The glossary below is a useful list of definitions for the terms we use most often when talking about elections.
A ballot is a piece of paper that lists the candidates and their political parties (if applicable) who are running for office. To vote for a candidate, mark an X on the ballot in the white circle beside the name of the candidate of your choice.
The blackout period is a set amount of time during an election when no paid commercial political advertising can occur.
During the blackout period, political entities cannot run paid advertising and broadcasters or publishers cannot accept paid political advertisements from a political entity. The blackout period for a general election or by-election includes the day before election day and election day.
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.
A candidate is a person running to be a Member of Provincial Parliament, who has been issued a Certificate of Nomination from a returning officer or the Chief Electoral Officer during the election period.
This document is a temporary form of identification that can be issued by the executive director of a homeless shelter or food bank to an elector who does not have a permanent address.
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to oversee provincial elections in Ontario.
A constituency association, sometimes known as a riding 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".
An election period ends with election day, which is the final day to vote in an election.
An elector is a person who is eligible to vote in an Ontario provincial election. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen and a resident of Ontario.
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 during the election period.
The general election date is fixed in the Election Act as the first Thursday in June in the fourth year following a general election.
A general election is when an election occurs in all the electoral districts in the province at the same time. General elections typically take place every four years.
A pamphlet sent to every address in Ontario during a general election. It contains information voters need to know to vote.
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 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.
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 have their name appear on the ballot. The date and time for the close of nominations are set out in the Writ.
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.
Election results become official once they have been tabled in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 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.
The Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario (PREO), more commonly known as the voters list, includes the names and addresses of people who are eligible to vote in Ontario. Information on the register is updated from a variety of sources including Elections Canada, other government agencies, and through direct updates from electors.
When an election is called, information from the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario is used to create the voters list for each electoral district.
A political party is an organization that is registered with Elections Ontario and has run at least two candidates in an election.
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 polling division. Your voting location on election day is determined by your polling division.
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, for a fee. Applications for a recount may be refused by the judge.
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".
Each electoral district has a local election office known as a returning office. Returning offices open once an election or by-election has been called. Voters can go to the returning office to vote by special ballot or during advance voting. They can also go to the returning office 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.
A satellite office is an additional returning office located in an electoral district. These offices are typically used in 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.
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.
After polls close on election night, unofficial results are posted as they are reported to give the number of votes cast for each candidate. These do not include poll-by-poll results.
A voter is an elector who accepts a ballot from an election official.
A card sent to registered voters once an election has been called that has information about when and where to vote.
A building or other facility selected by a returning officer to be a location where voting takes place.
A Writ is the formal, legal document that starts a provincial election in Ontario. 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. At the end of the election, the returning officer returns the Writ to Elections Ontario.