Preliminary scrutiny

Ballot paper envelopes received throughout the course of the election are checked daily by electoral officers to determine whether they can be accepted for further scrutiny or must be rejected.

Envelopes will be rejected if:

  • The declarations are unsigned or signed by an unauthorised person.
  • The declaration flaps are missing.
  • Ballot papers are returned outside the ballot paper envelope.
  • They are duplicates of envelopes already received.

All envelopes are then stored securely until the start of the count.

Scrutiny and count


The scrutiny and count of all periodic elections commences at 9am on the Saturday following the close of voting. For supplementary elections, it commences at a reasonable time after the close of voting, as determined by the Returning Officer. Candidates will be advised when the scrutiny and count will commence.


The declaration flaps on accepted envelopes are removed and kept to one side. This ensures the anonymity of the ballot. The envelopes are then rearranged and opened. Any ballot papers removed should be for the Council and ballot paper type indicated on the envelope.

If there are more ballot papers removed from an envelope than were mailed out, or different ballot papers than the voter’s entitlement, then they are rejected.

When all ballot papers have been extracted from the envelopes, informal ballot papers are set aside.

Formal ballot papers are sorted, according to first preference votes for each candidate, and counted. Preferences are then distributed, until the required number of candidates are elected.

Ballot paper formality

In Council elections for a ballot paper to be formal, it must have the number 1 against one of the candidate's names, and if there is more than one vacancy, it must have further consecutive numbers against other candidate's names at least up until the number of vacancies to be filled.

For example, if there are 4 vacancies a ballot paper must contain the number 1 against one candidate's name, and at least the numbers 2, 3 and 4 against the names of other candidates. Numbers up to 4 cannot be duplicated or omitted.

A ballot paper is informal if:

  • There is no vote marked on it.
  • The 1st preference is not indicated.
  • A preference is duplicated, or missing, in the sequence of numbers up to the number required.

For more information about ballot paper formality, and to see examples of formal and informal ballots, download the following document: Ballot paper formality (PDF 261 KB).


One or more scrutineers may observe the conduct of the election and counting of votes. No more than two scrutineers per candidate are permitted in the vote counting place at the same time.

Scrutineers must identify themselves to the electoral officer in charge and submit on the day a completed LG15 Scrutineer Authority Form (228 KB), signed by the candidates.

Scrutineers may observe all proceedings but must not handle ballot papers or other electoral materials. They may query any aspect of the process.

Procedures to conclude the election

Provisional Declaration

After the count has been completed, the Deputy Returning Officer will make a provisional declaration of the result, in the presence of any scrutineers.


Electoral Commission SA will publish progressive results on our 2018 Council Elections Results Page from the afternoon of Saturday 10 November.

Recounts An unsuccessful candidate may request the Returning Officer for a recount, provided the request is in writing, specifying the reason, and made within 72 hours after the provisional declaration. The Returning Officer will decide whether the request will be granted. Alternatively, the Returning Officer may initiate a recount.
Final Declaration Where a recount is conducted, the Returning Officer, in accordance with the result of the recount, makes a final declaration.
Concluding election procedures  

The Returning Officer concludes the election process by:

  • Confirming any provisional or final declaration.
  • Forwarding a return to the Council Chief Executive Officer certifying the result of the election.
  • Notifying candidates, in writing, of the result of the election.
  • Giving public notice of the election result.
  • Preparing and certifying a ballot paper return.
A candidate is entitled to request a copy of this return, within three (3) months of the conclusion of the election.
Court of Disputed Returns

The Court of Disputed Returns may consider a petition that disputes the validity of an election. The Court is constituted of a District Court Judge whose powers are set out in Part 13 of the Local Government (Elections) Act 1999.

A petition to the clerk of the Court must be lodged within 28 days after the conclusion of the election. A copy of the petition must be served on any person declared elected in the disputed election, and on the Council.

If it is alleged that the election is invalid on account of an act or omission of an electoral officer, a copy of the petition must also be served on the Electoral Commissioner.