The Electoral Commission just explained why we'll have to wait until Tuesday to start counting votes again

Photo: Simon Thomsen

When Malcolm Turnbull said last night that we won’t know the result of Saturday’s election until at least Tuesday, when counting recommences, the delay surprised and shocked many.

What’s going on? Why is the Australian Electoral Commission dragging its feet?

After 1,375 senate ballot papers went missing in Western Australia in the 2013 election, voters there were forced back to the polls to vote again in a special half-senate election on April 5, 2014.

A subsequent inquiry led to changes in how the AEC conducts the count and today, they issued to following statement to clarify what happens next.

Here’s what it says:

On election night, the AEC counted more than 11 million House of Representatives votes. These included the votes cast in polling places on election day and votes cast in early voting centres. These results, down to polling place level, are available on the AEC’s Tally Room. The AEC also conducted a first preference count of Senate ballot papers cast in polling places.

The AEC’s focus today, Sunday 3 July, is on the declaration vote exchange. The declaration vote exchange is where the large numbers of absent, interstate, postal and other declaration votes are reconciled, sorted and packaged ready for despatch to the home division from Monday. Only once the declaration votes are received and processed in the home division can the counting of these votes begin. Any counting today will be limited to the small numbers of votes collected by AEC mobile teams.

On Monday, the AEC will continue the process of verifying more than one million postal votes already returned to the AEC so that they can be admitted to the count beginning on Tuesday. The legislation requires that postal votes are included in the count if the vote is received by the Returning Officer within 13 days of election day.

In parallel, the count of Senate pre-poll ordinary votes and any remaining House of Representatives ordinary pre-poll votes not already counted on Saturday night may also start on Monday.

So that means that over the next 48 hours, the AEC is making sure it hasn’t lost any votes. Then it will return to counting them on Tuesday.

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