What to expect when working at an election

Updated: 7 September 2021

There is a range of roles required to conduct an election before, on and after election day.

These are broadly grouped into Supervisors and Team Members roles. The majority of staff engaged during an election will fill roles conducting polling both before and on election day. These roles are generally referred to as polling officials.

COVID safety measures, based on the advice of health authorities, will be in place at polling places and other AEC workplaces at the next federal election to protect AEC workers and voters.

Working before election day

The AEC needs polling officials from when an election is announced – typically five weeks prior to polling day, to conduct:

  • pre-poll voting at a number of locations across each electorate for a few weeks prior to election day and to support mobile polling in remote parts of Australia.

Early voting is usually conducted during normal business hours. However, as election day approaches, staff may be required to work extended hours and on weekends.

There is also a range of administrative tasks performed within each electorate office prior to election day. This will normally take place during normal business hours and may include extended hours and weekend work.

What to expect on election day

Election day starts early, usually around 7am. Each polling place has an Officer-in-Charge (OIC) who is responsible for the operation of the polling place. The OIC will conduct a face-to-face briefing with all polling officials. Following the briefing all polling officials will finalise the setup of the polling place so that polling can start at 8am sharp.

Polling place tends to be the busiest in the morning as most people like to vote early. The rest of the day is quite steady, although times at which voters may arrive can be unpredictable.

You should bring sufficient food and drinks to sustain yourself through the day.

The size of polling places varies across Australia. Some large polling places take in excess of 6,000 votes and may employ around 16 people. Smaller polling places in rural and remote areas may only issue as few as 100 votes and may only have three staff.


It is your responsibility to ensure you take adequate breaks throughout the day - at least a 30-minute meal break after continuously working for five hours. Meal breaks will be at the direction of a supervisor.

If you have any special requirements or medical conditions, you must let your supervisor know before starting work.

What happens once the voting has finished?

After the poll closes at 6pm there is a range of administrative tasks to perform. However, the main job is to count the House or Representatives and Senate ballot papers.  All polling officials are involved in these tasks.

Once the ballot papers have been unfolded, staff commence work sorting the ballot papers into piles for each candidate. Polling officials carefully check each ballot paper to see if it is formal or informal. Informal ballot papers are placed in a separate pile for the OIC to check.

The ballot papers for each candidate are counted in bundles of fifty. Once counting has finished the polling official supervising the counting records the result. These figures are rechecked and reconciled with the number of ballot papers issued at the polling place.

The results of the count are provided to the electorate office over the phone, entered into the AEC's Election Management system, and then transmitted to the AEC Tally Room website.

Once all the results have been transmitted to the electorate office and the polling place has been packed up, polling officials are free to go home. This is usually around 10.30pm but may vary from polling place to polling place.

Working after election day

While not as visible to the public, a large amount of work happens after election day. The primary task is to recount all ballot papers and determine the elected candidate for each House of Representative seat and for each Senate position. There are around 28 million ballot papers to deal with during the counting after election day across the country. Supervisors and Team Members are involved in these activities for around three weeks after election day.

In addition to completing the count, there is a range of administrative tasks undertaken in the electorate office, normally during business hours but may include extended hours and weekend work.

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