Questions raised over ballot count

COUNT CLARIFICATION: Council candidates called on the VEC to clarify the vote counting process ahead of this week's council elections.

COUNT CLARIFICATION: Council candidates called on the VEC to clarify the vote counting process ahead of this week's council elections.

A Bendigo councillor has raised concerns about the how votes will be counted at this week’s local government elections. 

Eppalock Ward councillor Helen Leach foreshadowed a protest by candidates at a Victorian Electoral Commission information session tonight, questioning the security of the upcoming vote count. 

She said a number of candidates had interpreted information provided by the VEC to mean ballot papers would be opened days before they were entered into the data base by the processors. 

“I’m still waiting to have the process confirmed,” Cr Leach said this afternoon.

“But I do hope no actual ballot papers are opened until the minute they are entered into database.

“That is my hope and I would be voicing protest if that were not the case.” 

A VEC spokesperson said counting activities for the Greater Bendigo City Council elections had been carefully planned and scheduled to “ensure the security and integrity of ballot papers at all stages of the count”. 

The spokesperson said the local returning officer would begin opening the declaration envelopes containing ballot papers from next Monday through to next Friday. 

“Before declaration envelopes are opened, the declaration flap with the voters details are removed, separated and stored securely—this ensures the secrecy of each vote,” the spokesperson said.

“Candidates are entitled to have scrutineers present whilst flaps are removed, declaration envelopes are opened and ballot papers extracted.”

The spokesperson said ballot papers were not entered into the VEC’s computer count application until “all votes have been extracted and reconciled” on October 28.

In the interim, the ballot papers would be placed in sealed security boxes at the end of each day. The seal numbers would be recorded by the returning officer and scrutineers could note the seal numbers.

“Candidates are entitled to have scrutineers present at any time where ballot papers, or envelopes containing ballot papers, are handled by election staff,” The spokesperson said.

“There is never any time where scrutineers can’t witness the handling of ballot papers by election staff and the sealing and storage of ballot papers.”

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