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
 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.