Scrutineers Handbook: Becoming a scrutineer

Updated: 20 May 2016

The Act

  • Part II, 'Administration'

This chapter gives you some essential background on who is responsible for conducting the election, the different roles of the people you are likely to meet on and after election day, and expanded information on the appointment of scrutineers.

Australian Electoral Commission

Federal elections, by-elections and referendums are conducted by the AEC.

The AEC has a National Office in Canberra, an office in each of the state capital cities and Darwin, and offices providing electoral services for House of Representatives electoral divisions.

In each state and the Northern Territory, an AEO is responsible for the management of electoral activities within their state or territory. An AEO for the Australian Capital Territory is appointed temporarily for each election period.

The AEO is the returning officer for the Senate election in the state/territory.

Each electoral division has a DRO who is responsible for the electoral administration in that division, including conducting elections in that division.

The DRO is the returning officer for the House of Representatives election in the division.

At the polling place

At the polling place, you are likely to come into contact with several people who have an official role.

For each election, the DRO arranges where the polling places will be and appoints the polling officials for the division.

Under the provisions of the Act, the officer in charge of each polling place is called the Presiding Officer during polling – from 8am to 6pm on election day. From 6pm, however, during the counting of the votes (the scrutiny), this officer is called the ARO.

To overcome confusion, the AEC commonly uses the term officer in charge to refer to both the Presiding Officer and ARO. Officer in charge is the term you are most likely to hear in the polling place. Most other staff employed in polling places work as issuing officers or enquiry officers. Issuing officers issue ballot papers to voters. Enquiry officers assist voters with problems that may occur during the conduct of the poll.

The Act, ss.348(1)(c), 348(3)

Other than polling officials, scrutineers and electors intending to vote, no one is permitted in the polling place during the polling, except by permission of the officer in charge.

Appointment of scrutineers

The candidate must sign the scrutineer appointment form and give the name and address of the scrutineer. The form may be provided in person to the DRO or the officer in charge of a polling place, or by fax if such facilities are available.

Scrutineers may be appointed to act as a scrutineer during both the polling and the scrutiny, or different people may be appointed for each process.

The scrutineer appointment form is used to appoint scrutineers for early voting, election day, and the scrutiny. Multiple forms are required if you are scrutineering at more than one venue or on more than one occasion.

Also included on the appointment form is an undertaking that each scrutineer must sign. Undertakings scrutineers are required to make include:

  • not to divulge any information with respect to the vote of an elector
  • not to interfere with or attempt to influence the vote of an elector
  • not to communicate with any person in the polling place except so far as necessary in the discharge of their functions
  • not to use any image-recording device to record images of ballot papers or declaration envelopes.

Only one scrutineer per candidate is allowed:

  • for each early voting centre
  • for each mobile polling team
  • for each issuing point in a polling place on election day
  • for each officer counting the votes during the scrutiny.

Scrutineers attending any form of mobile polling must organise their own transportation.

Identification badge

When you attend a polling place or a counting centre, the AEC will supply you with a badge that identifies you as a scrutineer (the Identification Badge) and a scrutineer's lanyard. Whenever you are acting in the role of a scrutineer, you must hang the Identification Badge on the scrutineer's lanyard on the front of your body and above your waist.

You must return your Identification Badge if you leave the polling place or counting centre at any time.