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Eligibility to Vote

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Who can vote in a municipal election?

In order to vote in any municipal election in Ontario, you must be aged 18 or older and a Canadian citizen.

You must also qualify to vote in your municipality. There are several ways to do this:

1. As a resident elector
Your residence is where you live. If you live in a municipality, then you are eligible to vote in that municipality’s election. You are only allowed to have one residence.

2. As a non-resident elector
If you live in one municipality, and own or rent property in another municipality, you are eligible to vote in each municipality’s election.

3. As the spouse of a non-resident elector
If your spouse qualifies as a non-resident elector in a municipality, then you can also vote in that municipality’s election.

It can sometimes be complicated to determine whether you qualify as a non-resident elector. The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 says that you must be an “owner or tenant” of land. For example, if you have a cottage that is actually owned by a trust, or a business premises that is owned by your business and not by you personally, then you are not considered to be the owner of the land, and would not be eligible to vote. If you have questions about whether you would be qualified to vote as a non-resident elector in a municipality, you should contact that municipality’s clerk for further information.

There is a special rule for students who may be living away from home while they attend school. If you are a student and consider your “home” to be the place where you live when you are not attending school (i.e. you plan on returning there), then you are eligible to vote in both your “home” municipality and in the municipality where you currently live while attending school.

Wards

If your municipality has wards, you must vote in the ward where you reside. If you also are the owner or tenant of a property in another ward, you are not permitted to vote in that ward instead.

If you are a non-resident elector, and you are the owner or tenant of properties in more than one ward in the municipality where you do not reside, you must choose which ward you wish to vote in. You should make sure that you are on the voters’ list for that qualifying address. 

Who can vote in a school board election?

In order to vote in a school board election in Ontario, you must be aged 18 or older and a Canadian citizen.

If you are a resident of a municipality, you are eligible to vote for school trustee. If you are the owner or tenant (or spouse of an owner or tenant) of residential property in a municipality, you are eligible to vote for school trustee. Note: School boards can cover large areas of the province and include many municipalities. You are only allowed to vote for the same school board once.

If you are eligible to vote in a municipality because you are the owner or tenant (or spouse of an owner or tenant) of a commercial property there, you are not eligible to vote for school trustee.

There are four different kinds of school boards in Ontario.

1. English-language public school board
This is the default – unless you are qualified to vote for a separate or French board, you will vote for the English public school board in your area.

2. English-language separate school board
You must be a Roman Catholic, and you must be a separate school board supporter or the spouse of a separate school board supporter. If your spouse is a Roman Catholic and you are not, you are not eligible.

3. French-language public school board
You must be a French-language rights holder, and you must be a supporter (or the spouse of a supporter) of the French-language public school board.

4. French-language separate school board
You must be a Roman Catholic and a French-language rights holder, and you must be a supporter (or the spouse of a supporter) of the French separate school board. If your spouse is a Roman Catholic and you are not, you are not eligible.

“Supporter” refers to which school board the school portion of your property taxes goes to. The default is the public school system. In order to be a separate school supporter you must direct your taxes to the separate school system. Contact the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (1-866-296-MPAC (6722)) for more information.

“French-language rights holder” is set out in section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and refers to the right of citizens whose first language is French to receive educational instruction in French.