The AEC will conduct a special count in Perth on Tuesday, 7 March 2017 to identify which candidate is entitled to be elected to the Senate from Western Australia, to the place left vacant by the disqualification of Mr Rodney Culleton by the High Court decision of 3 February.
This follows the provision of directions today by His Honour Justice Keane of the High Court specifying how the special count of votes will be conducted.
The special count will not require the manual handling of any Senate ballot papers, as the AEC will use the voter preference data already taken from the ballot papers of votes cast at the 2016 Western Australian Senate election to complete the special count.
The special count will involve voter preferences for the now disqualified candidate Mr Rodney Culleton being disregarded, with these voter preferences now to be counted to the next preferred candidate recorded on each ballot paper, with subsequent preferences to be treated as altered accordingly. Once this is completed, a distribution of preferences will then occur.
Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 candidates who contest federal elections cannot be present to observe the process. Candidates are, however, able to appoint a scrutineer to observe the process on their behalf.
Media or other members of the public will not be permitted to observe the special count.
Once the special count is completed, the Australian Electoral Officer for Western Australia will provide the result to the High Court of Australia for its consideration. Accordingly, the AEC will be issuing no public announcement of the result of the special count while this matter is before the Court.
On 3 February 2017, the High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns determined that Mr Rodney Culleton was disqualified from being elected at the 2016 Senate election for Western Australia due to the operation of section 44(ii) of the Constitution. The Court has ordered that the vacancy created by Mr Culleton's disqualification should be filled by a special count of the votes cast at the 2016 election with directions necessary to give effect to that special count to be made by a single Justice.