With everything going on this year, it probably feels a little overwhelming to include a presidential election. However, Americans will vote in 2020, and some have already started. The images of long lines at polling places have prompted comparisons to Canada's elections.

This year, the pandemic has made processes like early voting and mail-in ballots essential in the United States. However, there have been complications including state rules about privacy envelopes and limited drop-boxes for ballots.

In response to these stories (and people waiting hours to cast a ballot), there has been renewed praise for Canada's elections, which look quite different than what goes on in the U.S.

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What is Elections Canada?

What might be the biggest difference between Canada and its southern neighbour is the existence of a non-partisan government body that administers elections.

Elections Canada is headed by the Chief Electoral Officer, who serves a 10-year non-renewable term, and is selected by a resolution in the House of Commons, allowing all political parties to have a say in the process.

When an election is called, it is the duty of Elections Canada to ensure that the system is available to all eligible voters, and even to provide public information on how to register and how to cast a vote.

The organization is actually celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it is now the oldest independent electoral commission in the world.

How Do You Register To Vote In Canada?

Much like in the United States, Canadians need to be registered in order to vote.

Unlike in the U.S., though, eligible voters in Canada can actually register right at their polling place as long as they have a government-issued ID proving their identity and current address, as well as someone to vouch for them.

Otherwise, Canadians can choose to register when they complete a federal tax return, or by mail. At election time, they are sent a voter card that lets them know where their polling place is.

Even Canadians who are not yet voting age can set themselves up for future elections through the Register of Future Electors. When they turn 18, they are automatically added to the voter rolls.

How Do You Register To Vote In The United States?

The process of voter registration in the U.S. varies from state to state. The steps for becoming a registered voter are available online.

Unlike Canada, though, there are deadlines to do this.

That means if you do not register by a certain date, you will be ineligible to vote (California is the exception, as it has same-day registration, but your conditional ballot is not counted until the process is complete).

Online voter registration is available in 40 states plus the District of Columbia. Otherwise, citizens can register by mail. Americans can also confirm that they are registered before going to vote.

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