Federal Elections Comparison Table

ComparableCanadaUS
Size of country

37.6 million people

9.98 million km2

328.2 million people

9.8 million km

Type of countryFederationFederation
Type of democracyRepresentative democracyRepresentative democracy
System of governmentConstitutional monarchyFederal republic
Head of StateQueen Elizabeth II (represented in Canada by the Governor General)President
Head of governmentPrime MinisterPresident
Federal representativesElected representatives to Parliament: 338
  • 338 members of Parliament (MPs) elected to the House of Commons
  • 105 senators, appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister

Elected representatives to Congress: 538 

  • 435 members of the House of Representatives (congressional representatives)
  • 100 senators
  • 3 electors from the District of Columbia
Who can vote?    Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old. The rules are the same across Canada.Most US citizens who are at least 18 years old. Each state has its own rules. For example, some people with a felony conviction cannot vote.
How do you get on the voters list?You can register at any time to be on the National Register of Electors, including on election day. The rules are the same across Canada.In most states, voters have to register before election day to be able to vote. The process differs from state to state.
How often do federal elections happen?

While Canada’s fixed-date election law calls for a federal election to be held every 4 years, an election can be called sooner or later, as long as it is not more than 5 years from the previous election. This happens most commonly in a minority government situation.

All elections are on a fixed schedule:

President and Vice-President: 4 years

Members of the House of Representatives: 2 years 

Senators: 6 years (every 2 years, one third of the Senate’s seats are up for election).

What type of election system does the country have?    First Past the Post. In this system, the candidate with the most votes is elected.First Past the Post. In this system, the candidate with the most votes is elected.
What does a ballot look like?

Same format across Canada. There is only one person to vote for: your local representative in Parliament.

The ballot:

  • includes the names of the candidates in your riding with the party they belong to, if any
  • is in both official languages
  • is in alphabetical order

Different format in every state. There are several items to be voted for, including candidates and laws.

The ballot includes: 

  • presidential and vice-presidential candidates
  • congressional representatives
  • senators
  • state representatives

The ballot can include:

  • local officials (judges, school board members, etc.) 
  • referendums on laws or bills
Who do you vote for?Your local representative in Parliament (not for the Prime Minister).    
  • your presidential and vice-presidential candidates
  • your congressional representative
  • your senator
  • your state representatives
  • other
How does your vote count?Citizens vote directly for the member of Parliament in their riding. The party with the most seats forms the Government and its leader becomes the Prime Minister.

Citizens vote indirectly for a President and Vice-President through the Electoral College. The Electoral College officials vote directly for the President and Vice-President.

Citizens vote directly for local Congress and Senate candidates. 
 

How many political parties can there be?

No limit to the number of parties. 

The current House of Commons has representatives from five parties and independents. 

Most senators are independent, but some are affiliated with the Conservative Party.

No limit to the number of parties. 

The House of Representatives is currently split between Democrat and Republican seats, with one seat held by another party.

The Senate is divided between Democrats and Republicans, with 2 independent senators.

Who organizes the federal election?One organization, Elections Canada. This non-partisan independent agency reports directly to parliament. Elections Canada makes sure that the election is carried out in the same way across the country.Because elections are state-run, a different organization organizes the election in each state. This means that elections are run differently in every state and sometimes even at the local level. There are about 13,000 entities involved in organizing the US federal election.
What voting options are available?

All electors have the same options to make sure they can exercise their right to vote.

They can vote on election day, at their advance poll, at a local Elections Canada office, or by mail.

Voting options vary by state. 

For example, in some states all voters are sent a ballot to vote by mail; in others, you can vote by mail if you request a ballot, and in others you can only vote by mail if you have a valid reason.