Electoral Commissioner Mr Ed Killesteyn said today the Western Australian Senate recount of votes will shortly be completed and the Australian Electoral Officer for WA, Mr Peter Kramer will shortly advise on a schedule for the distribution of preferences and declaration of the poll for newly elected Senators.
Mr Killesteyn and Mr Kramer thanked all the candidates and scrutineers involved with the recount for their patience, goodwill and professionalism. Mr Killesteyn also thanked WA AEC staff and management for their work in conducting the recount.
“The recount was a complex process involving the physical rechecking of 1.3m Senate ballot papers over more than two weeks“, Mr Killesteyn said. “A recount of this scale has not occurred since the AEC was established in 1984.”
During the recount a serious administrative issue came to light which will be subject to further investigation. Specifically, 1,375 votes - all of which had been verified during the initial WA Senate count - could not be located, rechecked or verified in the recount process. These votes were classified as 1,255 formal above-the-line ballots and 120 informal votes.
“I am advised by Mr Kramer – and I have reassured myself - that exhaustive efforts have been made to find the missing ballots at all premises where WA Senate votes were stored or moved during the 2013 federal election," Mr Killesteyn said.
“On behalf of the AEC I apologise to the electors of Western Australia and to the candidates and parties for this failure of the AEC”.
Mr Killesteyn added that he has immediately initiated an urgent examination into the circumstances which led to the apparent misplaced ballot papers.
“I wish to advise that Mick Keelty AO APM, the distinguished former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, has agreed to undertake this task. His terms of reference include establishing the facts regarding the misplaced ballot papers, and identifying any administrative process and/or procedural failures that may have occurred as well as providing recommendations to avoid similar issues in the future.
“I wish to stress that Mr Keelty will undertake this investigation independently of the AEC and will be able to avail himself of whatever resources and access staff and information he may require to assist his examination of this matter.”
Mr Killesteyn said he had requested a report urgently. The report will be considered by the full Electoral Commission, who will determine further actions after due consideration of the report's findings and recommendations. The Electoral Commission is a three person body, including the Electoral Commissioner, which has certain legislative powers defined in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
Mr Killesteyn said that in concert with the investigation, the Electoral Commission would closely examine the Senate outcome in Western Australia and consider whether any petition to the Court of Disputed Returns is necessary. A time period of forty days is available from the return of the Senate writ for Western Australia for petition.
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