General Local Elections Scrutineers

Scrutineers, also known as “candidate representatives”, represent candidates at general local election or by-election voting opportunities (for example, general voting day) by observing voting procedures and scrutinizing the ballot-counting process.

Scrutineers may challenge an elector’s right to receive a ballot during voting proceedings or challenge the acceptance of a ballot during the ballot counting process.

Elections Legislation

Provincial legislation enables local governments to adopt an election bylaw with customized rules that govern how individual communities run general local elections and by-elections. The Local Government Act sets out the rules for scrutineer appointments, their role in elections and the number of scrutineers permitted at voting opportunities. Local governments may also establish election guidelines or requirements that apply to scrutineers.

Scrutineers must follow the legislation, the local government’s election bylaw and election guidelines and the direction of the local Chief Election Officer, Presiding Election Official and election officials (those individuals trained by the local Chief Election Officer and are responsible to help conduct the general local election or by-election) at the voting place during voting and at the ballot count following the close of voting.  

Scrutineer Appointment

A candidate and/or their official agent (for example, a campaign manager) may appoint scrutineers. Candidates can choose to appoint a relative or friend to scrutineer for them during voting and at the ballot counting process. A candidate’s official agent may act as a scrutineer on voting day.

While there is no set period for scrutineer appointment in the legislation, the local Chief Election Officer may provide a timeline for scrutineer appointments in the local government’s election bylaw or additional guidelines to assist with local election administration.

  • A person interested in being a scrutineer can contact the local Chief Election Officer, candidate or candidate’s official agent, for more information about the local process and time commitment.

Legislation requires that scrutineer appointments must be:

  • Written and signed by the candidate
  • Include the full name and address of the person appointed
  • Submitted to the local Chief Election Officer as soon as practical after the appointment is made

The appointment of a scrutineer may be cancelled only in the same manner as the appointment was made.

Number of Scrutineers at a Voting Place

Each candidate or their official agent may appoint one scrutineer for each ballot box used at a voting place. A local government’s election bylaw may permit there to be more than one scrutineer present for each ballot box used at a voting place. The absence of a scrutineer at the voting place does not invalidate the general local election or by-election.

Scrutineer Roles & Responsibilities

Local governments, by bylaw, and local Chief Election Officers have the authority to establish specific rules governing scrutineer conduct and responsibilities. Scrutineers must abide by these rules or the local Chief Election Officer, Presiding Election Official or local law enforcement may order them to leave the voting place.

 At the voting place scrutineers must:

  • Carry a copy of their appointment papers at the voting place
  • Show their appointment papers before beginning their duties to the Presiding Election Official
  • Show their appointment papers to an election official when requested by the official
  • Make the required declaration to preserve the secrecy of the vote (if one not already complete)
  • Follow the direction of the local Chief Election Officer, Presiding Election Official and the local guidelines for scrutineers (if any)
  • Remain in the designated area for scrutineers to observe the voting proceedings, if the Presiding Election Official has designated one
  • Scrutineers and general local election officials generally only communicate during times when no voters are present at the voting place – except when a scrutineer challenges a voter’s eligibility to receive a ballot.

Observing Voting

A scrutineer may challenge a voter’s right to receive a ballot based on their belief that the elector is not entitled to vote or has accepted an inducement to vote. Challenges to a voter’s eligibility to receive a ballot must be raised before the ballot is issued to the elector.

During voting scrutineers may also:

  • Ask to look at the voting books and write down the names of people who have voted, provided it does not interfere with the voting process; however, scrutineers may not handle or touch the voting books
  • Be asked to witness the sealing of a ballot box by the Presiding Election Official
  • Add their initials during the sealing of a ballot box

Observing the Ballot Count

Scrutineers may also challenge a ballot’s acceptance or rejection during the ballot counting process. The objection must be:

  • Made to the Presiding Election Official supervising the ballot counting process
  • Raised while the ballot is being considered during the count

Objections to the Presiding Election Official’s decision about the ballot in question are recorded and submitted with the ballot account for that voting place to the local Chief Election Officer.

Ballot counting is generally conducted at the voting place where the ballot boxes are located unless the local Chief Election Officer has directed that the counting is to take place at another location.

Scrutineers must be in the voting place before the end of voting to observe the count. One representative (scrutineer or official agent) for each candidate may be present to observe the count, unless another person is permitted to observe by the Presiding Election Official.

Before the start of the count, the Presiding Election Official may explain the ballot counting process and outline what scrutineers may and may not do while the count is being conducted.

During the ballot count scrutineers must:

  • Be able to see how the ballot is marked as it is being considered for acceptance
  • Not participate in the physical counting of the ballots
  • Not touch the ballot boxes or the ballots during the counting process
  • Not leave during the counting process

Judicial Recounts

Scrutineers may make an application for a judicial recount after the election results are announced. An application for judicial recount may only be made in the time between the declaration of official election results and nine days after the close of general voting and on the basis that the:

  • Ballots were incorrectly accepted or rejected
  • Ballot account does not accurately record the number of valid votes for a candidate
  • Final determination of results did not correctly calculate the total number of valid votes for a candidate

Learn more about the judicial recounts.

Local Government Guidelines for Scrutineers

Some local governments have developed guidelines for scrutineers. These guidelines assist with election day administration and clarify scrutineer roles and responsibilities on voting day and at the ballot count. These guidelines also assist the local Chief Election Officer and Presiding Election Officer to manage the voting and ballot counting process.

Learn more in the Scrutineers Guide to General Local Elections (PDF)