The entire process for checking ballot papers follows a specific pathway with multiple control bodies.
The polling station closes and counting begins
The first count of the ballot papers takes place in all of the polling stations as soon as they close on election day. Each polling station has a polling committee in charge. Polling committees are permanent committees that must consist of at least three members.
In the polling station, the polling committee first and foremost checks whether the contents of the ballot boxes are correct. They do this by:
- Ensuring that each voter only has only cast a single valid vote by checking that the number of ballot papers in the ballot boxes matches the number of voters ticked off in the electoral register. Differences will exist in most constituencies in municipal and county council elections because, while two different elections are being conducted, the electoral register will only be ticked off once per voter. A number of voters will have only voted in one of the two elections.
- Dividing the ballot papers into ordinary ballot papers and doubtful ballot papers that will require extra checks later on.
If the polling committee finds differences between the number of votes cast and the number of voters ticked off in the electoral register, they must identify the reason for this. If this is not possible, a recount must be carried out.
Many municipalities also carry out a preliminary count in which the ballot papers are sorted by party at the polling stations. You can read more about this below.
Counts of the ballot boxes' contents in the polling station and the results of any preliminary count are recorded in the polling committee's protocol. Once the polling committee is satisfied that everything is in order, they must certify and sign the polling committee's protocol. All of the election materials, the ballot papers, cast votes received in envelopes, and the electoral committee's protocol, are then transported to the location where the municipality has decided that further counting will take place.
It is the electoral committee that is responsible for preparing and conducting elections at a municipal level, which includes responsibility for the preliminary and final counts. As mentioned, some municipalities carry out the preliminary count at the polling stations, while other municipalities carry out both counts centrally in the municipality.
The first thing the electoral committee does when it receives materials from a polling station is to check everything has been received and the polling committee's protocol. Any differences must be investigated and explained before the electoral committee can start the preliminary count of the ballot papers. The electoral committee has two jobs in the preliminary count:
- Count the contents of the ballot boxes and compare the results with the polling committee's count of the ballot boxes' contents.
- If the preliminary count is carried out centrally, the electoral committee sorts the votes by the parties taking part in the election and counts how many votes each party has received, as well as the number of blank ballot papers. Doubtful ballot papers that will require extra checks later on are separated out.
Every municipality carries out the preliminary count manually, i.e. by hand and without using machines.
The results of the preliminary count must be recorded in the electoral committee's protocol. If there are differences, these must be recorded. If a difference cannot be explained, a recount must be carried out. The electoral committee will certify the results if no differences exist or if there are differences that can be explained. The preliminary count ends once the results have been certified. The final count can then start.
In the final count, all of the ballot papers are counted again. The number of ballot papers in the preliminary count is compared with the number of ballot papers in the final count. The final count also includes two other elements that must be carried out:
- The doubtful ballot papers that were kept out of the ballot box count and the preliminary count are assessed in relation to the legislation.
- Any changes voters have made to ballot papers are recorded and become part of the basis for, and distribution of, seats and the return of members that takes place in the electoral count.
The final count will be carried out either manually or using machines aided by scanners. Changes to ballot papers are recorded in the final count. Using a scanner speeds up the counting. The scanner does the same job a person would do, sorting the ballot papers by party or as blank or doubtful ballot papers. Changes to ballot papers are also recorded using machines.
As in the other counts, differences between the preliminary count and the final count will result in the votes having to be recounted if a difference cannot be explained. The final count must then be certified, and the electoral committee's protocol must be signed.
The municipality carries out the ballot box, preliminary and final count for both the municipal council and the county council elections.
The final job of the municipality is to carry out the electoral count for the municipal council election. It is the electoral count that determines which party has received the largest share of the vote and which candidates have been elected to a new municipal council. During the electoral count, the electoral committee reviews the protocol to check and certify all earlier entries, which includes among other things:
- the counts in the polling stations
- the preliminary count
- the final count
- assessing proposed rejected ballot papers
- the distribution of seats (only in municipal council elections)
- the return of members (only in municipal council elections)
If the protocol and the proposed rejections are not certified, the results must be corrected before the electoral count can be carried out. Once the electoral committee is certain the protocol is correct, they sign it. The results of the municipal council election have now been finalised.
For county council elections, the municipality forwards the protocol and all election materials to the county electoral committee so that they can carry out their verification count and the electoral count for the county council election.
The county electoral committee's verification count
The county electoral committee is responsible for checking the rejected votes that have been forwarded to it, checking the counts of total ballot papers, and checking the protocols that all the municipalities in the county authority have submitted in connection with the county council election. If any errors are identified, the county electoral committee will rectify them. At the same time, the county electoral committee must record any changes to ballot papers and carry out the electoral count. In the same way as the electoral committees in the municipalities have already done, the county electoral committee must finally certify and sign the county electoral committee's protocol.
The county electoral committee receives all of the election materials and the electoral committees' protocols after the municipalities have carried out their final counts. Their reception must be certified by the county electoral committee. Any differences must be investigated and explained before the verification count can start.
The county electoral committee carries out a verification count by:
- recounting all ballot papers, sorting them by party, and assessing blank and doubtful ballot papers in relation to the legislation;
- sorting the ballot papers between changed and unchanged ballot papers, and recording changes to county council ballot papers; and
- comparing the results of this with the results in the electoral committees' protocols.
If the results of the count can be certified, then they are. Any errors or differences must be recorded in the county electoral committee's protocol.
Certification of the elections
In municipal council and county council elections it is the municipalities and county authorities, respectively, that are responsible for assessing the validity of an election. In their first statutory meetings, the municipal council and county council will take a position on whether the election was valid. The electoral committee's protocol and the county electoral committee's protocol provide the basis for the electoral committee's and the county electoral committee's recommendation, respectively, and thus the municipal council's and the county council's decision, respectively. The election can and must be declared invalid if errors have been committed that have a bearing on the distribution of seats between the lists and it is only possible to rectify these errors by conducting a new election.