A candidate who unsuccessfully ran for Adelaide lord mayor at the South Australian local government elections has raised concerns with the electoral commissioner over allegations of illegal voter activity.
- Jane Lomax-Smith has been provisionally elected Adelaide Lord Mayor
- Rex Patrick says alleged voting irregularities could have affected the close result
- The electoral commissioner says ballots were checked and invalid votes were not included
Former senator Rex Patrick was defeated in the race for lord mayor by Jane Lomax-Smith, who was provisionally elected after preferences were counted.
Mr Patrick said the margin was only 52 votes after preferences were distributed and that allegations of suspected voting irregularities could have affected the outcome.
The electoral commission announced last week it was scrutinising 90 envelopes after reports emerged some ballot papers were collected from four apartment buildings in the council’s Central Ward.
“In circumstances where the result is really, really tight, as has occurred with the lord mayoral election, that raises some real concerns,” Mr Patrick said.
He said he has raised his concerns with the electoral commissioner.
“We’ve got to make sure that when people vote, they have full confidence that the outcome reflects their will,” he said.
He said at this point in time he was simply “seeking information” from the electoral commissioner but he could petition the Court of Disputed Returns.
South Australian Electoral Commissioner Mick Sherry said while Ms Lomax-Smith was provisionally elected, there was a 72-hour recount period where other candidates contesting the election could request a recount.
“Subject to if we get any requests or not, at the end of that period if there’s no requests for a recount that candidate is elected to that position,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Peter Goers.
Mr Sherry said the suspected voter irregularities, which occurred in the Adelaide, West Torrens and Marion councils, were “particularly disappointing”.
“But we’ve got very, very strict processes to pick up any of these irregularities and that’s what’s taken place on this occasion,” he said.
He said “additional measures” were put in place to determine if the ballots were valid.
“That includes checking signatures against enrolment forms et cetera, but also in many cases actually calling the elector and simply asking, ‘Did you vote or not?'” he said.
“Now, disappointingly, many of these people have said they didn’t vote.
“Now, in those circumstances, the ballots are held out. They’re not included in the count.”
Ms Lomax-Smith, a former state Labor minister who was also mayor from 1997 to 2000, said she had “every confidence in the electoral commission”.
“I think elections are often quite tight but at the end of the day we have to trust that these are the right results,” she said.
She said Mr Patrick “operated with integrity and honesty during the campaign” and she supported his right to raise concerns.
“He has every right to take any step he thinks is reasonable,” she said.
“That’s part of our democratic process and we should all support that.”
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