1996 Election Report: Post Polling Processing

Updated: 5 December 2007

Post Polling Processing

The initial counting of the votes conducted on election night is followed by a "fresh scrutiny" commencing on the Monday after polling day. The DROs recount all ordinary votes. Some ballot papers treated as informal on polling night may be admitted to the count by the DRO, and similarly any ballots previously regarded as formal may be classified as informal.

Declaration vote scrutiny

The scrutiny of declaration votes (pre-poll, postal, absent and provisional) also begins after polling day. The scrutiny of declaration votes is conducted in two stages:

  1. an examination of personal elector details on postal vote certificates and declaration envelopes to determine whether the person is entitled to vote; and
  2. a further scrutiny if the elector is entitled to vote. If so, the ballot papers are then admitted to the count and are scrutinised in the same way as ordinary ballot papers.

A postal vote will be accepted for further scrutiny if the DRO is satisfied that:

  • the elector is enrolled (or is entitled to be enrolled) for the division;
  • his or her signature on the postal vote certificate is genuine and properly witnessed; and
  • the vote contained in the envelope was recorded prior to the close of the poll.

A pre-poll, absent or provisional vote will be accepted for further scrutiny if the DRO is satisfied that:

  • the elector is enrolled (or entitled to be enrolled) for the division; and
  • the certificate or declaration has been properly signed and witnessed.

The AEC must wait 13 days after polling day for all postal votes to be received before it can finalise counting.

Scanning (including non-voting and multiple marks)


After an election Certified Lists of electors are electronically scanned for apparent non-voters and possible multiple voting.

The scanners identify from the Certified Lists:

  • whether or not a voter's name has been marked off
  • the name of the polling place and the issuing point at which the voter's name was marked
  • any voters against whose names more than one mark-off has been recorded.

Two reports are produced following scanning:

  1. a report providing the names of those electors against whom no mark has been shown – apparent non-voters; and
  2. a report showing the names of voters against whom more than one mark appears – possible multiple voters. Most multiple markings are readily identified as smudges or stains on the Certified List or as genuine elector or polling official error.

Following identification of apparent non-voters and possible multiple voters DROs write to all these voters seeking details as to why they did not vote or why more than one mark appears against their name on the Certified List. In most instances the DROs' enquiries show that these cases cancel each other out. The small number of names remaining on the reports are investigated.

Cases of apparent multiple markings are examined to determine whether referral to the Australian Federal Police is necessary. A person who does not vote at a federal election has the option of paying a penalty of $20, providing a reason which must be valid and sufficient, or having the matter dealt with in court – in which case they may be fined up to $50 plus court costs.

At the 1996 federal election scanning took place at permanent AEC scanning centres in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland and at temporary locations in Western Australia. Tasmanian lists were scanned in Victoria, Australian Capital Territory lists were scanned in New South Wales and Northern Territory lists were scanned in Queensland.

Scanning commenced at all sites on Monday 4 March 1996.

Declaration of the polls

Once the votes have been counted and a winner has been determined there is a public declaration of the result of the poll. The declaration of the poll for each seat of the House of Representatives is conducted by the relevant DRO at the place of nomination. Similarly, the declaration of the Senate poll is conducted by the AEO for each State and Territory at the place of nomination.

The division of Calwell in Victoria was the first seat declared for the House of Representatives on 7 March 1996. All seats were declared by 28 March 1996.

Senate polls were declared between 21 March and 11 April 1996.

Return of the writs

The writs for an election must be returned within 100 days of their issue. For the 1996 federal election the writs were to be returned by 8 May 1996. All writs were returned by 11 April 1996.