The Australian Electoral Commission is poised to join several political parties in asking the High Court to order an unprecedented re-run of the WA Senate election.
Despite the AEC declaring yesterday six "successful" candidates in the WA Senate race, Commissioner Ed Killesteyn said the disappearance of 1375 votes in the re-count had cast "irreconcilable doubt" over the result.
Labor and the Palmer United Party have already declared an intention to challenge the result in the High Court as soon as possible but the AEC appears destined to contest its own formal declaration.
It would leave the High Court, as the Court of Disputed Returns, with little option but to demand the AEC arrange for a fresh election that would cost taxpayers at least $10 million and force WA voters to their fourth poll in less than 12 months.
It is understood the soonest the Senate re-run could be held is February but the Christmas-New Year period makes March or April more likely.
Mr Killesteyn apologised unreservedly for the debacle, saying it was the AEC's most embarrassing moment in its history. "We're left with a nagging and almost irreconcilable doubt about the outcome of the West Australian Senate election," he said.
A new election would see the electoral roll updated and the AEC call for fresh candidates.
So-called "preferences whisperer" Glenn Druery, who helped minor parties win Senate seats through complex vote swaps, said a Senate sequel election gave West Australians a unique chance to "flex their muscles".
A new poll would be an early litmus test for Prime Minister Tony Abbott's standing with voters. The Government has already started drawing battlelines and will again campaign heavily on carbon pricing.
The AEC originally named Palmer United Party's Dio Wang and Labor's Louise Pratt the winners of the fifth and sixth seats.
But the Greens and the Australian Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich were granted a re-count because the result hinged on a 14-vote margin between the Australian Christians and the Shooters and Fishers Party at a crucial cut-off point that affected the flow of preferences.
The re-count awarded Mr Dropulich and Greens senator Scott Ludlam the fifth and sixth seats but the result was marred by the disappearance of almost 1400 votes from booths in the Pearce and Forrest divisions.
Labor figures believe if the original election night tallies from the affected booths had been included in the results, the Shooters would have been ahead by one vote, saving Senator Pratt and Mr Wang.
Businessman Clive Palmer has accused the AEC of "incompetent and fraudulent conduct".