The Australian Electoral Commission has enlisted former AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty to investigate 1375 missing senate ballots from its Western Australian recount.
All of the votes had been verified during the initial WA Senate count, but “could not be located, rechecked or verified” in the recount process, the AEC revealed today.
These votes were classified as 1,255 formal above-the-line ballots and 120 informal votes. The recount involved about 1.25 million votes across the state.
Greens senator Scott Ludlam and the Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich had separately called for the recount after party preferences saw them lose out to the Palmer United Party’s Zhenya Wang and Labor senator Louise Pratt respectively.
Ludlam was only 14 votes shy of the PUP’s Wang.
Mr Palmer demanded the electoral commission declare the recount invalid.
“How do you manage to lose that many votes and will somebody take responsibility for this fiasco and fall on their sword?” Mr Palmer said.
“The AEC has just become a joke and a fraud with some of the mistakes that have been made during the 2013 federal election counting.
“The recount in WA should be declared invalid and the original result restored as it was the only one which has every ballot counted.”
The AEC agreed to a request for a recount from the Greens despite Palmer United Party candidate Dio Wang being declared the winner of the fifth Senate seat in WA.
The Palmer United Party had strongly rejected the decision to order a recount as well as its move to only recount above the line ballots.
“There had already been discrepancies in this recount with several hundred ballots mistakenly placed in the informal pile,” he said.
“We have already seen a number of discrepancies in the counting in my electorate of Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast.
“Is the AEC trying to rig the election? Are they committing a fraud? Or are they just completely incompetent?
“Certainly our experience from this election is that there are many issues with Australia’s voting system and the AEC needs urgent reform.”
Here’s what Ludlam and Clive Palmer posted on Twitter shortly after news broke of the missing votes:
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) October 31, 2013
— Scott Ludlam (@Scottludlam) October 31, 2013
Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson, who is responsible for the electoral commission, has told the electoral commissioner the situation is unsatisfactory.
“The news that the AEC cannot find 1,375 ballot papers relating to the WA Senate recount is as disconcerting as it is deeply disappointing,” he said in a statement.
“I have personally expressed to the Electoral Commissioner my strong view that this situation is totally unsatisfactory and that I, as the responsible Minister, view this matter very dimly.”
The AEC said the recount would be completed shortly and it would “consider whether any petition to the Court of Disputed Returns is necessary”.
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