Friday, December 10, 2010

More questions raised about Steve Tully's 2006 Western Metro Count

A number of question have been raised about the data quality and accuracy of Th 2006 Victorian State - Western Metropolitan Region election results.

In 2006 the Victorian Electoral Commission recorded a win for the ALP following the first preliminary count of ballot papers. In the recount there were 500 less ballot papers recorded then the first count and the ALP lost by 127 votes. What was also of interest was that there were 250 ballot papers less than that recorded for the corresponding lower house districts.

The number of total votes should never change between counts. The only reason they could is if there was a mistake in the tabulation of the number of votes or votes went missing between the two counts.

What was of even greater concern is that the Victorian Electoral Commission refused to publish a copy of the below-the-line preference data-file for the primary count.  A copy of the file was requested by the Victorian Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee to which the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Steve Tully, in giving evidence to the committee responded by stating that the file and been overwritten and there were no copies or backup data files available.  Steve Tully was only able to present a copy of the final count data file.

Without access to the primary count data-file there is no means of independently analysing the validity of the election ot the quality of the count.  A comparison of the two data files would have shown in detail where and what had changed. The fact that the VEC had not back backup copies of the data raised a number of serious concerns as to the professionalism of the VEC's IT support. It costs taxpayers millions of dollars to collate the election results and it is extraordinary that there was no disaster recovery plan in place. - Something that no Professional IT service would miss.

To add to the questions and uncertainty of the 2006 elections result the number of ballot papers recorded for 2010 Western Metropolitan Region election in comparison to its associated lower-house districts is currently less than 50 votes difference. So just how accurate was was the total vote count in 2006?  Has the VEC cooked the books or have they just been more diligent this time around then they were in 2006?  We will never know the answers to these questions, without access to the vote preference data files.

This time round there is no excuses.  Steve Tully has promised to publish both sets of preference data-files (Why the delay? They should have been available in real time and publihsed live as the count progresses adnas was the case on election night) One file for the primary count and one for the recheck. If there is to be a recount in Western Metropolitan (Which is looking most likely) then hopefully the VEC will also publish the final set of data.

What is clear is that Victoria needs to be vigilant and  much more needs to be done to ensure that our electoral system is open and transparent., currently it is not.

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