Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn Resigns; WA Electoral Officer Also Goes; Casualties Of Senate Debacle

The Australian Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn, has resigned. The Western Australian Electoral Officer, Peter Kramer, has also quit.

KillesteynKillesteyn’s resignation was announced this afternoon by the Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson. He said Killesteyn has taken personal leave until his resignation takes effect on July 4.

The resignation comes a day after the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, formally voided the Western Australian Senate election. The court ruling followed a petition from the AEC that the election should be thrown out following the loss of around 1300 ballot papers during last year’s count.

Killesteyn’s resignation is an honourable move to accept responsibility that will safeguard the AEC against ongoing criticism. It comes just two months into his second 5-year term as Electoral Commissioner.

The resignation of the Western Australian Electoral Officer, Peter Kramer, complements Killesteyn’s and provides a chain of accountability for last year’s events. Kramer was in the final year of a 5-year term. [Read more...]


High Court Formally Voids WA Senate Result; No Date Yet On New Poll

The High Court’s Justice Kenneth Hayne, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, today formally declared the Western Australian Senate election void, paving the way for a new election in April or May.

The Court ruled that the loss of 1370 ballot papers during the second count meant that those electors had been denied a vote. It rejected arguments that it should endorse either of the two counts, as well as arguments that it should substitute a “patchwork” of results from both counts.

A writ for the Senate election now needs to be issued by the Governor of Western Australia. By convention, state Governors accept the advice of the Governor-General on when to call Senate elections. This means that the election date, as usual, will be decided by the Abbott government.

The election must be held by May at the latest, in order to allow time for the votes to be counted and a result declared so that new senators can take their place on July 1. [Read more...]


High Court Voids Western Australian Senate Election; New Poll Looms

The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has declared void last year’s Senate election in Western Australia, necessitating a new election by May.

Justice Hayne ruled that 1,370 electors were denied a vote as a consequence of the Australian Electoral Commission losing their ballot papers.

The Court ruled that it was precluded by the Commonwealth Electoral Act from considering the results of earlier scrutinies of the lost ballot papers. It found that it was inevitable that the loss probably affected the result of the election since the number of ballot papers lost far exceeded the margin between the candidates at the crucial stages in the count.

“The only relief appropriate is for the election to be declared void,” the Court said.

It is now up to the federal government to decide when the new election will be held. Whilst the writs for Senate elections are issued by state Governors, this is usually done on the advice of the Governor-General.

There must be 33 days between the issue of the writ and polling day which means an election will be held between late-March and mid-May. The government may not desire a Senate election around the time of the May Budget so April seems most likely.

Statement from the High Court.

THE AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION v JOHNSTON & ORS

WANG v JOHNSTON & ORS

MEAD v JOHNSTON & ORS

[2014] HCA 5

Today the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, answered questions of law arising in three petitions which dispute the election of six senators for the State of Western Australia to serve in the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. [Read more...]


Keelty Report On Lost Senate Votes Inconclusive But Says No Evidence Of Wrong-Doing

The report by former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty into the missing Western Australian Senate ballot papers has found no evidence of deliberate wrong-doing but the mystery remains unsolved.

Keelty’s report says the AEC systems in place in W.A. made it difficult for him to reach a conclusive finding. He recommends a number of measures for storage and movement of ballots papers and for the disposal of other material during counting.

A reading of Keelty’s report suggests the possibility of accidental disposal and destruction of the ballot papers. Training and management of casual staff is also pinpointed.

Counting shows that the disappearance of 1,370 Senate ballot papers had the potential to alter the Senate result in WA. The AEC has itself petitioned the Court of Disputed Returns to void the result of the election. The case has not yet been heard but a new Senate election is expected in 2014.

Media release from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Keelty report released

The Australian Electoral Commission today released a report by Mr Mick Keelty AO inquiring into the circumstances of 1370 missing Western Australian Senate votes. [Read more...]


AEC Delays ACT Redistribution But Capital May Get Extra Seat

The Australian Electoral Commission has delayed a scheduled redistribution of electoral boundaries in the Australian Capital Territory but the nation’s capital may get an extra seat in time for the next election.

Redistributions must take place every seven years in each state and territory. They also occur when enrolments in more than one-third of all divisions, or one seat in the territories, deviate from the average by more than 10%. Redistributions also occur when the number of representatives to which a state or territory is entitled changes due to population increase or decline.

The last redistribution in the ACT took place in 2004. The AEC has deferred the next redistribution until the end of 2014 when the next determination of membership entitlement is due. It is expected that the determination will increase the ACT’s representation from two to three seats. [Read more...]