Almost 1,400 Senate ballots cast at September federal elections are missing, and voters may have to return to the polls soon for two seats that have ramifications for the conservative government’s ability to pass its legislative agenda. The Australian Electoral Commission is set to declare the Senate vote as early as Monday next week despite the missing votes. Disgruntled candidates can then appeal to the High Court, which can order a new Senate election in Western Australia state. AEC spokesman Phil Diak said it was unlikely the ballots would ever be found. “The AEC has been searching exhaustively and that includes all premises where the Senate votes were stored,” Diak told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Friday. The missing ballots account for only one in 1,000 in a state where 1.3 million people voted at the last election.
Queensland University law professor Graeme Orr said the result would almost certainly go to the High Court, which could order the first re-run of an Australian Senate election in a century.
Orr said while there was a slim chance that the result changed, the ballots’ disappearance affected the appearance of integrity.
The Sept. 7 election brought down a centre-left Labor Party government and installed conservative Tony Abbott as prime minister.
In the initial results, the two tightly contested seats went to Palmer United Party candidate Zhenya Wang and Labor’s Louise Pratt. But incumbent Greens Sen. Scott Ludham, who was set to lose his seat, requested a recount due to the close result.
The recount delivered the seats to Ludlam and Australian Sports Party candidate Wayne Dropulich. But the 1,375 ballots had disappeared before the recount.
Mining magnate Clive Palmer has demanded the first count stand, saying the missing ballots could have “already gone through the shredder.”