Part 4: Appointing Scrutineers and Special Voting Witnesses

4.1 Introduction

Each candidate at a by-election can appoint persons to be scrutineers and special voting witnesses. Scrutineers and special voting witnesses need to be well briefed on their rights and obligations.

A separate booklet, Information for Scrutineers, is available for download here or hard copies can be obtained from the Electoral Commission or the Returning Officer.

The Returning Officer will provide training for special voting witnesses.

A candidate may not be appointed as a scrutineer.

4.2 Role of scrutineers

Candidates may appoint scrutineers to observe the conduct of the election in the following situations:

Voting places and advance voting places

Scrutineers may observe the issue of votes during election day and advance voting, and the preliminary count in voting places after 7pm. The number of scrutineers for a candidate in a voting place at any one time must not exceed the number of issuing officers designated for the voting place.

Scrutineers may:

  • require an issuing officer to question a voter who the scrutineer suspects of impersonation or double voting
  • communicate to party officials the names of persons who have voted in the voting place
  • observe the preliminary count.

Scrutineers must not talk to voters or help with the count.

Scrutineers may use laptops/tablets, but only on strict conditions. Scrutineers will not be allowed to engage in any activity on these devices which would compromise the secrecy and integrity of the voting place. Laptops can only be used to record name, page and line numbers. Commenting on social media or using video or camera is not permitted.

If scrutineers have any concerns about the conduct of an election in a voting place they should raise them with the Voting Place Manager.

Early count of advance votes

One scrutineer per candidate can attend the early count of advance votes at the Returning Officer’s headquarters which commences at 2.00pm on election day. Scrutineers may not leave the secured counting area in the Returning Officer’s headquarters before voting closes at 7pm without the Returning Officer’s permission.

Special vote declarations

Scrutineers may attend the office of the Registrar of Electors to observe the checking of special vote declarations against the electoral rolls. Only one scrutineer per candidate may attend at any given time.

Scrutiny of the rolls and the official count

One scrutineer per candidate may attend the scrutiny of the rolls and the official count at the Returning Officer’s headquarters unless the Returning Officer allows more.

Judicial recount

Candidates may appoint a scrutineer to attend a judicial recount of electorate votes. The provision is for one scrutineer per candidate unless the Judge allows more.

Hospitals and rest homes

Local party organisations may, with the approval of the person in charge of a hospital or rest home, appoint scrutineers to accompany an electoral official issuing “hospital votes” on or before election day.

4.3 Appointing scrutineers

Before being allowed to serve as a scrutineer, all scrutineers must make a declaration that they will not compromise the secrecy of the poll. The declaration must be on Form E20-S Dec (obtainable from the Returning Officer) and must be made before the Returning Officer, Justice of the Peace, a solicitor, a voting place manager, or an issuing officer. Only the Returning Officer, Justices of the Peace and solicitors can witness the declaration by scrutineers for the count of the early vote.

Scrutineer appointments must be in writing and signed by the candidate. Scrutineers should be provided with a copy of their written appointment to produce to electoral officials. The appointment form can be an original, fax or photocopy. It must specify the voting place that the scrutineer has been appointed to. It must also specify if a person is being appointed for the early count, special vote declarations scrutiny and/or the official count.

The Electoral Commission has an optional form that you can use for appointing scrutineers (Scrutineer App-Cand).

4.4 Special voting witnesses

Candidates may nominate people to be authorised by the Returning Officer as witnesses of special voting declarations. These people may then witness the declarations of voters who cannot get to a voting place on election day.

The Returning Officer may:

  • reject a candidate’s nomination but must give reasons for doing so, or
  • revoke an approval if the person nominated does not comply with the rules for witnessing special vote declarations.

The Returning Officer will not approve special voting witnesses unless they have been trained to the Returning Officer’s satisfaction. This is to avoid voters being disenfranchised by incorrect procedures.

Appointments must be made in writing to the Returning Officer and can be made using the form available for the appointment.

Last updated: 28 March 2017