Australia: ‘Frankly, we don’t do it very well’: Australia Electoral Commission forced to change over WA poll | Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian Electoral Commission will outsource the storage of millions of used ballot papers, conceding its warehouse security and logistics chain is not up to task. The AEC has been forced to overhaul its processes after bungling the 2013 Senate election in Western Australia in which nearly 1400 voting papers were lost, causing the High Court to order a new poll at a cost of $23 million. Former Australia Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty called the AEC’s handling of the election a “disaster” and the-then electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn later resigned. On Wednesday, new commissioner Tom Rogers told a parliamentary committee that the AEC would “completely outsource” its warehouse and logistics, including the transport of ballot papers to 8000 polling stations. “Frankly, we don’t do it very well,” he told the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

Australia: Electoral Commission promises upgraded procedures for re-run WA Senate election | ABC

The Australian Electoral Commission says it has improved its security and procedures to ensure that no votes go missing in Saturday’s re-run of the WA Senate election. The election is being held again after results from last September’s Senate election were declared void when about 1,400 ballots disappeared during a vote re-count. AEC spokesman Phil Diak said the commission had re-examined all of its security procedures in the wake of the vote loss and subsequent inquiries into it by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty and a joint parliamentary committee.

Australia: Senate vote debacle: Recycling banned at polling centres as AEC introduces reforms | Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian Electoral Commission has ordered a suite of changes prior to the re-run of the WA Senate election, including increased tracking of ballot papers and a ban on recycling at polling centres. Acting Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers told Parliament’s electoral matters committee on Wednesday that the debacle over the loss of 1370 ballots “is certainly the worst period in our history”. Mr Rogers said the AEC had made several changes in response to an investigation by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty and those changes would be in place for the fresh WA Senate election on April 5. Mr Keelty’s investigation identified numerous breakdowns in the handling and storage of ballots and he has said “poor leadership” contributed to the “disastrous result” that has forced Western Australians back to the polls. It has been estimated that the Senate re-vote in WA will cost $20 million.

Australia: West Australian election recount a ‘disaster’: Keelty | Sydney Morning Herald

Former federal police chief Mick Keelty has described the handling of the West Australian Senate election recount as a “disaster”. Parliament’s electoral matters committee is investigating how 1370 ballots went missing in a recount of the 2013 Senate election in WA and measures to ensure it does not happen again. The loss has resulted in a court-ordered re-run of the WA Senate election on April 5, which could affect the Abbott government’s delivery of key election promises. Mr Keelty was hired to find out what went wrong, but was unable to put his finger on one specific fault or criminality. “This was a disaster,” he told the committee in Canberra on Wednesday.

Australia: Two more enquiries to be held into Australian Electoral Commission following lost vote debacle | Sydney Morning Herald

After the humiliation of losing more than 1300 votes and the resignation of top officials, the Australian Electoral Commission faces yet more pressure with the Auditor-General launching a major investigation into the electoral body. Fairfax Media can reveal the national audit office is pursuing two audits of the AEC after the 2013 WA Senate election result was declared void by the High Court. Due in part to the AEC’s loss of the ballot papers, West Australians will vote again on April 5 for a re-run of last year’s election, at a cost of around $20 million. The ballot debacle, which was blamed on “lax supervision” and a “complacent attitude” within the AEC in an investigation by former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, resulted in the resignation of the AEC’s electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn and state manager Peter Kramer.

Australia: Court to decide on Western Australia Senate election fate | Sydney Morning Herald

Voters in Western Australia will find out on Tuesday whether they will go to a fresh Senate election which could determine the fate of the Abbott government’s agenda. High Court justice Kenneth Hayne will decide on a petition brought by the Australian Electoral Commission to have the election of six WA senators in 2013 declared void. The AEC lost 1370 votes in a recount of the WA Senate election. An independent inquiry by former police chief Mick Keelty was inconclusive about the fate of the ballot papers, but called for a major overhaul of the AEC’s processes. Three Liberals and one Labor candidate were declared winners of the first four of six seats.

