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Appointing a scrutineer

Scrutineers play an important role in the election process.

Scrutineers represent candidates or a registered political party, and advise them on the procedures being followed by the NSW Electoral Commission, the election manager and election officials. Their role is to satisfy candidates and registered political parties that the election process is carried out fairly, impartially and with integrity.

Every candidate is free to appoint a scrutineer to observe any production and packaging of ballot papers and any part of technology-assisted voting that may be applicable to the election that is being held (for example, telephone voting for state elections).

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Scrutineer rights and obligations

All scrutineers are to be treated equally by election officials at all times. Information made available to one scrutineer must be made available to all scrutineers present.

Requirements and expectations of scrutineers

A scrutineer may attend each place at which polling is carried out, ballot papers are scrutinised or votes are counted.

A scrutineer must obey the lawful directions of an election official.

At elections administered by the Electoral Commissioner, scrutineers are required to:

  • behave in a professional manner, take responsibility for their own conduct, and be respectful to all participants in the electoral process

  • wear scrutineer identification while at a location at which polling is carried out, ballot papers are scrutinised or votes are counted.

At elections administered by the Electoral Commissioner, it is recommended that scrutineers:

  • attend any staff briefing (at an election location) for an activity they will be a scrutineer for at that location

  • observe all procedures so as to monitor compliance with legislative requirements.

At elections administered by the Electoral Commissioner, a scrutineer can:

  • enter and leave an election location and be replaced by another appointed scrutineer

  • communicate with any person at an election location in regards to scrutineer duties

  • sign election forms as a witness when a witness is required

  • use devices to talk to, or text, another person, as long as the noise level does not interfere with the electoral process being undertaken and those devices are not used to film or record election processes.

At elections administered by the Electoral Commissioner a scrutineer may not:

  • touch ballot papers or declaration vote envelopes, nor any other election material

  • film or record election processes

  • be alone in any room where there are ballot papers

  • bring food or drink near ballot papers.

Who can appoint scrutineers

For elections for councillors and mayors, a scrutineer may only be appointed by a candidate. In the case of candidates belonging to a group, the appointment of a scrutineer to represent the group can be made by any candidate belonging to the group.

A candidate or group cannot be represented by more than one scrutineer at any one place at which polling is carried out, ballot-papers are scrutinised or votes are counted. The separate tables or stations within any building, room or other location at which polling is carried out, ballot papers are scrutinised or voters are counted are taken to be separate places in relation to the allocation of scrutineers.

For constitutional referendums and polls, scrutineers may only be appointed by:

  • the Returning Officer at the request of the General Manager or Mayor of the relevant council

  • the Electoral Commissioner, or

  • the registered officer for a political party registered in the Local Government Register of Political Parties.

Who can and cannot be appointed a scrutineer

A candidate in an election cannot be a scrutineer in relation to the same election or in relation to simultaneously held elections within the same council.

As such, a candidate for mayor or councillor for a council:

  • cannot act as a scrutineer in simultaneously held elections for mayor, constitutional referendums, polls, or other wards within that council, but

  • can act as a scrutineer in an election held for a different council.

Appointing a scrutineer

The Electoral Commissioner will write to registered political parties and provide a timetable of the events that scrutineers can attend.

To appoint a scrutineer, you must complete the Scrutineer appointment form (SE.213).

This form is available from:

  • this website 

  • the NSW Electoral Commission candidate helpdesk, telephone 1300 022 011;

  • the election manager for your district

  • the voting centre manager on election day.

The Scrutineer appointment form (SE.213) must be:

  • signed by the person appointing the scrutineer (a signature stamp is acceptable)

  • signed by the scrutineer in the presence of the voting centre manager, election manager, or a NSW Electoral Commission staff member, as appropriate

  • signed by the scrutineer on each subsequent day that they are in attendance.

What a scrutineer can observe

A scrutineer can:

  • inspect ballot boxes before the commencement of voting

  • be present when a blind or low vision, physically incapacitated or illiterate elector has ballot papers marked by an election official

  • witness the opening and/or closing of a voting centre or early voting centre

  • observe the scrutiny of both postal vote declaration vote envelopes and other declaration vote envelopes at the centralised count centre(s)

  • observe the opening and extraction of ballot papers from postal vote declaration vote envelopes, and other declaration vote envelopes, at the centralised count centre(s)

  • observe all ballot paper counting, both manual and data entry (as applicable), in a voting centre, the election manager's office or the centralised count centre(s), but must not cause delays in the count

  • object to the formality of a ballot paper

  • countersign forms as required by election officials

  • enter and leave the voting centre, early voting centre, declared facility, election manager's office, or centralised count centre(s) at any time and be replaced by another properly-appointed scrutineer and

  • communicate with any person in a voting centre, early voting centre, declared facility, election manager's office or centralised count centre(s), to discharge their duties.

What a scrutineer cannot do

Scrutineers cannot:

  • interfere with, or attempt to influence, any elector within a voting centre, early voting centre or declared facility

  • distribute election material when accompanying election officials on declared facility visits

  • obstruct the access or approaches to a voting centre, early voting centre or declared facility

  • ignore lawful directions of the election manager, election official or NSW Electoral Commission staff and

  • handle or touch ballot papers or declaration vote envelopes, unless assisting an elector.

Use of mobile phones or other electronic equipment

Scrutineers cannot use mobile phones or other electronic equipment to film or record processes inside a voting centre, early voting centre, declared facility, Election Manager’s office or centralised count centre(s).

Scrutineers may use mobile phones inside one of these locations to talk to, or text, another person, as long as the noise level does not interfere with the electoral process being undertaken.

Attendance of scrutineers

Scrutineers may attend at the following locations and observe the following tasks:

Location

Task

Number of scrutineers

Election Manager's office

LA first preference count

*One per candidate per counting point

LA two-candidate preferred count

LC first preference sort

LA data entry process

Early voting centres

Issuing early votes

One per candidate

Declared facility

Issuing declared facility votes

One per candidate

Voting centres

Issuing ordinary votes between 8am – 6pm

One per candidate

Issuing declaration votes between 8am – 6pm

Observe counting of votes after 6pm

*One per candidate per counting point

Centralised counting centre(s)

Scrutiny of declaration envelopes

*One per candidate per scrutiny point

Ballot paper (LA & LC) initial counts and LC data entry process

*One per candidate per counting point

*A counting point, or scrutiny point, might include one or two election officials.