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.
The first AEC audit will examine the “transport and storage” of ballot papers. This comes after Mr Keelty’s damning inquiry, which found stacks of WA ballot papers were left in unruly piles next to garbage heaps, unsecured for “lengthy periods of time” and, in at least one instance, driven across town in the back of an open truck.
“Placing refuse and ‘live’ ballots in proximity to each other is strongly advised against,” was one of the many suggestions included in Mr Keelty’s report.
In a conclusion that troubled many on the parliamentary committee investigating the 2013 election, Mr Keelty found that “the ultimate fate of the missing ballots is not likely to ever be fully explained”.