One of the claims around the tightest election race this year, between Liberal Ewen Jones and Labor’s Cathy O’Toole in Herbert in far north Queensland, was that Defence Force officers off on a training exercise in South Australia weren’t able to vote, and they could have swung the seat. In its submission to the parliamentary committee the Australian Electoral Commission said that after the recount was done (O’Toole won by 37 votes), it undertook an investigation to ensure that there had been enough ballot papers available to ADF officers enrolled in Herbert but outside the electorate on polling day as part of Exercise Hamel.

The AEC found that of the 254 participating in the exercise at the time of the election, 64 voted in person, and 157 postal vote forms were prepared by the AEC, and claimed by the personnel. A further 26 postal vote forms were prepared but not used by those officers, and only seven eligible ADF personnel enrolled in Herbert did not have a postal vote prepared by the AEC. The result meant with just seven not able to vote at the time, it would not have tipped the scales over to Jones.

There was, however, an issue with multiple voting, with 195 cases identified by the AEC in Herbert. Of these 103 were determined to be administrative error, and of the remaining 92, the AFP was asked to investigate 42. It decided in August that there wasn’t enough evidence to take it any further.

Peter Fray

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