Ballots put in unsecured box

Investigation: Inquiry into pre-poll voting. Picture: Getty Images

The Australian Electoral Commission has been forced to investigate potential voting irregularities at a pre-polling mobile booth in the northern suburbs with allegations 75 votes were cast into an unsecured polling box, contrary to proper procedure.

With all eyes on the AEC after it lost 1370 votes from September's original Senate election, forcing the High Court to order Saturday's $20 million re-run, the Liberal Party has sought an explanation after allegations votes cast on Monday morning at a RAAFA Estate retirement home in Merriwa were put into an unsecured ballot box. The votes were then allegedly transferred to a secure box.

In the 2010 Federal election, 2977 ballots in the South Australian seat of Boothby were declared invalid after an AEC official opened pre-poll ballot boxes before the polls closed, falling foul of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

It is possible these 75 votes in Merriwa could be declared similarly invalid.

At one point, the result of the September 2013 Senate election, which was eventually declared void after the AEC lost the 1370 ballots, hinged on the distribution of preferences of just 14 votes.

It is understood the AEC is deeply concerned and scrambling to understand the implications of the incident.

It is believed to be seeking advice about whether the 75 votes are admissible; whether, if they are inadmissible, those voters can cast another ballot; and, what the consequences are if those voters are unable to cast valid ballots.

It is understood Acting Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers was travelling to Perth last night.

"We're aware that some concerns have been expressed about the handling of an estimated 75 Senate ballots at the RAAFA Estate Merriwa during attendance for mobile polling on Monday," an AEC spokesman said.

"We're still examining the circumstances and won't be able to comment further until we've received further advice."

Liberal Party State director Ben Morton said: "I'm aware that there is an issue and I'm seeking clarification, because this could have very serious consequences for this election."

Asked if it could compromise the integrity of the election, he said: "I need to know the facts, and I'm frustrated I haven't been provided them."

Labor State secretary Simon Mead said: "If this is true, this is a stupid mistake and an absolute disgrace."

Depending on the result of Saturday's election, any of the record 77 candidates on the ballot could seek to use any voting irregularity to force a re-count or even a fresh election.

Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer has previously called for major reforms of the AEC's processes.

"The current system of using cardboard ballot boxes and pieces of string (is in danger of) making our election system a joke," he said on Monday.

"The AEC has only glossed over a review of its processes and there is nothing to say the Senate re-election won't be another disaster."

'This is a stupid mistake and an absolute disgrace.'"

  • Simon Mead * Labor State secretary