Judicial Recount Handbook
3. Process for Counting Ballots During a Judicial Recount
This section describes the procedural steps related to recounting ballot boxes and envelopes. Sections 4 and 5 below provide guidance on examining ballots and dealing with disputed ballots.
The process for counting ballots and dealing with disputed ballots during a judicial recount is illustrated in Figure 1 below. References are to Schedule 4 of the Act.
A Recount Ballot Box Report is a form used throughout the recount to record the results of the count, the reclassification of ballots and disputed ballots, if any. A copy of a Recount Ballot Box Report is included in Appendix E (Form 3) of this handbook.
Figure 1 – Judicial Recount Process
3.1 Process for Each Ballot Box (Regular Ballots)
When a ballot box and the corresponding original Statement of the Vote are delivered to a recount team, the recorder must first note the number of the ballot box on the Recount Ballot Box Report. Then the handler must open the ballot box, remove and open the large envelope (known as the yellow poll bag) and remove from it the envelopes containing the ballots. [s. 10 of Sch. 4]
The recount team must examine the envelopes containing spoiled ballots and unused ballots without opening them. If there is any dispute concerning one of those envelopes or a request that one of them be opened, the question must be determined by the judge. [s. 11 of Sch. 4]
The recount team must recount first the ballots in the envelope containing the rejected ballots, if any, and then, envelope by envelope in alphabetical order of the candidates' names, the ballots that were classified as valid votes in favour of candidates. [s. 12 of Sch. 4] To facilitate the count, the recount team can use a Tally Sheet similar to the one used on election night and illustrated in Appendix D (Form 3).
3.2. Process for Each Envelope – Review of Ballots Correctly Classified or to Be Assigned to Some Other Classification
The recount of the ballots from each of the envelopes must be conducted in accordance with the following steps:
- The handler must choose the appropriate (first or next) envelope. [ss. 12, 13(a) of Sch. 4]
- If any ballots were placed with that envelope as a result of the earlier examination of another envelope, the handler must place those ballots in a single pile (the “counting pile”). This means that as an envelope is recounted, if any ballots are removed to be added to a different envelope, they are placed in a counting pile for that different envelope. [s. 13(b) of Sch. 4]
- The handler must unseal the selected envelope and, taking the first of the ballots:
- if a counting pile has already been established, place it on the counting pile;
- if no counting pile has been established, establish one with that first ballot. [s. 13(c) of Sch. 4]
- The handler must invite all members of the recount team to examine but not handle the ballot. [s. 13(d) of Sch. 4]
- The handler must ascertain whether there is unanimous agreement among the members of the recount team that the ballot:
- was correctly classified
- should be assigned to some other classification [s. 13(e) of Sch. 4]
- was correctly classified
- If there is no unanimous agreement, each representative of a candidate is entitled to call for one of the candidate's representatives who is not a member of a recount team or the candidate's legal counsel, or both, who may then make representations to the team. [s. 13(f) of Sch. 4]
- If, after any such representations, there is still no unanimous agreement about the classification of the ballot, the ballot must be treated as a disputed ballot. [s. 13(g) of Sch. 4] (See next steps in Section 4 below.)footnote 21
- If there is unanimous agreement that the ballot was correctly classified, it must remain on the counting pile. [s. 13(h) of Sch. 4]
- If there is unanimous agreement that the ballot should be assigned to some other classification, the handler shall take it from the counting pile and:
- if the envelope containing ballots of that other classification has not yet been recounted, the handler must place the ballot with that envelope, and the recorder must note the re-classification of the ballot and the reason for it on the Recount Ballot Box Report; and
- if the envelope containing ballots of that other classification has already been recounted, the handler shall place the ballot in that envelope, and the recorder shall note the re-classification of the ballot and the reason for it on the Recount Ballot Box Report and adjust the number of ballots recorded in the report for that other classification accordingly. [s. 13(i) of Sch. 4]
- For each subsequent ballot in the envelope, the handler must place it on top of the counting pile, and the same steps will apply. [s. 13(j) of Sch. 4]
- When all ballots from the envelope have been examined by the recount team, the handler shall count the ballots in the counting pile, the recorder shall make a note of that number on the Recount Ballot Box Report and the handler shall place those ballots in the envelope without sealing it. [s. 13(k) of Sch. 4]
3.3. Steps in Returning the Ballot Box to the Judge
3.3.1 If There Are No Disputed Ballots
When all envelopes from the ballot box—except those containing spoiled and unused ballots—have been recounted, the handler must seal the envelope containing the rejected ballots, if any, and the envelopes for each candidate and place them in the ballot box. The seal is signed or initialled by the handler, the recorder and the candidates or their representatives. [s. 14(2)(a) of Sch. 4] The recorder shall:
- confirm the accuracy of the Recount Ballot Box Report with the recount team;
- invite the candidates' representatives to initial it; and
- give it to the handler. [s. 14(2)(b) of Sch. 4]
The handler shall place the Recount Ballot Box Report, the original Statement of the Vote and the large envelope (poll bag) in the ballot box. [s. 14(2)(c) of Sch. 4]
When these steps are completed, the handler shall signal by raised hand that the recount team has completed its work with that ballot box. [s. 14(3) of Sch. 4]
A person designated by the returning officer from among his or her staff shall bring the recount team another ballot box and shall take the recounted ballot box from the recount team and deliver it to the returning officer. [s. 15 of Sch. 4]
3.3.2 Duties of the Returning Officer
The returning officer must provide the Recount Ballot Box Report and attached original Statement of the Vote to the judge. [s. 17(1) of Sch. 4]
3.3.3 Duties of the Judge
The judge must review the Recount Ballot Box Report and Statement of the Vote and, if satisfied, initial the report to indicate his or her approval. [s. 17(2) of Sch. 4]
126.96.36.199 If the Judge Approves the Report
The returning officer must cause the sealed envelopes to be placed in the large envelope, the large envelope to be sealed and placed in the ballot box, the ballot box to be sealed and placed in a secure location designated for the ballot boxes for which the recount has been completed and the Recount Ballot Box Report and Statement of the Vote to be given to the person responsible for the preparation of the Master Recount Report. [s. 17(3) of Sch. 4] A copy of the Master Recount Report is included in Appendix E (Form 4) of this handbook.
In a 2015 judicial recount,footnote 22 a decision was taken for boxes with no disputed ballots to be sealed at the counting table rather than after the judge had approved the Recount Ballot Box Report. This freed up clerical assistants. [s. 23 of Sch. 4]
188.8.131.52 If the Judge Does Not Approve the Report
The judge shall determine how to proceed with the ballot box. [s. 17(4) of Sch. 4]
Return to source of Footnote 21 Schedule 4 of the Act does not specifically contemplate the involvement of the judge at this point. However, section 23 of Schedule 4 empowers the judge to alter the procedures after giving the parties and the returning officer the opportunity to make submissions. Therefore, a judge may wish to become involved as issues arise to be able to establish an early approach for certain types of disputed ballots.
Return to source of Footnote 22 The recount was held in the electoral district of Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River.