Scrutineers Handbook: Appendix 1: Offences

Updated: 23 May 2016

Scrutineer offences

The Act describes certain offences that relate particularly to scrutineers.
Section Offence Penalty Comment
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984
ss.218(1) and (3) (s.28 Referendum Act) Interfering with or attempting to influence any elector within the polling place or communicating with any person in the polling place except as is necessary in the discharge of the scrutineer's functions
A scrutineer who commits such a breach, or is guilty of misconduct or fails to obey the lawful directions of the officer-in-charge may be removed from the polling place by the police or a person authorised by the officer-in-charge
$1 000 or six months imprisonment, or both  
s.323 (s.116 Referendum Act) Disclosing any information acquired concerning the vote of any elector in a manner that is likely to enable identification of the elector $1 000 or six months imprisonment, or both Applies to AEC officers and scrutineers
s.335 (s.126 Referendum Act) Exhibiting or leaving in any polling place any card or paper that directs or instructs an elector how to vote $500 Does not apply to official instructions exhibited by proper authority at a polling place
s.341(1) (s.132 Referendum Act) Wearing or displaying a badge or emblem of a candidate or political party in a polling place $1 000 Applies to AEC officers and scrutineers
ss.348(1)(a) and (b) (s.135 Referendum Act) Engaging in misconduct or failing to obey any lawful direction of the person in charge
Applies to anyone at a polling place or counting centre
$500 Applies to any early voting centre, any polling place on election day or any counting centre.
An offender may be removed by the police or anyone else authorised by the person in charge

Other offences

Scrutineers, party workers and other supporters of the candidate should also be aware of various other acts and omissions that constitute an offence during the polling period.
Section Offence Penalty Comment
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984
s.339(1)(c) (s.130(1)(b) Referendum Act) Fraudulently doing an act that results in the destruction or defacement of any nomination paper or ballot paper Six months imprisonment  
s.339(1)(d) (s.130(1)(d) Referendum Act) Fraudulently putting any ballot paper or other paper into the ballot box Six months imprisonment  
s.339(1)(e) (s.130(1)(d) Referendum Act) Fraudulently taking any ballot paper out of any polling place or counting centre Six months imprisonment  
s.339(1)(g) (s.130(1)(f) Referendum Act) Supplying ballot papers without authority Six months imprisonment  
s.339(1)(h) (s.130(1)(g) Referendum Act) Doing an act that results in the unlawful destruction of, taking of, opening of, or interference with, ballot boxes or ballot papers Six months imprisonment  
s.339(1A) (s130 (1A) Referendum Act) Voting more than once in the same election 10 penalty units.
Section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 determines the dollar ($) value of a penalty unit.
 
s.339(1C) (s.130(1C) Referendum Act) Intentionally voting more than once in the same election 60 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment, or both.
Section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 determines the dollar ($) value of a penalty unit.
 
s.339(2) (s130(2) Referendum Act) Engaging in any act that results in the defacement, mutilation, destruction or removal of any notice, list or other document affixed by, or by the authority of, any DRO $500  

Polling place offences

The following acts are prohibited within six metres of the entrance of a polling place on election day or within six metres of a mobile polling team. These provisions apply to party workers, scrutineers and candidates' representatives.

When a building used as a polling place is situated in enclosed grounds and the DRO has authorised the officer-in-charge to display a notice signed by the DRO at each entrance stating that the grounds are part of the polling place, those grounds are considered to be part of the polling place for the purposes of these offences.

Polling place offences
Section Offence Penalty Comment
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 & Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984
s.340(1) (a) (s.131 Referendum Act) Canvassing for votes $500 Consequently, party workers and supporters distributing how-to-vote cards must keep off polling place premises or grounds, and only hand out how-to-vote cards to electors outside the six metre limit
s.340(1) (b) (s.131 Referendum Act) Soliciting the vote of any elector $500  
s.340(1) (c) (s.131 Referendum Act) Inducing an elector not to vote for a particular candidate $500  
s.340(1) (d) (s.131 Referendum Act) Inducing an elector not to vote at the election $500  
s.340(1) (e) (s.131 Referendum Act) Exhibiting any notice or sign (other than an official notice) relating to the election $500  

These acts are also prohibited on election day if they involve broadcasting by electronic equipment and are clearly audible within six metres of the entrance to a polling place.

For example, a person who is using a loudspeaker or radio equipment attached to a car to solicit for votes will breach the provision if the car drives past a polling place and the loudspeaker broadcast can be heard at the polling place entrance even if the road is 20 metres away from the polling place.

A person found guilty of this offence can be fined up to 5 penalty units.

Offences under crime legislation

There are also offence provisions in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and the Crimes Act 1914 that are relevant to the election process. These include forgery (Criminal Code, Part 7.7), false or misleading statements (Criminal Code, Part 7.4) and unlawful destruction of Commonwealth property (Crimes Act, s.29).