Scrutineer handbook for the 2020 General Election

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Appointment

Electorate candidates may appoint scrutineers to observe various stages of the election process:

  • the issuing of votes in voting places and advance voting places and the preliminary count in voting places on election night, 17 October 2020
  • the early count of advance votes from 9am on election day in the Returning Officer’s headquarters, or in some cases at another location as advised by the Returning Officer
  • the overseas vote count in Wellington
  • the checking of special vote declarations in the office of the Registrar of Electors
  • the scrutiny of the rolls in the Returning Officer’s headquarters
  • the official count in the Returning Officer’s headquarters
  • judicial recounts of electorate votes (if required).

Note: A candidate cannot act as a scrutineer.

List only candidates cannot appoint scrutineers.

Party secretaries of registered parties contesting the party vote at a general election may appoint scrutineers to observe:

  • the issue of votes in voting places and advance voting places, and the preliminary count in voting places where their party is contesting the party vote at a general election but not standing an electorate candidate in that electorate
  • judicial recounts of party votes
  • the allocation of party list seats by the Electoral Commission.

For the 2020 General Election, there will be a centralised count of overseas votes at the Electoral Commission’s overseas vote processing centre in Wellington.

Appointment in writing

Your appointment as a scrutineer must be in writing. It can be an original, fax or photocopy. You should keep this with you and show it to the relevant electoral official wherever you act as a scrutineer. It must specify the place or places that you have been appointed to, and/or whether you have been appointed for vote issuing and preliminary count, early count, checking of special votes, overseas vote count, the scrutiny of the rolls, or the official count.

If you are going to be a scrutineer at the official count at electorate headquarters, or for any duties other than attending at voting places (e.g. the early count at headquarters), candidates should advise the Returning Officer that you will be attending.

Candidates can use the appointments form at the back of this handbook.

Declaration of secrecy

Before being allowed to act as a scrutineer, you must complete a declaration that you will not infringe the secrecy of voting and not disclose any information acquired in your role as a scrutineer except as permitted by the Electoral Act. For example, you can share information about who has voted, but must not share information about results before they are announced.

A copy of the declaration form is attached to this handbook.

The declaration can be made before a Justice of the Peace, solicitor or Returning Officer.

If you are appointed to a voting place, the declaration may also be made before an electoral official at the voting place. Keep the declaration with you.

If you are appointed to attend the checking of special vote declarations, you can make the declaration of secrecy before the Registrar of Electors.

Remuneration

You do not get paid by the Electoral Commission to be a scrutineer.

Age limit for scrutineers

The law does not set a minimum or maximum age for being a scrutineer. However, you need to be old enough to understand the secrecy declaration and the rules you must follow. 16 years old and over is recommended.

Number of scrutineers allowed

A candidate can appoint scrutineers for all or some voting places and advance voting places. 

However, our safety measures for COVID-19 will mean there is a limit on the number of scrutineers that can fit inside a voting place at any one time.

To address this the Electoral Commission will work with candidates and parties to coordinate the number of scrutineers attending at any one time.

Each candidate can also appoint:

  • one scrutineer to attend the early count of advance votes at the Returning Officer’s headquarters
  • one scrutineer, at any given time, to attend the scrutiny of the rolls and the official count, unless the Returning Officer allows more
  • one scrutineer, at any given time, to attend the Registrar of Electors to observe the checking of special vote declarations against the electoral rolls.

Scrutiny at the voting place

Scrutineers can be present at voting places and advance voting places to observe the issue of votes.  If you are appointed for this you may:

  • raise your hand and indicate to the voting place manager, remaining seated if you can, that you wish to ask an issuing officer to question a voter whom you suspect of voting more than once or voting in someone else’s name
  • record and communicate to party officials the names of persons who have voted in the voting place
  • observe the preliminary count (see below for more information).

As part of our COVID-19 safety measures, issuing officers will keep a record of ordinary voters’ page and line numbers which the Voting Place Manager will make available for you to photograph (e.g. with your mobile phone) rather than physically handle, at regular intervals.

Opening times for voting

Advance voting will start on Saturday 3 October.  The opening times for advance voting places will be published by 19 September on the vote.nz website or can be confirmed by contacting the Returning Officer.

Voting places on election day are open between 9am and 7pm. Please be there before 8.45am to allow time for your appointment, declaration of secrecy, health and safety briefing and seating before voting commences at 9am.

What to do when you arrive

When you arrive, you will need to make yourself known to the Voting Place Manager. Show your appointment letter for that voting place.

You will be asked to sanitise your hands and sign in and out for security purposes. This will also ensure we have information to enable contact tracing, in case this is necessary due to COVID-19. 

The Voting Place Manager will ask you to read a scrutineer briefing card and will provide a health and safety briefing, give you a scrutineer label and show you where to sit, before the voting place opens.

You should park away from the voting place entrance.

