Election 2019: What happens after voters cast their ballots?

After voters mark the big X on their ballot and drop it into a ballot box, it can take a few hours until the election results are announced. In rare cases, when the vote is very close, it can take a couple days to tally the votes.

Here is what happens between citizens voting and when the results are announced:

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When are the ballots (including advanced ballots) counted?

The ballot boxes from the four-day advance vote are kept in a secure room at the advance polling locations or a local returning office until election night.

All ballots are counted after polling stations are closed at electoral districts.

Across Canada, about 4.7 million voters cast their ballots from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14.

There was a 29 per cent increase in voters coming out to advance polls compared to 2015 when about 3.7 million cast a ballot before general voting day.

How are the votes counted?

The process starts off with the deputy returning officer and poll clerk – two election workers in charge of the ballot box during election day – counting the number of names crossed off the electors list and then cross-checking with the number of paper ballots at the start of the day.

Meanwhile, ballots that are unused and spoiled (unmarked or marked incorrectly) are rejected.

If the numbers match up, they start counting the votes for each candidate by hand. If not, they need to count again.

Every vote is shown to each person present and the poll clerk tallies the vote for each candidate – but no one is allowed to report the results while the counting is in progress.

Once all the votes are counted, results are called in to the riding’s local Elections Canada office where they are tallied into a wider results system.

Results are sent to Elections Canada main office in Quebec and then to the media.

Where are special ballots counted?

Special ballots are sent and counted at the returning office and at Elections Canada’s Distribution Centre.

These are mail-in ballots from voters who are in the military overseas or incarcerated.

When will Canadians start to see the results?

Election Canada says first results will show up about 30 to 45 minutes after the polls close – they can be viewed at elections.ca.

Some results come in faster than others depending on how full ballot boxes are – a really full box will take longer to count.

Delays can also happen if poll workers cannot contact anyone at Elections Canada on election night.

When are the finalized votes released?

Results released on election night are only preliminary. Returning officers review reports and paperwork in the days following election night to confirm the results. When everything is confirmed, results are published on Elections Canada’s website.

-with files from Maria Rantanen

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