Vote counting should be a transparent and observable process.
- The preparation and conduct of elections and the announcement of results shall be done in a transparent manner.
- The security of ballot boxes must be guaranteed and votes should be counted in the presence of the candidates or their agents.
- The counting and tabulation of votes should be fully transparent and accessible to representatives of election contestants, as well as observers.
- Wherever possible, counting should take place at the polling stations and immediately after the conclusion of voting. Different arrangements may however be required if there are serious practical difficulties in ensuring the security of counts conducted at a multi-plicity of polling stations, or if it is thought necessary to combine ballots from different polling stations, before counting, to preserve the secrecy of the ballot or to minimise the risk of intimidation.
- Illustrative of this minimum standard is Paragraph 7.4 of the OSCE 1990 Copenhagen Document, which requires that votes "are counted and reported honestly with the official results made public." This requires that votes be counted and tabulated in the presence of observers, and that the entire process by which a winner is determined be fully and completely transparent.
- The legal framework should ensure, among other things, that: ...Transparency mechanisms allow effective monitoring by electoral contestants, domestic nonpartisan election monitors, news media and international election observers, which includes verifying transmission of results by any medium and accompanying transport of ballots, tally sheets and other sensitive materials to intermediate and/or final results tabulation centers;
- The counting of votes should be done at the polling station where candidates and/or their election agents are present.
- The legal framework should require that all relevant electoral documents be publicly accessible, including election protocols, tabulation and tally sheets, and decisions determining or affecting election results. Such electoral documents should be publicly posted at all levels of election administration, including polling, municipal, and state election commission levels. Detailed tabulations of overall results, including the voting results in each polling station, should be posted at each election commission. These detailed tabulations should also be published in state owned or controlled print media as soon as the results are certified.
- A counting system in which the ballots are not counted in the polling station but transported to a central counting location produces additional problems of transparency and verification.
- The counting process should take place in the polling station immediately after the close of voting.
- Counting should be open to official observation by concerned parties. All issued, unissued and damaged ballot papers must be systematically accounted for. The processes for counting votes, verification, reporting of results and retention of official materials must be secure and fair. Re-count procedures should be available in case of questionable results. Finally, alternative, independent verification procedures, such as parallel vote tabulation, can be a valuable measure contributing to public confidence in, and acceptance of, the outcome of polling.
- In particular, the EMB should ensure that: the results process is fully accessible to candidates, political parties, their agents, domestic and international observers and the media.
- The legal framework should ensure, among other things, that: ...Ballots are placed in a manner that allows verification that they are being credited to the proper electoral contestant, including party, candidate, position supporting or opposing a referendum or ballot initiative.
- Observation of elections b. Observation must not be confined to election day itself, but must include the registration period of candidates and, if necessary, of electors, as well as the electoral campaign. It must make it possible to determine whether irregularities occurred before, during or after the elections. It must always be possible during vote counting.