As a scrutineer, you have the right to challenge the admission or rejection of any ballot paper at the scrutiny. The grounds for a challenge may be the formality or informality of the ballot paper. You therefore need to know the difference between an informal vote and a formal vote.
For further information on the formality of votes, please refer to Ballot paper formality guidelines.
The scrutiny of ballot papers has two stages:
To help decision makers correctly identify ballot papers as formal or informal, there are:
The ARO at the polling place, DRO at the Fresh scrutiny and the AEO for the Senate are the appropriate decision makers. To assist with the consistent application of the formality principles, decision makers should attempt to look at as many disputed ballot papers as possible at the one time.
If the polling place officials conducting the scrutiny of HoR or referendum ballot papers are in doubt about the formality of a ballot paper they will put it in a separate pile for the ARO to review.
If an ARO is unsure of the formality of any ballot paper, they should always include them with the other informal ballot papers.
All informal ballot papers are checked by the DRO, or the AEO in the case of Senate ballot papers, and by following the above process, the ARO ensures the DRO makes the decision on the formality of possibly contentious ballot papers.
All ballot papers will be required to undergo two tests before progressing through formality checking. Failure of either of these tests will result in an informal ballot paper and no further formality checking will be required.
Generally a ballot paper will carry an official mark (watermark or printed security pattern) and the initials of the issuing officer.
However, ballot papers that do not carry these markings are not necessarily informal. They should be presented to the DRO in the case of HoR or Referendum ballot papers or to the AEO in the case of Senate ballot papers to decide on their formality.
If a ballot paper does not contain the initials of the issuing officer or an official mark, it must be presented to the DRO if it is a HoR or Referendum ballot paper or the AEO in the case of Senate ballot papers who will determine its formality.
A fully printed ballot paper for a division may be altered to become a ballot paper for another division (i.e. the names of the candidates are crossed out by the issuing officer and the names of candidates for the other division are written in their place).
Where ballot papers have been altered by polling officials the vote is still formal if:
NOTE: There is no legal requirement for a ballot paper prepared by an official under s.209(6) or s.209(7) of the Electoral Act to contain a party logo and therefore the absence of a logo does not make the ballot paper informal.
However, irrespective of the way the voter has voted, the ballot paper is informal if:
Example – ballot paper alteration by polling official
This ballot paper is formal
All surnames are different. That is, the ballot paper has been altered with the candidates' surnames only and no two candidates share a surname.
This ballot paper is informal
There is no candidate's name beside the third box.
A ballot paper that has been marked in a way that could identify the voter should be presented to the DRO in the case of HoR and Referendum ballot papers and to the AEO in the case of Senate ballot papers to decide on formality.
Example – ballot paper that may identify a voter
This ballot paper may be informal
If, in the opinion of the DRO, there is sufficient writing on the ballot paper to uniquely identify the voter, the ballot paper is informal.
This ballot paper may be formal
If, in the opinion of the DRO there is not enough information to identify the voter the ballot paper is formal.
There are five overarching principles that must be considered when interpreting the numbers on any ballot paper that has passed the initial two tests. They are:
The assumption needs to be made that an elector who has marked a ballot paper has done so with the intention to cast a formal vote.
When interpreting markings on the ballot paper, these must be considered in line with the intention of the voter.
In the situation where the voter has tried to submit a formal vote, i.e. the ballot paper is not blank or defaced, doubtful questions of form should wherever possible be resolved in the voter's favour.
The intention of the voter must be unmistakeable, i.e. do not assume what the voter was trying to do if it's not clear – only consider what was written on the ballot paper.
By considering the number in each square as one in a series, not as an isolated number, a poorly formed number MAY be recognisable as the one missing from the series.
HoR and Senate ballot papers have different numbering sequence requirements. Whether a numbering sequence is lawful will depend on the type of ballot paper. However, there are some general principles that apply to the assessment of all ballot papers: