General local elections scrutineers

Publication date: November 9, 2017

Scrutineers, also known as “candidate representatives”, represent candidates at general local election or by-election voting opportunities (for example, on 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 (if any) and the direction of the Chief Election Officer, Presiding Election Official and any other election officials (appointed by the Chief Election Officer or Presiding Election Official and responsible to help conduct the general local election or a by-election) at the voting place during voting proceedings and at the ballot count following the close of voting on general voting day. 

Scrutineer appointment

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

While there is no set period in the legislation for scrutineer appointments to be made, the 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 a candidate, the candidate’s official agent or the Chief Election Officer for more information about the local government’s process and a sense of what their time commitment would be during the election process.

Legislation requires that scrutineer appointments must:

  • Be in writing and signed by the candidate
  • Include the full name and address of the person appointed
  • Be submitted to the Chief Election Officer as soon as practicable after the appointment has been 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 during local elections. 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 and responsibilities

Local governments, by bylaw, and Chief Election Officers have the authority to establish specific rules governing scrutineer conduct and responsibilities. Scrutineers must abide by these rules or the 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
  • Show their appointment papers before beginning their duties to the Presiding Election Official
  • Show their appointment papers to an election official when requested by that official
  • Make the required declaration to preserve the secrecy of the vote (if one not already complete)
  • Follow the direction of the 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

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:

  • 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

During voting scrutineers must not:

  • Interfere with the duties of the Presiding Election Official or handle election documents
  • Interfere with or assist a person marking a ballot
  • Attempt to discover how someone voted or marked their ballot
  • Communicate information about how someone has voted
  • Canvas or solicit votes or otherwise attempt to influence an elector’s vote
  • Display, distribute, post or openly leave a representation of a ballot marked for a particular result in the voting
  • Display, distribute, post any election advertising or any material that identifies a candidate or elector organization, unless this is done with the authorization of the Chief Election Officer or
  • Carry, wear or supply a flag, badge or other thing indicating support of a candidate, elector organization or result in the voting

Observing the ballot count

Ballot counting is generally conducted at the voting place where the ballot boxes are located unless the 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
  • Raise their objection (if they have one) to a ballot’s acceptance or rejection with the Presiding Election Official at the time the ballot is being considered
  • 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

Challenges and objections

Scrutineers may 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 Chief Election Officer.

Judicial recounts

Scrutineers may make an application to the Courts 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 Chief Election Officer and Presiding Election Officer to manage the voting and ballot counting process.

Information about scrutineers

Scrutineers Guide to General Local Elections in B.C.

Get more information about the role of scrutineers in local elections.

Contact information

Contact us if you have legislative questions about general local elections.

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1 800 663-7867
Governance and Structure Branch
Victoria, BC
V8W 9T1