Seating

Scrutineers must sit in the allocated seats which will be along one side of the voting place, facing the voter queues. While you would usually sit behind an issuing officer, this is not possible in 2020 with our COVID-19 safety measures.

You should follow the Voting Place Manager’s directions about where you can sit, as well as any directions about complying with safety measures.

Scrutineers for other candidates may also be sitting along the side of the voting place. It is important to keep your interactions with other scrutineers discreet and co-operative.

As mentioned, the number of scrutineers who can fit in a voting place will be limited and we are working with parties and candidates to coordinate numbers.

Scrutineer label

Please wear the label identifying you as a candidate scrutineer. The Voting Place Manager will provide this to you. It is expected that this will be worn alongside any rosette to avoid voters being confused or thinking there are electoral officials wearing party rosettes.

Party lapel badges

You may wear a party lapel badge in public and in the voting place. This must be a badge or rosette designed to be worn on the lapel and bearing the party’s name, slogan or logo, but not a candidate’s name. It may be worn anywhere on your person, but may not be displayed on other items, for example on a bag.

Clothing promoting a party, candidate or referendum option

On election day, you must not wear clothing (such as t-shirts) that constitutes a referendum advertisement or election advertisement (e.g. promotes a candidate, party, or referendum option). This includes campaign items like t-shirts with candidates, party logos or slogans.

During advance voting, such items are not permitted within 10 metres of the advance voting place entrance. This includes vehicle signage if you do park near the voting place.
If voters complain about your presence, refer the complaint to the Voting Place Manager.

Use of technology

Scrutineers may only use electronic devices, such as phones or tablets, if:

  • no comments are made on social media about voting, and
  • cameras are not used except to photograph the record of page and line numbers which will be provided at regular intervals by the Voting Place Manager

Scrutineers must not do anything on these devices to compromise the secrecy and integrity of the voting place. 

Other photography or filming is only allowed in a voting place with the prior approval of the Returning Officer.  

Conduct of scrutineers at voting places Inside the voting place, the following rules apply to scrutineers: 

  • no communicating with any voter.  This includes talking to or greeting family, friends or acquaintances in the voting place. 

The Electoral Act makes it an offence for scrutineers to talk to voters in the voting place.

  • no touching voting materials including voting papers or EasyVote cards at any point
  • no interfering with a voter at the voting place.  It is also an offence to try to influence or advise the voter on their vote
  • no getting within 1 metre of voters or staff, or leaving your allocated seat, as far as possible
  • no blogging, tweeting or otherwise communicating via social media about what is happening in a voting place.   

The Voting Place Manager is required to maintain order and keep the peace in the voting place.  Causing a disturbance, unnecessarily obstructing proceedings at the voting place or wilfully acting in defiance of the lawful directions of the Voting Place Manager are all offences under the Electoral Act.   

If voters complain about your presence, refer the complaint to the Voting Place Manager or an electoral official in charge.

If the Voting Place Manager has concerns about the behaviour of a scrutineer, they may seek the advice of a Mobile Manager or the Returning Officer. If the matter cannot be resolved and is becoming a disturbance or obstructing the voting process, the Returning Officer will ask the candidate to withdraw the appointment of the scrutineer.  

Your campaign team may bring you refreshments. This may need to happen outside the voting place, because our COVID-19 safety measures may prevent you accessing the kitchen if the voting place has one.  Hot drinks and food should not be consumed while sitting in the voting place.  Note that the Electoral Commission does not supply food or drink for scrutineers. Toilet facilities may be available your use. 

Activity around voting places

On election day there is a ban on electioneering activity. You must not obstruct voters approaching the voting place. During advance voting, election material must not be displayed or distributed within 10 metres of the entrance to the advance voting place.

Raising concerns at the voting place

Raise any concerns about anything you observe in the voting place with the Voting Place Manager. Do not raise concerns directly with other electoral staff in the voting place. Go through the Voting Place Manager in order to ask an Issuing Officer to question a voter about whether they have voted more than once.

Raise your concerns discreetly, recognising that the Voting Place Manager may have a range of other priorities. They may seek advice from a Mobile Manager or the Returning Officer before coming to a view. If you are not satisfied with their decision, you may raise the matter with your party or campaign manager who may discuss it with the Returning Officer or the National Office of the Electoral Commission.

It is important that ongoing debate does not disrupt the voting place and that you do not directly intervene in the voting or counting processes.

Questioning a voter who may be voting more than once

If you think a voter is voting more than once you can raise your hand and indicate to the Voting Place Manager that you want the Issuing Officer to question the voter. Remain seated if you can. The questions the Issuing Officer must put to the voter are:

a) Are you the person whose name appears as (first name, surname) in the electoral roll now in force for the (name of district) Electoral District?

b) Have you already voted at this election?

The voter is asked to write their answers to the questions and sign a form.

