What happens to ballot papers once they have been counted?

On Sunday voters in around half of the 300 municipalities in Flanders and in all but 9 Walloon municipalities voted using pencils and ballot papers. But have you ever wondered what happens to ballot papers once they have been counted? They can’t simply be but out for collection as waste paper. Instead all the ballot papers case in a particular electoral canton are collected by the secretary of the head office of that canton. An electoral canton is usually made up of several municipalities, however in the case of larger municipalities or cities in may only cover one municipality.  Only one the result of the election has been passed as being valid can the ballot papers be destroyed and that isn’t as easy as it might sound.


Once all the votes have been counted and the result announced the work is not yet over for some involved in the organisation of the election. All the ballot papers need to be collected and this involves a considerable amount of work.   

Bags full of ballot papers

Geert Allary is the secretary of the head office of Ghent electoral canton and the head office of the East Flemish electoral constituency. He will have at least another week’s work dealing with the administrative aftermath of Sunday’s elections.  

Mr Allary was appointed to the post of secretary by the president of the court in Ghent and his duty extend well beyond the time by which all the votes are counted.   

The ballot papers are kept until parliament has voted to say that the election results are valid.  Only then can the ballot papers be destroyed.  Collecting the ballot papers is something of a task and Geert Allary has his work cut out.

“In this digital world a remarkable amount of paper is still used during elections”. In Ghent alone 273 big bags of ballot papers are awaiting the thumbs up from parliament. 

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