Harley calls for extended probe into voter fraud

Reece Harley.

PERTH council electoral rolls not covered by the Power inquiry need to be audited to root out voting fraud, a former Perth city councillor says.

Reece Harley was a councillor from 2013 to 2020 and after reading the August 11 inquiry report says the council needs to review electoral rolls from 2013, 2015 and 2017 and refer any suspicious activity to police. 

“Without a full audit it is impossible to know just how many electors were fraudulently enrolled to vote or how many former councillors or council candidates might have been ineligible to stand,” Mr Harley says. 

“Any instances of suspected enrolment fraud that the City uncovers must be referred to the WA Police.”

Sham

The inquiry uncovered evidence that sham voters were common, and controls were so lax they risked affecting who won elections given there were just a few dozen votes between winning a seat and losing out: “It was a common practice for candidates and council members to organise for companies owning or occupying property in the city to enrol people to vote who had no business or organisational connection with the company,” Mr Power found.

Businesses are supposed to be allowed to nominate two voters to represent them so traders still get a say in council matters. But at least one business owner interviewed by the inquiry had no idea his companies had been enrolled to vote by a candidate. 

Some nominees, when contacted, were unaware they’d been registered to vote, because their ballots were piped directly to a candidate’s post office box then filled out without their knowledge.

The inquiry focused on the case of former councillor Keith Yong, found to have organised for “at least” 45 ballot papers to be sent to PO boxes he had access to ahead of the 2017 election (some were noticed by city staff ahead of time, and he lost, but no action was taken. The inquiry says staff should’ve investigated it further or referred him to police or the WA Electoral Commission). 

The report says there’s evidence Mr Yong wasn’t the only one.

The inquiry had Royal Commission powers to demand councillors hand over boxes of documents, and found “some of these boxes contained numerous completed and partially completed enrolment forms for companies owning or occupying property in the City of Perth”. 

Mr Harley has looked over past electoral rolls and has provided the City of Perth with several examples of “anomalies,” including nearly a dozen votes going to a single office suite instead of the two normally allowed. 

The Voice asked the council if they’d review previous rolls. We hadn’t heard back before going to print, but were previously told the city wouldn’t be weighing in on issues raised by the inquiry report until commissioners formulated a proper response to the local government minister.

However the council has taken up a recommendation from the inquiry to ensure a more legitimate election this time round, and is now requiring occupier nominees show actual proof of a lease before allowing them to vote this time round. 

The inquiry does not have prosecution powers and its “findings” can’t declare whether someone’s broken a law, leaving that up to other authorities.

By DAVID BELL

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