Ballot boxes and voting booths Photo: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY
West Australian voters are poised to go back to the polls, after the Australian Electoral Commission declared the Australian Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich and the Greens' Scott Ludlam had won the final Senate positions in a recount on Saturday – despite the fact 1375 votes remain missing.
The recount reverses the earlier result, which had knocked out Mr Dropulich and Senator Ludlam at a crucial point in the count, which hung on just 14 votes, installing the Palmer United Party's Zhenya 'Dio' Wang and Labor's Louise Pratt.
But it's likely the saga is far from over. The declaration now clears the way for the entire state to be forced back to the polls in a fresh election for WA Senate positions that could alter the balance of power in the upper house.
Now the recount has been announced any candidate or WA voter, or even the AEC itself, has 40 days to petition the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, to conduct a fresh election.
But during the recount, 1375 ballot papers somehow disappeared. Palmer United Party Clive Palmer said the AEC should restore the original result.
“Is the AEC trying to rig the election? Are they committing a fraud? Or are they just completely incompetent?"
Despite the missing ballot papers, Senator Ludlam said after the announcement the decision by his party and the Sports Party to challenge the vote had been "vindicated".
"Hopefully this allows us to get on with our jobs with a degree of certainty. But I'm also well aware there could be a few twists and turns in this yet."
Earlier, he had said releasing the results of the recount before the missing votes had been found, or the investigation was complete, was "inexcusable".
AEC spokesman Phil Diak said the commission would formally declare the results on Monday.
On Friday Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn apologised for the missing papers, which he said could not be found despite "exhaustive efforts" to locate them. The votes were classified as 1255 formal above-the-line ballots and 120 informal votes from the divisions of Pearce and Forrest.
Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty has been called in to conduct an independent inquiry.