While electoral officials will not always admit it, scrutineers play an important role in the transparency of elections.
Scrutineers are appointed by candidates as their representatives in observing the count. Scrutineers have the right to check the administrative paper work for the count, to observe all ballot papers as they are counted, to observe the checking of declaration envelopes, to challenge votes and request disputed ballot papers be tagged for adjudication. And they also play a role in spotting errors by counting staff.
If they represent one of the final candidates in the race, scrutineers perform another informal role on behalf of their candidate. Preferential voting means scrutineers want to closely observe ballot papers cast for lower polling candidates who will be excluded from the count. Scrutineers try to tally the destination preferences from these ballot papers, the flows of preferences to the final two candidates in the contest.
Since Electoral Commissions began to conduct indicative preference counts on election night, preference tallying by scrutineers has become less important. Now there are official counts that help parties know the close contests on election night. With this knowledge, the best scrutineers can be sent to the tightest counts for the post-election check count.
But what if there is no official preference count, and scrutineers don’t attend to do their two-candidate preferred estimates?
Exactly that happened in last month’s contest for Alice Springs Lord Mayor. One candidate was well ahead on first preferences. With no indicative preference count, and with no scrutineers doing their own preference counts, it wasn’t until the distribution of preferences that the leading candidate discovered he had been defeated.Read More »Alice Springs Mayor’s Two Vote Victory shows why Scrutineers Matter