On Dec 6, 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission released the report conducted by Mick Keelty AO on the 1370 missing Western Australian Senate votes.
In summary, the report revealed that there had been neglect in the handling, movement and storage of WA Senate ballot papers. As a result, ballots were misplaced which made them impossible to be found.
Mr Keelty stated in the report that the misplacement of the ballots were not intentional to create disparity in the vote counts. This finding, however, made drawing conclusion more difficult.
AEC, nevertheless, considered Mr Keelty's report and plans to act on its solution sooner. The organisation will include the report in its imminent submission to the federal parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for further decision. The report will hopefully be part of the committee's general inquiry into the 2013 Federal Election and related matters.
Inquiry recommendations include:
- the implementation of material management policies and systems for the management of all aspects of ballot paper movement and storage that are consistent with the long term sensitivity of ballots and that reflect industry best practice. Specific recommendations include introducing 'tamper-evident' materials for the transfer and storage of ballot papers, both to and from vote counting centres, as well as for long term storage in warehouses. The installation of CCTV and alarms at warehouses is recommended;
- the introduction of controls for disposal of recycling or other materials to ensure that no ballot material is inadvertently lost;
- that all relevant staff have skills in contract management and contract enforcement;
- that the AEC's approach for the training of electoral staff (permanent and casual) ensure adequacy, national consistency, effectiveness, and the rigour of assessment measures, and
- that measures are implemented to ameliorate the pressures on staff arising from the expectation that all results will be known on polling day, and the logistical issues arising from the size of the Senate ballot paper.
Deputy Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will be designated to lead a task force heading the implementation of Mr Keelty's recommendations.
As for AEC's part as a whole, it is reviewing ballot paper storage arrangements in all warehouses used by the AEC across Australia.
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