If a voter states they have already voted, they are advised they are not able to vote again at this election. If the voter states they have not already voted they will be issued with a ballot paper.

Voters requiring assistance

Any voter that is wholly or partially blind, unable to read or write for whatever reason, or not sufficiently familiar with the English language to vote without assistance is entitled to be assisted by either a person that they choose (such as a friend or family member) or an electoral official. It is not appropriate for a scrutineer to assist a voter. be assisted by either a person that they choose (such as a friend or family member) or an electoral official. It is not appropriate for a scrutineer to assist a voter. 

It is not appropriate for you to challenge a voter’s eligibility to vote with assistance.  Raise any concerns with the Voting Place Manager.

Scrutineers at electorate headquarters

If you have been appointed to scrutineer duties at electorate headquarters there are security procedures that you must abide by.

You will:

  • sign in on arrival and out on departure for each day,• show your appointment letter and declaration of secrecy (or complete this) to the Returning Officer or their delegate
  • visibly wear a visitor’s name tag at all times and return this before leaving for the day
  • be given a health and safety briefing on your first visit
  • be escorted by an Electoral Commission staff member at all times
  • only enter areas of electorate headquarters as specified by the Returning Officer
  • observe physical distancing requirements in place for people in electorate HQ.

As with voting places, please do not enter if you may have COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who may have COVID-19. 

Early count of advance votes 

Advance votes (other than advance special votes) may be counted from 9.00am on election day at the Returning Officer’s headquarters, or another location, if the Returning Officer can provide an appropriate secure area for the count.   

If you are appointed to observe the early count of advance votes you should arrive at least 30 minutes before the count starts.

You will not be able to leave the secure area before 7pm without the Returning Officer’s permission so bring sufficient food, drink and any necessary medication for the day. 

The count is completed under strict security.  At least one security guard will be present.  Scrutineers are not allowed to take phones, laptops or other communication devices into the secure area.   

It is an offence to disclose the results of the early count before the close of voting at 7pm.

You should not intervene or become involved in the counting process. Raise any concerns with the Returning Officer or Process Leader responsible for the early count.

Preliminary count on election night

If you are appointed as an election day scrutineer you may observe the preliminary count of votes from your voting place provided you are inside the voting place before the close of voting at 7pm. Any scrutineer not within the voting place when the doors are locked at 7pm will not be admitted. You can leave before the count finishes, but you will not be readmitted.

A law change means that the count may occur at a separate location from the voting place, if necessary for security. If this happens you or your candidate will be told. You will be permitted to accompany ballot boxes to the counting place, with the electoral officials.

You should not intervene or become involved in the counting process. Raise any concerns with the Voting Place Manager.

As voting has closed you may phone results back to your campaign headquarters from the voting place.

In the event of serious emergency or disaster, the Electoral Commission may adjourn voting in affected places. If this happens then the Electoral Commission might decide not to announce the preliminary result until voting has finished nationwide. If so, you will be prohibited from sharing any information about the preliminary result and doing so would be an offence.

Scrutiny of the rolls

You may be appointed to observe the scrutiny of the rolls process at electorate headquarters after election day.

This involves electoral rolls being scanned and scrutinised. The names of special voters are recorded to compile a list of everyone who voted in the electorate (the master roll). The master roll also includes the names of people who enrolled in the electorate between writ day and election day, as well as listing those electors who have been removed from the roll between writ day and election day. The master roll is also used to identify any dual voters whose votes are then extracted.

Checking of special vote declarations

You may be appointed to attend the office of the Registrar of Electors after election day to observe the checking of special vote declarations against the electoral rolls where a voter’s name cannot be found during the scrutiny of the rolls process. If the Registrar can confirm that the voter is qualified to vote, the vote will be counted.

Official count

If you have been appointed as a scrutineer to observe the scrutiny of the rolls, you may also be present at the official count after election day (and at any judicial recount of electorate votes). This is held at the electorate headquarters. Candidates should advise the Returning Officer of who will be attending.

During the official count all votes counted on election night are recounted and checked to ensure accuracy.

A Justice of the Peace must be present at the official count in addition to electoral officials conducting the count and any scrutineers who attend to observe the process.

You can provide updates to your campaign team but we request that public statements about the results are not made ahead of the declaration of the official results.

Judicial recounts

After the declaration of the official results electorate candidates can apply to a District Court Judge for a recount of the electorate vote. The location of a recount is determined by the Judge. If you were appointed to observe the official count for an election you will be eligible to observe the judicial recount.

We request public statements about the results of a recount are not made before the Judge’s decision is released.

Election of list candidates at a general election

The Electoral Commission determines which list candidates are elected using a statutory formula. This happens about 26 days after election day, once the official results and the results of any electorate recounts have been declared.

Prior to the allocation of list seats, the Electoral Commission will contact the party secretaries of parties that have contested the party vote to invite them to appoint scrutineers to attend. This happens in Wellington.

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