Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam is back in with a fighting chance to retain his Senate seat in Western Australia, after the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) upheld his appeal for a recount.
Ludlam, the Greens' fiercest internet freedom and technology advocate, along with Australian Sports Party candidate Wayne Dropulich appealed to the AEC last week after they missed out on Senate spots, which instead went to Palmer United Party candidate Zhenya Wang and Labor MP Louise Pratt.
Ludlam's initial appeal was rejected, but the Greens filed another appeal late last week, and the AEC held off making a formal declaration of the Senate count until the appeal was heard.
AEC Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn today announced that he had decided to do a recount of the 1.25 million out of 1.3 million ballot papers where voters had voted above the line, that is marking the box of one party only and allowing the party to determine the preference flows from that.
"In making my decision, I sought an explanation of the various matters raised in the appeals from Senator Ludlam and Mr Dropulich. I also provided an opportunity for written correspondence from the other key affected parties in the Senate election, namely candidates Senator Louise Pratt (Australian Labor Party) and Mr Zhenya Wang (Palmer United Party)," Killesteyn said in a statement.
"While closeness of a particular count in the process of distributing Senate preferences is not in itself a basis for a recount under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act), it does allow the Electoral Commissioner to direct a recount should there be appropriate grounds on appeal.
"Having considered candidates' submissions and having further regard to the criticality of particular Senate candidate exclusion counts and the small margins involved in determining senators elect, I have decided that there should be a recount of all formal Western Australian above-the-line ballots and informal ballots — as determined by Divisional Returning Officers for the 15 WA electoral divisions in accordance with Section 273A of the Electoral Act.
The AEC will now sort out arrangements for the recount and look to provide recount update information via the AEC website. The AEC has yet to determine when the WA Senate poll will now be declared.
The commission said that the recounted votes will be re-entered into the AEC's computerised Senate system and merged with the 4 percent of the votes in WA that were below the line.
Ludlam has said that whether he will be returned to his Senate seat will come down to just 14 votes.
If the recount sees Ludlam and Dropulich to win Senate spots in the place of Labor and the Palmer United Party, it will harm Palmer United Party (PUP) leader Clive Palmer's hopes of holding the balance of power in the Senate after July. Today, he announced a memorandum of understanding between the party and Motoring Enthusiasts' Senator-Elect Ricky Muir that would give the party four out of the six cross-bench votes that Prime Minister Tony Abbott will need in the Senate in order to pass legislation if Labor and the Greens oppose Coalition legislation.
Should Wang miss out on his seat, Palmer would be reduced to three aligned senators. Today, he labelled the recount as "undemocratic".