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Election campaign button depicting William Lyon Mackenzie King, no date
Elections are the means by which Canadians can choose who will represent them to pass laws, create policies, and run the government. Presently, elections and referendums are overseen by the Chief Electoral Officer, an independent appointed official responsible for ensuring that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendums Act are followed in a fair, legal, and impartial fashion. This officer, supported by Elections Canada, ensures that the electoral system remains accessible to all voters, maintains maps of electoral districts and a National Register of Electors, and monitors and reports on the administration of elections and referendums in Canada. Library and Archives Canada has preserved numerous records pertaining to elections in both the pre-Confederation colonies as well as since 1867.
The Clerk of the Crown in Chancery was the officer of Parliament responsible for preparing the Writs of election for the Legislative Assembly and, after 1856, for the Legislative Council. The collection of Writs and Returns for elections for Lower Canada from 1792-1840 and for the Canada East ridings of the United Province of Canada from 1841-1867 is remarkably complete. This fonds includes supporting documentation such as oaths of returning officers, notices of polls, summaries of votes, and certificates of the candidates.
These are the corresponding records of general elections and by-elections in Upper Canada and the Canada West ridings of the Province of Canada. There are few surviving records prior to 1841. Some poll books, listing the electors who presented themselves at a poll, are included.
These records, dating from the year of Confederation, are held within the General correspondence sub-series of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada fonds.
The office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery existed from 1865 until 1920, when its functions were assumed by the Chief Electoral Officer. The Clerk of the Crown in Chancery issued Writs of Election, prepared electoral returns, prepared commissions appointing senators and issued proclamations for the summoning and proroguing of Parliament. See:
With the Dominion Elections Act of 1920, responsibility for federal elections was assigned to the Chief Electoral Officer, who is appointed by and responsible to the House of Commons. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer is known as Elections Canada. This fonds includes:
Some Writs and copies of Writs of election may be found within other record groups. See for example:
The Writs of Election series and single associated file within the records of the Registrar General, 1949-1953.
Material relating to the right to vote can be located in public and private fonds. Women's suffrage was one area of concern for the National Council of Women of Canada.
Aboriginal Canadians living on reserves gained the right to vote in 1960. The following is a voluminous series which would need to be searched according to subject and dates of interest. See for example the following files:
As a national catalogue, AMICUS not only shows the published materials held at Library and Archives Canada but also those located in over 1300 libraries across Canada. AMICUS contains over 30 million records for books, magazines, newspapers, government documents, theses, sound recordings, maps, electronic texts, as well as items in braille and large print.
Using the Advanced Search option in AMICUS and selecting "Publication Type", you can limit your search to "Government publications – Federal/national" or "Government publications – State, prov., terr. etc." You can also narrow your search by language and date, as well as format. Specifying "Web documents" in the latter will limit the search to full-text electronic publications.
Here are some sample Subject Keyword searches:
This tool allows researchers to view geographic locations in order to assist in using census records. While the original purpose of the maps was primarily for their use in defining electoral districts, census districts for the same periods remained essentially the same.