Candidates Handbook: Scrutineers

Updated: 20 May 2016

The Act

  • Part XVI, 'The polling'
  • Part XVIII, 'The scrutiny'

As a candidate you have a range of clearly defined rights and responsibilities, but you are not permitted to participate in the administrative conduct of an election.

Because of this exclusion you have the right to appoint scrutineers to represent you at polling places and during the various stages of counting of ballot papers (the scrutiny).

The Scrutineers Handbook sets out how the law provides for the appointment of scrutineers, as well as the rights and responsibilities of scrutineers.

What is the role of scrutineers?

On behalf of candidates, scrutineers have the right to be present in order to check any possible irregularities when the ballot boxes are sealed, when they are opened, and when the votes are sorted and counted.

Scrutineers may observe:

  • the polling in a polling place
  • the scrutiny in a counting centre
  • the preliminary scrutiny of declaration envelopes
  • the further scrutiny of declaration votes
  • the fresh scrutiny of all votes.

Appointment of scrutineers by candidates

At early voting and during polling

The Act s.200DA and s.217

You may appoint scrutineers to represent you at every polling place.

However, no more than one scrutineer per candidate is allowed for mobile polling or in an early voting centre at the one time and no more than one scrutineer per candidate is allowed for each issuing point at a polling place on election day.

You appoint scrutineers by completing a scrutineer appointment form for each scrutineer. This can be obtained from the AEC website or any AEC divisional office.

You must give the name and residential address of the scrutineer and sign the form. A facsimile of your signature is acceptable.

You may fax the form to the DRO or the Officer in Charge of a polling place, if such facilities are available.

At the preliminary scrutiny of declaration votes

The DRO conducts the preliminary scrutiny of declaration vote envelopes. This process determines which declaration votes are admissible and can proceed to further scrutiny. The number of scrutineers permitted per candidate for the preliminary scrutiny is limited to the number of officers engaged in the scrutiny.

The preliminary scrutiny of early declaration vote envelopes can begin on the Monday before election day. This helps the DRO begin the further scrutiny of these types of declaration votes promptly after election day.

Early declaration vote envelopes are checked to ensure they have been signed by the voter and that the voter is correctly enrolled.

Any envelopes requiring further investigation will be put aside until after the close of polling.

The DRO will contact you before the preliminary scrutiny to advise you of its times, dates and locations.

The Scrutineers Handbook is available on the AEC website, from all AEC offices or by phoning 13 23 26.

No declaration vote envelope can be opened or ballot papers scrutinised before the close of the poll.

At the scrutiny

The Act, s.264

You may also appoint scrutineers to represent you at the checking and counting of the ballot papers after the close of polling. The number of scrutineers who may represent you at each counting centre is limited to the number of officers engaged in the counting of ballot papers.

The appointment of a scrutineer must be made in writing and given or sent to the officer conducting the scrutiny at the counting centre. You must sign the appointment form (a facsimile of your signature is acceptable), which must give the name and address of the scrutineer. Once again, a fax is acceptable if these facilities are available.

You may use the same form to appoint scrutineers for both the polling and the scrutiny.

You may scrutineer on behalf of another candidate at a scrutiny as long as the ballot papers being scrutinised are not related to the election in which you are a candidate. For example, a House of Representatives candidate in Division A may be a scrutineer in Division B. You should check with the DRO or AEO (as appropriate) before making or accepting such an appointment to scrutineer.

At the further scrutiny of declaration votes

The DRO conducts the further scrutiny of HoR and referendum ballot papers and a DRO Senate count of all Senate ballot papers. At the further scrutiny/DRO Senate count, declaration vote envelopes which have passed the preliminary scrutiny are opened, and the ballot papers extracted and counted.

The DRO will contact you before the further scrutiny/DRO Senate count to advise you of its times, dates and locations.

Scrutineers have the same rights and responsibilities at a further scrutiny as they have at the scrutiny of ballot papers in a counting centre.

The actual scrutiny of Senate ballot papers is done by the AEO at the Central Senate Scrutiny (CSS) centre in the weeks following election night. Scrutineers have the same rights and responsibilities at the CSS scrutiny as they have at a HoR scrutiny undertaken by a DRO.

Scrutineers Handbook

More detailed information concerning the rights, duties, powers and functions of scrutineers during polling and scrutiny is contained in the Scrutineers Handbook.

The Scrutineers Handbook also explains the different methods of voting, matters relating to the formality and informality of House of Representatives and Senate ballot papers, and the conduct of House of Representatives and Senate scrutinies.