As you may be aware, I run a popular and topical website (originaltruthseeker.blogspot,com.au) and twitter account (@AU_Truth_Seeker) that has been analysing and predicting Senate outcomes nationwide. I am not a member or employee of any political party, nor is any member of my family as far as I am aware. I do not have any financial interest in the outcomes of the WA Senate election.
I write to you today regarding the recently ordered partial recount of voting in the WA Senate. Firstly, congratulations to your organisation for reopening the count. While I am generally supportive of your decision to only reconsider Above The Line (ATL) Votes, I am somewhat concerned at numerous discrepancies within the Below The Line (BTL) votes that requires further consideration.
These issues are as identified by me personally, or as raised with me publicly and/or privately by of many of my readers.
1. Waggrakine Discrepancy
As I posted on my site, there is clear evidence of a number of BTL ballots from the Geraldton - Waggrakine polling place (Division of Durack) being misrecorded as informal. Essentially, the BTL % is impossibly low and the informal % is implausibly high. In total, I expect approximately 50 formal BTL votes from Waggrakine have been incorrectly classified as informal. A scatter plot on my site makes this patently clear.
Your BTL Data Download for batch 1663 (the batch which corresponds to the Geraldton-Waggrakine booth) has just one formal BTL vote, despite at least three people acknowledging they had voted BTL at that place. Further, the "Paper" numbering for this booth lists the only formal ballot as Paper #16, when for almost all other booths the paper numbers start at #1.
Will the BTL informal votes be recounted? Your press release says that informals will be recounted, but BTLs won't. I hope, for the sake of the voters of Waggrakine, that the AEC goes to every effort in an attempt to resolve this glaring anomoly
2. Fernandez additional vote
In your Distribution of Preferences and your overall "Votes by Candidates" summary, you point to Chris Fernandez (Democrats) having 3768 votes, including 507 votes. However, your BTL Data Download only accounts for 506 Fernandez votes. I have confirmed this with a number of other amateur sleuths who have been in contact with me.
Furthermore, your Data Download contains 49429 votes, whereas 49230 votes is required to add up to the total number as reported in various spots on your website.
Where the election is so close, every vote counts and should be available to the public,
3. Senate vs House
I have raised a number of discrepancies on my website between the House and Senate vote numbers by polling booth, While I expect the number to be small for wholly explainable reasons (such as someone stealing a ballot paper, etc) I was quite surprised that over 600 out of 900 polling places in WA had a ballot discrepancy, and 21 polling places had a difference in double figures. Kambalda West and Derby were particularly troublesome with a discrepancy of precisely 50. While this is almost certainly due to someone miscounting a bundled stack of 50 votes, I am concerned you were ready to declare the election without investigating this further. However, I am pleased that these issues will be picked up in the recount and I look forward to this issue self-resolving over the coming weeks.
Has the AEC ever thought of counting Senate ballots by weighing them with electronic kitchen scales? This would enable a more prompt double check of the number of ballots in a particular pile.
4. Recount mechanics
While I acknowledge the time taken for recount may be substantial, I would also support the AEC proceeding in the most transparent manner possible. Accordingly, I believe democracy would be best served by having a clear recount schedule by Division or, preferably, by polling place. There also needs to be a clear way for the voting public to follow the progress of the recount and to be able to track any changes to the count, rather than just by silent uploads to your website.
5. Below the Line non-numerical data
I am concerned, as with many other psephologists, about the quality of the data that has been entered into the system. In particular, I note 29 examples of non-numeric data as follows (the listing below is Batch#"-"Paper#": Non-numeric data type:
1099-19: ??, ??
1140-25: ??, ??
1357-22: ??, ??
1525-28: ??, ??
1542-26: ??, ??
1564-35: ??, ??
I note there are more ballots here than the difference between the Shooters Party and the Christian Party at the critical point of exclusion. If these discrepancies are neither explained nor resolved, then we will have no choice but to lose faith with the AEC when you expressed confidence that all BTL ballots are correct because they've been independently re-entered by a second officer.
6. Below the Line Zeros
I note in your BTL Data Download that there appears to be at least of zeros. I have used Visual Basic to convert your Download into a useable format, but I don't believe my data manipulation has lead to the introduction of rogue zeros. I would have thought any zero would have resulted in the ballot being treated as informal?
7. Software availability
Finally, there exists a black hole regarding the availability of the software you use to calculate outcomes. Can you please advise whether:
- Software and its code will be downloadable?
- Software code will be made available to official scrutineers
- Software will be made available to interested parties.
On behalf of my audience, thank you in advance for considering my questions and those I am asking on behalf of my readers.
I will be posting and tweeting this correspondence, and intend on posting your response for the benefit of my readers.