A teller is a person who counts the votes in an election, vote, referendum or poll. Tellers are also known as scrutineers, poll-watchers, challengers or checkers.
In the United Kingdom, tellers work on behalf of political parties (usually as volunteers). They stand or sit outside the polling station and collect electoral registration numbers (poll numbers) of voters as they enter or leave. They play no official part in the election and voters are under no obligation to speak with them. They are not polling agents, so they have no official rights, such as to enter the polling station. If asked, the tellers must explain they are not officials and why they are collecting poll numbers.
Tellers help their parties identify supporters who have not yet voted, so that they can be contacted and encouraged to vote, and offered assistance—such as transport to the polling station—if necessary. In as far as this increases turn-out, it can be said to be "good" for the democratic process, since a higher voter turnout is generally considered desirable.
Sometimes, some or all of the main parties might reach an agreement to take shifts, and pass on their lists to the other parties; however it is commonplace to see several tellers outside a polling station.
After the May 2005 Northern Ireland elections, the Electoral Commission concluded that some candidates' polling agents unlawfully assisted with identifying supporters who had not yet voted, by passing information from inside the polling place to other party workers. This information is not normally available to parties unless voters give it voluntarily to tellers.
In other deliberative assemblies, such as voluntary associations, elections and other matters of importance are frequently voted on by ballot. Tellers are appointed to count those ballots. Normally, the chairman appoints the tellers unless the organization's rules provide that tellers are appointed another way, such as appointment of an elections committee. The tellers are chosen for their accuracy and dependability, are not directly involved on what is being voted in, and usually are allowed to vote themselves.
- "Guidance on the conduct of tellers in and around polling places" (PDF). The Electoral Commission. 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
- "Electoral alert 30 - Review of guidance for tellers at polling stations (Issues paper)" (PDF). Electoral Commission (United Kingdom). 2005-10-07. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
2.2 Tellers traditionally attend polling stations to monitor and assess levels of local party support. They sit outside polling stations or inside if there is a convenient space separate from the polling area. They usually ask voters for their polling number when they leave the polling station. The purpose is to identify local supporters who have not yet voted, so that other party activists can urge them to vote before the polls close. However, the activities of tellers have in the past been a source of conflict.
- Electoral Commission (United Kingdom), Association of Chief Police Officers (2006). "Pocket Guide: Guidance to police officers, Local elections May 2006" (PDF). Centrex. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
Where tellers, or others, irritate voters, exert undue influence or obstruct the polling station, the Presiding Officer may seek assistance from the police to resolve the matter.
- "Appendix E: Tellers guide: Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers, Presiding Officers, political parties, candidates and agents: local government elections in England on 4 May 2006" (PDF). Electoral Commission (United Kingdom). 2006-01-27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
|archiveurl=missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 2007-02-26. col. 706. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05.
When I first became involved in politics, there was a clear unwritten convention that on polling day one did not take a loudspeaker anywhere near a polling station. One did not hand out literature at the entrances to polling stations. All that tellers did was take numbers.
- "Becoming a councillor FAQ: What is the role of the tellers?". Walsall Council. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- "May 2005 Combined Elections Report" (PDF). Electoral Commission. 2005-12-15. pp. 91–93. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
6.70 Despite being made aware of secrecy requirements, some polling agents transmitted information from the marked register to party workers outside the polling place.
- Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 414. ISBN 978-0-306-82020-5.
- Guidance on the conduct of tellers in and around polling places, Electoral Commission UK, 14 Nov 2011. (PDF, 5 pages.)
- New Zealand Guidelines
- Canadian guidelines
- Becoming a councillor FAQ: What is the role of the tellers? – Walsall Council, UK