To vote is to approve one of a limited number of options, candidates, motions or positions. Such a choice is exclusive and precludes following any of the other options at the same time or in the same order.

A ballot is an instrument by which one votes - typically secretly to preserve political privacy. A voting system is a method of organizing many people to vote at once using a common ballot on important matters.

An election is any vote where persons, i.e. representatives of a region or officers of an organization, are selected. A referendum is any vote where a position rather than a person is rejected or approved by the public, e.g. on Quebec sovereignty. A ballot may include choices or rankings of candidates, referendum options, etc.

ballot compelexity

In a multi-member electoral district the names of several candidates must appear and in some systems, e.g. the AU electoral system, all must be ranked by every voter. The BSTV+C+P bioregional multi-member district proposal permits separate ranking of parties and candidates, and the even more complex B5AV+C+P proposal requires allocating positive or negative five approval votes among the candidates. The limit on complexity is basically one of public acceptance. In some countries the ballot is already quite complex:

A typical US ballot can run to several pages in length, as many elections are usually conducted at once, and ballot initiatives are common. This may be one reason for resistance to US electoral reform which would potentially have the impact of further complicating the ballots. See butterfly ballot for a related issue.


An electoral system builds on a voting system with other traditions and practices, e.g. a candidate protocol, political party governance, referendum and representative recall/impeachement rules, separation of executive/legislative/judiciary power structures and so on. In any representative democracy, "to run" is to stand as a candidate in an electoral system. The type of ballot used depends on all of these rules as any of the choices must be represented.

See for instance the WUNS ballot proposal.

In a Canadian federal election, Elections Canada sets the standards such candidates meet, the definitions of a federal electoral district, and who is an eligible candidate and eligible voter, typically a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant over 18.

what you can do at openpolitics.ca itself

register to vote in a Canadian federal election

  • link instructions

register to vote in another election

  • add list of such elections and how to do it

compare policy

e-register as a Peoples Parliament voter.