Election Commission, Election Secretariat, Sarana Mawatha, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka. 10107


             Counting of votes commences at about 7.00 pm on the poll day after receiving all ballot boxes from polling divisions assigned to the counting centre. Five counting agents from each contesting political party/ group can be appointed to a counting centre and two agents from each contesting political party/group can be appointed to a postal vote counting centre. Postal vote counting commences at 4.00 pm on the poll day. One counting agent can be present at 3.00 pm to observe the receipt of ballot boxes.

            Results are declared in two stages except for the Presidential Election and the referendum where the whole island becomes one electorate. Firstly, the results of polling divisions at district level are declared and at the second stage the results of the counting of preferences obtained by each candidate are declared. At each of these stages, the result is declared under polling divisions (formerly parliamentary electorates) and finally under electoral districts. Approval of the Election Commission has to be obtained by the Returning Officer before declaring results.

             Conduct of the poll and the counting of votes is administered by Returning Officers with the assistance of Assistant Returning Officers and a support staff.

            Counting of votes including the postal votes and the preferences is a responsibility of the Returning Officer. A counting centre is allocated to about 10,000 registered electors. Counting of votes in a centre, commences only after receiving the inquiry reports of disturbances in polling stations. However the prior approval of the Election Commission has to be obtained by the Returning Officer before starting the count. It is important because the authority to annul the poll in polling stations where the poll was disturbed is vested with the Commission. Counting of postal vote commences after 4.00 p.m. 

            The head of the counting hall is known as the Chief Counting Officer (CCO). He/She is a senior staff officer in the public service and class I of special grade officers of parallel management services are appointed to these positions. At least 6 staff officers aka Assistant Returning Officers and 20 to 30 government servants are engaged to assist the Returning Officer. They are professionals serving in various government offices/ schools


Stage I - Counting of ballot papers in each ballot box and transferring them to a  trough
Stage II - Counting of ballot papers and preparing the number of votes polled by each political party and group.
Stage III - Marking of the number of preferences obtained by each candidate on tally sheets/summary sheets and calculating the total number of preferences obtained by each candidate.


Stage I:-

(A)   Ballot papers in each ballot box are counted and tallied with the statement of number of ballot papers (ballot paper account) submitted by the SPO. Copies of ballot paper accounts are given to the representatives of political parties/ groups. When there is a difference between the number of ballot papers in a ballot box and the ballot paper account, ballot papers are re-counted. If there prevails a difference after several counts, the box count of votes is accepted as correct and next steps are taken. When the difference exists any further, such difference is noted and the count should be concluded.

(B)  Ballot papers in the ballot box should be counted and tallied with the numbers in the ballot paper statement. This should be entered in the prescribed form. This Process should continue until all the ballot boxes are counted.


Stage II 

(a)  Stage II consists of two sub stages.

At the sub stage one, the ballot papers in the trough are put on the table and sorted according to the parties/groups. Unmarked and doubtful ballot papers are separated and the Chief Counting Officer (CCO) takes action on them.

At the sub stage two, ballot papers of each party and group are sorted again.

Sorting         :-       Accuracy of the ballot papers sorted at the sub stage one is checked again.

Counting      :-       50 ballot papers counted and bundled

Checking      :-       Checked whether the ballot papers are of the same party/ group and whether there are 50 ballot papers in each bundle.

Re-checking :-   Re checked to see whether the ballot papers are of the same party/group and whether there are 50 ballot papers in each bundle.  

Super-checking (Random checking)    :-    10 bundles of 50 ballot papers are bundled into 500 bundles. Chief Counting Officer then takes few bundles of 50 randomly and verifies whether the parties/groups are correct and whether the bundles consist 50 ballot papers. Ten bundles of 50 ballot papers are bundled into 500 ballot paper bundles with rubber bands on and put in the receptacles according to parties and groups.

(b) When a ballot paper is found doubtful about the party/ group to which the vote has been marked, at the sorting of ballot papers according to each party and group, it should be handed over to the Chief Counting Officer to verify validity. Chief Counting Officer is always advised to express his decision then and there and make the counting agents aware of his decision without waiting till the counting of votes is completed. Valid ballot papers are bundled in 50s and such bundles are bundled as 500s and put in the receptacles for political parties and groups placed on the Chief Counting Officer's table, at the end of this stage the CCO prepares the declaration of number of votes each party and group has polled.

(c) Counting agents who are not satisfied with the result, can request for a recount. Maximum number of re-counts upon the requests of counting agents is two. If the Chief Counting Officer deems it necessary, he may carry out one or any number of recounts.

(d) After receiving the statements of votes polled by each party/group, the Returning Officer will prepare the final declaration of votes polled by each party and group and determine the number of Members of Parliament that can be elected from the district.


Stage III

(a) Preferences marked in respect of candidates are counted at this stage. At the time of commencing this stage bundles of 50s and 500s are placed in the receptacles in respect of parties and groups

(b) Counting of preferences starts with the party/group which has obtained the highest number of votes. Before commencing the marking of preferences, the ballot papers have to be re-counted to identify those which are not valid for the count of preferences. Ballot papers not valid for the count of preferences are those

I.   which are not marked with preferences – No P

II.  which have marked preferences for more than 3 candidates – P3+

III. marked Preferences are doubtful and therefore cancelled – P Void.

Valid ballot papers are categorized in the following  manner.

I.   Ballot papers with one preference – P-1

II.  Ballot papers with only two preferences – P-2

III. Ballot papers with only 3 Preferences – P-3

(c) Ballot papers with valid preferences should be counted and bundled with 50 papers, put rubber bands, paper wrappings and bulldog clips. One tallying officer will check every ballot paper in all 50 ballot paper bundles and will mark the preferences of each candidate in the box allocated to the candidate. This marking has to be done with a blue pen.

(d) After completing the marking of preferences of a fifty ballot paper bundle it should be passed to any officer sitting across the table to check every entry. This officer should use a red pen and should make a mark to assure that all entries have been checked. Officers who prepare the form and also check them should place their names and signatures on the form.

(e) At the end of this checking the total of each tally sheet should be entered in the first summary sheet and should be passed to the next step with the tally sheets and the bundles. Officers who carry out these activities should place their names and signatures on the relevant form.

(f) These first summary sheets are passed onto the next step to enter them in the second summary sheet. The total number of preferences of a candidate according to the two summary sheets is the final total in that particular counting centre. After completing the second summary sheets in respect of each party and group, the Chief Counting Officer should place his signature with the signature of another Assistant Returning Officer as witness, put in the specified envelope, seal it and send to the Returning Officer. This exercise should continue until the preferences of every party and group are prepared separately and sent to the Returning Officer. Counting of votes and preferences in a counting centre in completed at the end of this stage.

(g) After receiving the declarations of preferences form every counting centre the Returning Officer prepares the final declaration of preferences received in the district by each candidate

Returning Officer will declare the results locally after getting the approval from the Election Commission. Declaration of results of all elections and referenda are nationally declared through radio and television at the Election Secretariat, Rajagiriya.