations made under Ontario statutes, and notices that ministries, agencies and other organizations are required to make public.
Typically held every four years a general election is an election in all the electoral districts in the province at the same time.
A householder is a communications piece that is delivered to every household in the province. It provides electors with information on how to cast their vote, key election dates and ways to obtain information in languages other than English.
This list is a snapshot in time of the Permanent Register of Electors of Ontario (see below) taken when the Writ (see below) for an election is issued. Anyone who wants to vote in a provincial election must be on the list of electors. People who are eligible to vote can add themselves to the list between elections or when they go to vote. The list of electors is updated throughout the election as people register, update or remove their information.
When the total number of government seats in the house exceeds the total number of opposition seats.
A properly marked ballot is an X within a circle beside a candidate’s name on the ballot. If a voter marks their ballot inside of a circle beside a candidate’s name, and place it in the ballot box, it will be considered a “marked ballot” and a vote for that candidate. Marked ballots will be counted and reported after the polls close on election night and included in the official results as “accepted ballots marked for candidate".
When the total number of opposition seats in the house exceeds the total number of government seats.
A mobile poll is a poll that is open for part of the day at one location and moves to another location later in the day. Mobile polls are typically located in nursing homes and small, long term care facilities that do not require 12 hours for voting.
A candidate is nominated to run for election in an electoral district when the returning officer accepts their nomination paper (see below). The nomination paper contains the candidate’s name and address and the signatures of at least 25 electors from the electoral district where the candidate is seeking nomination.
The close of nominations is the specific day and time by which a nomination paper must be approved by the returning officer for a candidate to be nominated in the electoral district and have their name appear on the ballot. The date and time for the close of nominations are set out in the Writ (see below).
This document gives the name and address of the candidate being proposed and is signed by at least 25 electors. There is a specific period of time during an election period when a nomination paper can be filed with a returning officer.
An election that takes place outside the typical four-year schedule. By-elections are non-fixed date elections. A general election could be a non-fixed date election when there is a minority government.
The official results of an election are published in detail approximately six months after a general election and three months after a by-election.
At the official tabulation, the returning officer compiles the results for each candidate from the documents that the election officials completed to report the results from each poll. At the conclusion of the official tabulation, each returning officer declares the candidate with the most votes to be elected. Candidates or their designated representatives are invited to the official tabulation to observe the proceedings.
PREO is a register of names and addresses of all electors registered in Ontario. When an election is called, the list of electors (see above) is a snapshot in time of PREO. The information for PREO is updated from a variety of sources including Elections Canada as well as other government agencies.
A political party is an organization that is registered with Elections Ontario and has run at least two candidates in an election.
A poll clerk is an election official who is appointed by a returning officer to assist a deputy returning officer at a polling station.
An electoral district is divided into geographic areas called polling divisions. This is done for the purpose of administering the election. There is at least one voting location for each division. Your voting location on Election Day is determined by your polling division.
A polling station is located inside a voting location. It is a place where electors can vote. There may be many polling stations inside one voting location.
As soon as the poll closes, the deputy returning officer counts the ballots in front of those persons who are entitled to be present. The results, which are considered to be unofficial until the official tabulation (see above), are recorded on the certificate of the ballot count and telephoned to the returning officer.
When the difference between the number of votes cast for the candidates with the most votes and the candidate with the next largest number is less than 25, the returning officer must apply to a judge for a recount.
A candidate or any elector in the electoral district may apply to a judge for a recount. Applications for a recount may be refused by the judge. There is a fee to apply for a recount.
No party, candidate, constituency association, leadership contestant or third party may accept contributions and issue tax receipts unless they are registered with Elections Ontario. Registration processes are specific to the political entity. Please refer to our political entities section for details.
If a voter marks their ballot with initials or another identifying mark, or a voter writes their mark outside of one of the circles beside the candidates' names, it may be considered a “rejected ballot.” Rejected ballots will be counted and reported after the polls close on election night and included in the official results as “rejected ballots".
Once seven days have passed and a judge has not approved an application for a recount (see above), the returning officer signs and dates the Writ, includes the name of the successfully elected candidate on the back of the Writ and returns the Writ to the Chief Electoral Officer stating that the candidate has been duly elected.
Every electoral district has a returning office. Returning offices open once the writ(s) of election have been issued. Voters can go to the returning office to vote in advance, to use assistive voting technology, or to add, update or remove their information on the Voters List.
A returning officer is the election official who is appointed to administer an election in an electoral district by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (the Cabinet) upon the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer.
During an election, revising agents work in pairs and make door-to-door visits to register qualified electors whose names do not appear on the list of electors.
A satellite office is an additional returning office located in an electoral district. These offices are typically used in northern electoral districts that cover a large geographic area. It improves access to the services provided by a returning office.
A person who represents a candidate at a voting location to observe the voting and the counting of the ballots. One scrutineer per candidate is permitted for each poll official that issues a ballot to an elector. Any scrutineer who is not eligible to vote cannot challenge the eligibility of an elector.
Elections Ontario’s shape files provide the polygon information (boundary information) for each electoral district in Ontario. We make them available for general elections only. You can load them into geographic information system (GIS) software applications and integrate them with your own GIS information.
This is a voting option for electors who cannot make it to a voting location during an advance poll period or on Election Day. Special ballot voting enables electors to vote in person at their returning office, by mail and, in some cases, through home or hospital visit programs.
Also known as a poll key, the street index guide is a list of all the streets and address numbers for each polling division in an electoral district.
A third party is any person or entity that is not a political party, candidate or constituency association, and that engages in political advertising.
If a voter does not mark their ballot and places it in the ballot box, the ballot will be considered unmarked.
These are the election results that Elections Ontario makes available to the media and the public as a customer service on Election Night.
A voter is an elector who accepts a ballot from an election official.
This card is issued by mail to every elector whose name and address appears on the register of electors. The card contains individual information about where an elector can vote. It also contains contact information for the elector’s local returning office, satellite office, the special ballot program and Elections Ontario headquarters.
The voters list is part of the list of electors (see above) that shows only the electors who voted. Frequently, the list of electors or the Permanent Register of Electors of Ontario is mistakenly referred to as the voters list.
A building or other facility where voting is conducted.
A Writ is the formal, legal document that starts a provincial election in an Ontario electoral district and sets out the date for close of nominations. The Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Electoral Officer both sign two copies of a Writ for each electoral district. One copy is sent to the returning officer in each electoral district, giving them the authority to hold an election. The other copy is filed with the Official Documents of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.