Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keeping candidates in the dark: Tully's ultra secret ballot an abuse of process

Victoria's Chief Electoral Commissioner, Steven Tully, has responded to Nathan Murphy's request for a tabulation list of ballot papers. Information requested is not available. The Electoral Commission's failure to provide this data has brought the conduct of the election into disrepute as the counting is no longer open and transparent. It is unclear if Mr Tully will make available copies of the below-the-line preference data-files as the data-entry of below the line ballot papers progresses.  This information was readily available during the conduct of the City of Melbourne count.

Without access to this information it is impossible for scrutineers to verify the data recorded or undertake a proper scrutiny of the ballot. It is like running a marathon blind folded without knowing the direction or where the finish line is.

There is nothing in the legislation or the requirements to maintain a secret ballot that prevents this information being  made available and open to public scrutiny. This information is normally available to scrutineers. Its been over one week and the Commission is still in the dark as to how many ballot papers have been issued and received. Without this information who would we now if ballot papers have not been added or removed from the count. We don't know, The system used is not transparent or informative.

Mr Tully's failure to make provide the information requested has raising ongoing concern over the conduct of electronic counting of the the election with reports that a large number of ballot papers are missing from the count.

In 2006, Western Metropolitan Region, over 500 ballot papers went missing between Count A and Count B. No proper or detailed explanation has been given as to what happened to these votes.  The Commission refused to make copies of the below-the-line preference data files  for each count available.

When copies of the preference data-files pertaining to Count A were requested by the State Parliament's Electoral Matters Committee Steve Tully claimed that the data had been destroyed and overwritten and that no backups of the data were made.

The fact that no backups were made raised a number of concerns as to the professionalism of the conduct and management of the electronic count. It cost 100,000's of dollars to collate this information and the Commission failed to make backups of the crucial data files. In not providing access to this data there was no means of verify the accuracy of the record entered by the Victorian Electoral Commission. In 2006 Western Metropolitan Region the results of the election changed between Count A and Count B with a winning margin of just 127 votes.

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