Australia: Challenge to Western Australia Senate result on hold until January | The Australian

Australia’s new Senate could sit before legal challenges to the election result in Western Australia are determined, a High Court justice says. The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, is hearing three separate petitions about the result of the fifth and sixth Senate places in Western Australia. But Senate contenders will be left to sweat through summer after Justice Kenneth Hayne today flagged the challenge to the upper house result in WA would not be heard until late January. And the matter may not be settled before the new Senate commences sitting in July. “I cannot dismiss the possibility that … after the first of July the Senate may not be properly constituted,” he said. “That possibility is best avoided.” The result in WA has already been the subject of a recount and an investigation by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty, after 1370 votes went missing.

Australia: Close watch on Senate re-run | The West Australian

The likely repeat WA Senate election next year will be one of the most high-tech and high- security exercises in democracy in the Western world. Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn said the Australian Electoral Commission would implement all 32 of Mick Keelty’s recommendations after the bungled WA count that resulted in 1370 ballot papers going missing. “I’ve accepted, the commission’s accepted, all of the recommendations,” Mr Killesteyn told ABC radio yesterday. “Bear in mind, this will take us to the forefront of control. No other electoral commission, certainly in Australia or indeed many parts of the Western world, has these sorts of controls over ballot papers.” Mr Keelty, a former Australian Federal Police commissioner, recommended the AEC introduce “cradle to grave” handling of ballot papers to keep them sterile at all times by ensuring secure warehousing with CCTV, alarms and guards whose political neutrality had been checked. Ballot papers are likely to be routinely scanned electronically and the AEC will use tamper- evident materials during transfer and storage.

Australia: Missing Senate votes: Mick Keelty says lax WA standards to blame for lost ballots | ABC

An inquiry into Western Australia’s missing Senate votes has found significant failures in the handling, movement and storage of ballot papers. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) asked the former commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, to conduct the inquiry after more than 1,300 ballot papers disappeared. The bungle has left the Senate result up the air, with the AEC asking the High Court to order a fresh election in the New Year.

Australia: Lost votes box could cost taxpayers $13m | The West Australian

A lost box of ballot papers worth just $30 will likely condemn taxpayers to a $13 million election, according to a scathing review of the WA Senate recount. Former Federal police commissioner Mick Keelty accused the WA office of the Australian Electoral Commission of having a culture of complacency that is likely to result in 1.3 million people going back to the polls next year. Mr Keelty was given the task of determining how the commission lost 1370 votes after it was asked to conduct a recount. The probe came after a very close Senate count in WA which, depending on the lost votes, could have two different candidates elected to the Upper House for the next six years. There has been an appeal in the High Court against the result, with a directions hearing to be held next week. Mr Keelty found he could not “conclusively” rule out foul play in the recount, though he suggested the votes could have been placed in wrong boxes, lost in transit or accidentally destroyed. He found the electoral commission was under more pressure, with a bigger workload, demographic changes and increased expectations for results on election night. This had led to mistakes that cumulatively could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Australia: Negligent AEC practices means mystery of lost votes will remain unsolved: Mick Keelty | Brisbane Times

Former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty has criticised “lax” and “complacent” practices with the Australian Electoral Commission in concluding the fate of 1370 missing Western Australian Senate votes may never be known. The Australian Electoral Commission asked Mr Keelty to investigate what happened to the ballot papers after the loss of the votes was discovered in October during a recount. In a report released on Friday, Mr Keelty said while his investigation had not excluded the possibility of criminality, he had not discovered any evidence to suggest it was more likely than that the ballot papers had simply been misplaced. “It is tempting to say that the ballots are most likely to have been mistakenly destroyed with recycling material but the system put in place by the WA AEC office was so parlous that such a conclusion would be difficult to prove,” Mr Keelty wrote.