City of Toronto

Election Dictionary

An alphabetical list of election related terms. 

Advance Vote

A voting opportunity which happens before election day.  Advance vote can be one day, or multiple days.


A piece of paper containing the names of the candidates and the office they are running for. Electors vote by connecting the head and tail of the arrow pointing to the candidate of their choice.

By-election (for office of Mayor, Councillor or Trustee)

An election that takes place outside of a general election.

Once council or a school board has decided to hold a by-election, the clerk is in charge of conducting the by-election. The council or board does not decide when nomination day or voting day will be. These dates are determined by the clerk.

Nominations open when the council has passed the by-law ordering the by-election, or when the school board has passed a resolution ordering the by-election and sent it to the clerk who will conduct it. The filing of nominations closes at 2 p.m. on nomination day.

The clerk must set nomination day for a by-election to be no later than 60 days after council passes a by-law that the by-election is required, a school board sends a resolution to the clerk indicating that a by-election is required, or a court orders a by-election.

Voting day will be 45 days after nomination day.

City Clerk

The City Clerk is an Officer of the City, responsible for the duties of the Municipal Clerk as  prescribed in the City of Toronto Act and other provincial legislation, including the Municipal Elections ActThe position reports to City Council legislatively, and to the City Manager for administrative purposes

The clerk is responsible for conducting and administering the elections for municipal council, as well as local school boards. The clerk's broad powers and responsibilities during an election include:

  • running the City's elections and by-elections
  • creating forms, policies and procedures
  • communicating to voters
  • educating and managing candidates
  • overseeing candidate financial disclosure
  • managing the contribution rebate program

City Clerk Office Locations

Election information is available from the Elections and Registry Services counters of the City Clerk's Office from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the following locations:

City Councillor

City Council is composed of the Mayor and 44 Councillors who make decisions on behalf of their constituents – the people who vote for them in the 44 wards. Issues are identified by the public, through staff research, as follow-up to existing programs, services or policies or as part of the everyday work of running a city and achieving Council's priorities. Term of Office is four years.


Money, goods or services given to a candidate for their campaign are contributions.

Contributions include:

  • The ticket price for a fund-raising event.
  • The difference of the amount paid and the market value of a good or service sold at a fund-raising event.
  • The difference between the amount paid and the market value of a good or service purchased for the campaign.
  • Any unpaid but guaranteed balance of a campaign loan.

Contribution Limit

The limit on contributions from a single contributor in money, goods or services is:

  • $2,500 for mayoralty candidates
  • $750 for councillor candidates


Someone who makes a contribution to a candidate's election campaign.


A statement declaring that whatever said is the truth.

Election Day

Municipal Elections happen every four years on the fourth Monday of October. The next municipal election will happen on:

Monday, October 27, 2014
10 a.m. to 8 p.m

On this day eligible electors can vote once for Mayor, once for City Councillor (in the ward where they live). They may also be permitted to vote once for School Board Trustee (based on school support and the ward where they live).

Elector ( also known as Eligible Elector or Voter )

A person who is eligible to vote in the municipal election. 

You can vote in the City of Toronto municipal election if you are:

  • a Canadian citizen, and
  • at least 18 years old, and
  • a resident of the City of Toronto, or
  • a non-resident owner or tenant of land in the City of Toronto or their spouse, and
  • not prohibited from voting under any law.

You may only vote once in the City of Toronto's municipal election regardless of how many properties you own or rent within the city. 

If you live in the city and own or rent more than one property, you must vote in the ward where you live.

Electoral System

The City of Toronto uses a first-past-the-post system. In this system, the candidate elected is the one who receives more votes than any other candidate.

Electronic Financial Filing System (EFFS)

EFFS is an online program that is available to all candidates and allows them to: Track all contributions, Print receipts, Import scanned signature for receipt purposes, Create an electronic file of receipts (ability to email directly to contributors), Link one contributor to multiple contributions, Be notified of any contributions that exceed the allowable limit, Input expenses, Input fund-raising events, Correctly calculate all contributions, income and expenses as needed on the financial statement, Display contribution information (amount of contributions, list of contributors who contributed over $100) on the financial statement, Produce the financial statement on the prescribed form, Submit contributions electronically, Set up accounts for campaign staff and monitor activity of those accounts.


