A recount of the Western Australia Senate votes that will determine whether Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam keeps his Senate seat will be completed soon, but the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has called in ex-Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty to investigate the misplacement of 1,375 votes that could not be found in the recount.
Ludlam, the tech-savvy Western Australian senator who has pursued internet freedom and technology issues in the Senate for the last six years, missed out on retaining his Senate spot in the original count by just 14 votes. He successfully appealed to the AEC to conduct a recount earlier this month.
The AEC electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn announced today that the recount of the 1.3 million votes in the state is due to be completed shortly with the distribution of preferences and a declaration of the poll to be announced shortly.
But the recount has hit a snag, with the AEC discovering that 1,375 votes that were verified in the first count could not be located in the recount. Of these votes, 1,255 were valid above-the-line votes, and 120 were informal votes.
Killesteyn said exhaustive efforts have been made to try to find the missing ballots without success.
"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," he said.
Killesteyn said that Keelty will be brought in to establish the facts around the misplaced ballot papers and identify any administrative failures that may have led to the misplacement of the papers.
"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," he said.
When the outcome of the vote is determined, the AEC will examine whether a petition to the Court of Disputed Returns is necessary in light of the missing ballot papers.