The right to vote in a free and fair election is fundamental to our society and every Canadian is entitled to exercise it free from violations of their privacy. The legal framework that governs your privacy rights in elections is complex and evolving. This guide is here to help you understand:
The following pages have been created to help you navigate your privacy rights across the country.
Your political privacy is governed mainly by election laws. Election laws regulate how your personal information from voters lists and registers of electors is used, what personal information is included in the lists, who the lists are shared with, and more. Essentially, election laws regulate your personal information mainly in relationship with voters lists. Privacy laws, which govern your interests in privacy and access to information in most cases, scarcely apply to political privacy.
Your political privacy is impacted by two major categories of actors: election agencies and political entities. Election agencies are generally not within the scope of access to information requests or privacy complaints under public sector privacy legislation (e.g., Manitoba’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act). Similarly, political entities like political parties are not subject to private sector privacy legislation (e.g., the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) even though they are private organizations.
A register of electors is a permanent database of potential voters. They are often mainly built on information given to the Chief Electoral Officer of the province when a resident registers to vote (the Chief Electoral Office of each province or territory operates under the name “Elections [Province/Territory]”). They are also usually supplemented with information from a variety of sources.
The permanent register/list of potential voters goes by several names from province to province, including:
Election laws clearly and strictly apply to election agencies and political entities who access your personal information through the development and implementation of registers of electors and voters lists. Understanding these databases is key to understanding your political privacy.
Registers of electors often store more of your information than voters lists but are used for strictly electoral purposes by elections staff, as opposed to being shared with politicians like voters lists.
Provinces and territories more commonly outline clear methods of accessing, deleting, or protecting your personal information in registers of electors, since registers are permanent and continuously maintained. Voters lists, usually trimmed-down versions of the registers of electors, are usually impermanent. Often, by removing your information from your province’s register of electors, you protect yourself from privacy concerns that may arise from the distribution of a voters list. To find out how to remove yourself from your province or territory’s register of electors, click on that province or territory’s tab under “Provincial Election Privacy.”
Voters lists are often created during election periods using personal information stored in registers of electors. They typically include less data on each voter than is contained in the register. They are often distributed to members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), political parties, and political candidates.
These recipients are limited in their uses of your information; usually, they can only use it to communicate with you to solicit your vote or a campaign contribution. If they use your information for unauthorized purposes, they may face heavy fines or imprisonment.
It is less common for a province or territory to create a clear avenue for accessing, protecting, or removing your information from a voters list than for doing so with a register of electors. However, removing your information from the register of electors will often prevent it from entering a voters list, which will restrict politicians from accessing your personal information. For more details on your province or territory’s voters list, click on your province or territory’s tab under “Provincial Election Privacy.”
These pages were last updated and reviewed in May of 2023.
The information on these pages only contains general information and guidance; none of the information constitutes legal advice. If you have a specific issue that you believe is a legal problem, the best practice is to consult a lawyer.
The information is non-partisan, dynamic, and ever changing. It is the result of FIPA’s research and public education programs.
If you note something that needs to be added, corrected, or removed, please contact us by email: fipa AT fipa.bc.ca.