Scrutiny after election night

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The initial counting of the votes conducted on election night is followed by a ‘fresh scrutiny’ of both House of Representatives and Senate ballot papers. This fresh scrutiny is conducted by the DRO and commences on the Monday after election day in divisional offices.

Fresh scrutiny of ordinary votes

The DRO counts all ordinary votes received from every polling place in their division. Some ballot papers which were treated as informal on election night may be admitted to the count by the DRO, and similarly any ballots previously regarded as formal may be reclassified as informal.

Declaration vote scrutiny

The preliminary scrutiny of postal and pre-poll votes begins from the Monday before election day. The preliminary scrutiny of absent and provisional votes begins on the Monday after election day.

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; their 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. The AEC must wait 13 days after election day to receive postal votes before it can finalise counting. This ensures that electors in remote areas and overseas are not disenfranchised.

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 that the certificate or declaration has been properly signed and witnessed.

All divisions commenced the preliminary scrutiny of pre-poll and postal votes in the week preceding election day. A further scrutiny of pre-poll votes was undertaken in all divisions on the Sunday after election day.

Further Scrutiny

Once a postal, pre-poll, absent or provisional vote is admitted to the further scrutiny, the envelope is opened and the ballot paper is taken out, without being unfolded, and is placed in the ballot box. It is then treated in the same way as an ordinary ballot paper. Further scrutiny for postal, absent and provisional votes cannot commence until the Monday after election day.

Computerised senate scrutiny

The Senate scrutiny treats ballot papers marked above the line separately from ballot papers marked below the line. The Senate ballot papers marked above the line are manually counted in the divisional office and the first preference figures for each party and group are tallied.

The ballot papers marked below the line are forwarded progressively to a central scrutiny centre in each capital city where the computerised scrutiny takes place. The below the line preferences of each ballot paper are entered into a computer. The above the line totals for each party and group are then entered into the computer which has been programmed to distribute the preferences according to the group voting tickets lodged with the AEC. The above the line and below the line votes are then combined by the computer which calculates the quota, transfers surpluses, eliminates unsuccessful candidates and distributes preferences to produce the result of the Senate election.


After the election all the Certified Lists are electronically scanned to identify apparent non-voters and possible multiple voters.

The scanners identify from the Certified Lists:

Two reports are produced from the scanning results:

Following identification, 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.

At the 2004 federal election scanning took place at permanent and temporary locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Australian Capital Territory lists were scanned in New South Wales, South Australian and Tasmanian lists were scanned in Victoria, and Northern Territory lists were scanned in Queensland. Scanning of lists used in mobile polling began on 9 October. Scanning of lists used at polling places began on 11 October.

Declaration of the polls

Once the votes have been counted and a successful candidate 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 DRO at the place of nomination. The declaration of the Senate election of each State and Territory is conducted by the respective AEO.

The Divisions of Port Adelaide in South Australia and Tangney in Western Australia were the first seats declared for the House of Representatives on 20 October 2004. All seats were declared by 8 November 2004.

Return of the writs

The writs for an election must be returned within 100 days of their issue. After the Senate polls are declared, the AEO for each State returns the writ for their election endorsed with the names of the successful candidates to the State Governor. The Territory AEOs return their writs to the Governor General. For the House of Representatives, the Electoral Commissioner returns the writs for each State and Territory endorsed with the name of each candidate elected for each division in that State or Territory. These writs are returned to the Governor-General.

For the 2004 federal election the writs were required to be returned by 8 December 2004. All writs were returned by Thursday, 11 November 2004.