news Greens Communications Spokesman Scott Ludlam has held his Senate seat in Western Australia following a controversial recount of the state’s Senate vote in September’s Federal Election, but the result is likely to be formally challenged by the rival Palmer United Party and may head to a by election because of the loss of 1,375 crucial votes.
Following the recount which took place over the past several weeks, the Australian Electoral Commission’s State Manager for Western Australia, Peter Kramer, announced the results of the recount and distribution of preferences for the election of six Senators for Western Australia.
The first four candidates to be elected — three from the Liberal Party and one from the Labor Party — maintained their positions, but the recount saw Australian Sports Party candidate Wayne Dropulich and Ludlam re-elected in fifth and sixth spot. Previously, the Palmer United Party and Labor had picked up additional Senate seats in WA.
However, it appears as though the result may be set to head to the Court of Disputed Returns. ABC election analyst Antony Green posted a comprehensive anlysis of the situation in Western Australia yesterday, writing that the AEC very likely knows that its call will be disputed, but that the issue couldn’t head to the Court of Disputed Returns until a result for the Senate in WA was declared.
“With such a close result, the Court may rule it has no confidence in deciding the result on the available ballot papers and order a new election,” wrote Green. “The Court will have to expedite a hearing and decision on this. There is still time to conduct a re-election for Senators to take their seats on 1 July, but that means holding the election by the latest in early May.”
“The election would go through exactly the same procedures as a general election. Writs would be issued, a 33 day campaign would follow, a polling day would be held followed by a count. Unless the High Court surprisingly decided differently, new nominations would be called for. Unless the High Court ruled that the roll as at 7 September be used, there would be a new close of rolls.”
Ludlam said at a press conference held over the weekend that he was “delighted” with the outcome, but acknowledged the issue was not yet finalised. “The saga is not over yet,” added Greens leader Christine Milne on Twitter on Saturday.
The Palmer United Party, which has already issued challenges in other electoral areas such as the seat of Fairfax, which party leader Clive Palmer was last week confirmed to win, issued a media release last week stating that the AEC should declare the recount invalid after what the party said was the “debacle” involving the 1,375 lost votes. It appears the votes were initially counted during the first count of the WA Senate votes, but were subsequently lost, meaning they were not able to be counted for the recount vote.
Ludlam, too, has previously advocated that the AEC should delay declaring the result of the WA recount until an investigation is completed into the missing votes. The AEC has appointed former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty to conduct a review into the missing votes.
If Ludlam does eventually lose his seat, the news will come as a blow to the Australian digital rights community, due to Ludlam’s role over the past half-decade after he was elected in 2007 increasingly coming to focus on holding powerful government departments and law enforcement bodies, politicians, corporations and other groups to account for increasing privacy rights violations and the encroachment of telecommunications surveillance in the digital age.
However, Ludlam told the ABC over the weekend that he was confident of his position in retaining his Senate seat if a by-election is called for the Western Australian senate.
Looks like this saga is going to drag on for a while yet — very likely into early to mid 2014. I wouldn’t be expecting a final result for Ludlam anytime soon.
Image credit: Australian Greens