Australian Electoral Commission

Media advisory – Western Australian Senate recount

Updated: 2 November 2013

Missing ballot papers

During the recount of WA Senate ballot papers the AEC found that some ballot papers had been misplaced. The details of those ballot papers, as advised in a media release on 8 November 2013, are set out below.

The table below is drawn from the records from the initial Senate count and sets out:

  • the number of ballot papers missing
  • which divisions and polling places they were from, or that they were provisional votes
  • which party/group they were for, or that they were informal.
Details of missing ballot papers
Division Forrest Pearce Total ballot papers
Polling Place Bunbury East Henley Brook Mt Helena Wundowie Provisional Count 1
Group  
A Smokers Rights       8   8
C Australian Christians       3   3
D Help End Marijuana Prohibition       7   7
G Shooter and Fishers     14     14
J Secular Party of Australia 1         1
K Australian Independents 3     1   4
L The Wikileaks Party 6     5   11
M Katter's Australian Party 2     1   3
N Family First Party 11         11
O No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics 1     1   2
Q Stop the Greens 3         3
S The Greens (WA) 112         112
T Animal Justice Party 12   9     21
Z Australian Labor Party       164   164
AA Liberal   350 370 166   886
Sub-total formal votes 151 350 393 356 0 1250
Informal votes 80     29 11 120
TOTAL VOTES 231 350 393 385 11 1370
  1139  

The progress

The table below shows a state summary of the recount and the number of challenges to ballot papers by scrutineers

Progress as at 8pm AEDT 31 October 2013
Division Expected ballot papers ATL Informal For CSS Challenged - Authenticity Challenged - Other Total ballot papers accounted for % Complete
Brand 90780 88172 2500 32 1 84 90789 100%
Canning 91233 88365 2896 12 3 63 91339 100%
Cowan 87202 84403 2688 90 2 30 87213 100%
Curtin 83067 81494 1468 25 0 54 83041 100%
Durack 77833 75413 2112 204 0 71 77800 100%
Forrest 88428 85569 2533 9 0 69 88180 100%
Fremantle 89766 86726 2925 45 0 49 89745 100%
Hasluck 88603 85701 2774 27 2 76 88580 100%
Moore 88109 85742 2235 110 4 33 88124 100%
O'Connor 85255 82615 2519 56 0 73 85263 100%
Pearce 90959 86836 2523 38 0 34 89431 100%
Perth 83741 80891 2748 25 0 61 83725 100%
Stirling 85613 82547 2968 34 0 68 85617 100%
Swan 83375 80570 2600 36 26 62 83294 100%
Tangney 86038 83932 1968 31 4 73 86008 100%
Total 1300002 1258976 37457 774 42 900 1298149 100%

The download below shows the detail by polling place.

The process

On 10 October 2013, the Electoral Commissioner directed a recount of certain WA Senate ballot papers. This direction was issued subsequent to requests for a recount following the scrutiny of WA Senate ballot papers, distribution of preferences and determination of successful candidates but prior to the declaration of the poll. The formal recount at the Central Senate Scrutiny (CSS) centre in Northbridge began at 9:00am on Thursday 17 October.

The recount involves a fresh look at informal ballot papers plus all ballot papers where voters had recorded their Senate vote above-the-line in the 2013 Federal Election (more than 1.2 million ballot papers). This includes votes cast by WA voters at polling places within the state, at other voting centres throughout Australia and overseas, or by post.

Counting Senate votes

The Central Senate Scrutiny (CSS) is the process of counting Senate ballot papers and distributing the preferences marked on them to determine which candidates have been elected. The CSS is carried out in accordance with the requirements of Part XVIII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act). The AEC uses a computerised system to assist with this process. The software used is called EasyCount Senate (ECS). The system takes the entered information for each of the votes cast in a Senate election, performs the distribution of preferences, and indicates which candidates have been elected.

Immediately after Polling Day, Senate ballot papers are sorted into those which are formal above-the-line (ATL), those which appear formal below-the-line (BTL) and those which are informal. The number of formal ATL votes for each group/party is loaded into ECS as are the Group Voting Tickets (GVTs) for each group/party. Counting of ATL and obviously informal votes is undertaken by each local AEC office.

Votes marked BTL are data entered into ECS at the CSS premises. Each ballot paper is twice entered into ECS by AEC data entry operators. The initial data entry and the second entry (for verification) are undertaken by different data entry operators. During this process, ECS is able to detect whether there is a discrepancy in the data entry by the two operators,  or whether a vote is informal. Discrepancies in data entry are resolved immediately. Once all BTL votes have been recorded in this way, ECS combines them with ATL preferences, performs the distribution of preferences including carrying out exclusions and calculating transfer values, and outputs reports that show which candidates have been elected to the Senate.

Recount of Above-the-line votes

The recount will be conducted by the Australian Electoral Officer (AEO) for WA at a single location. It will involve up to 120 counting staff counting daily from 9am-4:30pm plus preparation and packing up time. It will continue until all relevant ballot papers have been counted.

The recount involves looking again at all votes which are informal or counted as formal ATL. It will involve checking that the votes are in fact informal or formal ATL (and for which party/group). The ballot papers will be counted to ensure that the number recorded as informal or recorded as formal ATL for each party/group is correct. Where figures need to be corrected, this will be recorded and, at the end of counting, loaded into ECS along with figures that did not need to be corrected.

Distribution of preferences

Loading of the recount figures into ECS will enable the system to recalculate the distribution of preferences and determine the successful candidates.

Scrutineers

Candidates are entitled to appoint people to act as scrutineers for the duration of the recount.

Formality of ballot papers

The circumstances that will lead to a ballot paper being classified as formal or informal are prescribed by s 268(1) of the Electoral Act, and interpretations of that provision are supported by various judicial decisions.

The general approach is that an elector who has marked a ballot paper has done so with the intention to cast a formal vote. Accordingly, where an examination of what is written on a ballot paper results in it being capable of complying with the formality rules, it will be ruled as being formal and included in the count. This is consistent with the principle of giving effect to the franchise where it is possible to do so within the formality rules of the Electoral Act.

A ballot paper will be ruled as informal if:

  1. It is not authenticated by either the initials of an issuing officer, the presence of the official mark, or by having been endorsed as authentic by either a DRO or the AEO (in accordance with s.268(2) of the Electoral Act);
  2. It is completely blank;
  3. It, in the opinion of a DRO, enables an elector to be identified;
  4. It does not have a single first preference mark ATL, or is not sequentially numbered correctly BTL and cannot be ‘saved’ by the provisions in s 270 of the Electoral Act.

Note: ballot papers which are referred to the AEO for consideration and contain a numbering sequence BTL, will be data entered into ECS to assist the AEO in ruling on formality.

If there is a numbering sequence above the line only, with a single first preference mark, the ballot paper will be ruled as formal. For above the line votes only a first preference mark can be a number 1, a tick or a cross.

Completion of the recount

The recount has now been completed by the AEO, The declaration of the poll occurred on Monday 4 November 2013 and the writ was returned Wednesday 6 November 2013.

The validity of the election of any member of parliament may only be disputed by a petition to the Court of Disputed Returns within 40 days of the return of the writ. Further information can be found in the Candidates Handbook.