Any expense incurred in whole or in part for goods or services for a candidate's campaign is a campaign expense. It includes the market value of any goods held in opening inventory (such as signs and brochures) and any contributions of goods or services to a candidate during the campaign period.

Householder (also known as Key Election Information)

A communications piece that is delivered to every household in the City. It provides electors with information on how to cast their vote, key election dates and ways to obtain information in languages other than English.


The Mayor acts as chief executive officer of City Council, leads and represents the City in dealings with residents, elected officials, dignitaries and staff. The Mayor has a duty to conduct the business of the City in ways that are transparent, honest, efficient and inclusive. Responsible to ensure that City Council remains accountable and accessible to the public, the Mayor must uphold and carry out duties outlined in the City of Toronto Act, 2006 or any other Act. Term of Office is four years.


An election, event, organization or person in which there is no formally declared association with a political party affiliation, bias, or designation.


An individual who owns or rents property in the City of Toronto, but lives outside the City.

Qualifying Address

A "qualifying address" means an address of a property within the City of Toronto that an elector (or their spouse) owns or rents.


The permanent lodging place to which, whenever absent, a person intends to return.


An individual who lives within the City of Toronto.

School Board

In Toronto there are four school boards each with their own ward boundaries that are different from the City's wards:

Two English:

  • Toronto District School Board - 22 Public school trustees elected in 22 wards
  • Toronto Catholic School Board - 12 Catholic trustees elected in 12 wards

Two French:

  • Conseil scolaire de Viamonde - 3 French public trustees elected in 3 wards
  • Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud - 2 French Catholic trustees elected in 2 wards

School Board Trustee

School Board Trustees are elected to approve the annual budget, and establish policies authorized by the Education Act1990. Trustees monitor and carry out policies and programs for the Ministry of Education and the school board. They consult and represent the citizens in their ward. The number of elected trustees is based on the population in the board's area of jurisdiction. Term of office is four years.


A person representing a candidate at the voting location to observe the voting process.

Secrecy Folder

A folder in which a ballot can be placed to conceal the names of the candidates and the marks made on the ballot by a voter.


Also known as: vote tabulator, vote counting equipment.

A tabulator is a digital optical scan machine that reads and records how ballots are marked and produces election results. Each vote tabulator has a memory card which is programmed for a specific voting place.  The programming allows the vote tabulator to accept ballots only for that ward and to reject over-voted and unmarked ballots.  The memory card also stores the votes.

Vote tabulators are used during the advance vote period and on election day.


A vacancy occurs on a municipal council or a school board when a sitting member resigns, dies or becomes ineligible to hold office. The court can also declare a seat vacant.

After the seat has been declared vacant by a council or the court, the council has 60 days to decide whether to fill the vacancy by appointment or by holding a by-election. A school board has 90 days to decide whether to fill the vacancy by appointment or by holding a by-election.

A vacancy on a council must be filled unless the vacancy occurs within 90 days before voting day in the next general election. A vacancy on a school board must be filled unless the vacancy occurs within one month before voting day in the next general election.

Vote Counting Equipment

Also known as tabulator or vote tabulator.



An "elector" becomes a "voter" when he or she accepts a ballot at a voting location.

Voter Information Card

A card sent to every elector whose name appears on the voters' list. It tells electors when and where they can cast their ballots during the advance vote and on election day. Cards will be delivered by mail in early October of an election year.

Voters' List

The list of names and addresses of eligible electors used at the voting location.

Voting Day

Voting day means the day on which the final vote is to be taken in an election.  Also known as election day.

Voting Equipment

Technology used during the municipal election. Election Services uses the following voting equipment:

Voting Place

A building or part of a building or other facility at which voting is conducted.

Voting Screen

The place at the voting location where voters go to mark their ballot in private.


A geographical area represented by a member of Council. There are 44 wards in the City of Toronto.

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