THE good news is – ballots have finally arrived!

Some 9000 people in the Tarwin Valley Ward can now get on and cast their votes in the South Gippsland Shire Council elections after the voter packs started arriving in the mail on Tuesday this week.

But know what, it doesn’t entirely ring true that Australia Post somehow lost an entire day of ballot packs, a third of the ballot packs – 9000 voting papers.

And Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien wants to know, officially, what happened (see details below).

There’s also reports this week that some people have been receiving both ballot papers – what assurances do we have about the integrity of the vote, especially in Tarwin Valley Ward?

Hannah Wood, Senior Adviser Local Government, Office of the Hon Shaun Leane MP, Minister for Local Government, explained what happened in a letter to the Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath, one of the 9000 local residents left hanging.

“The VEC have discovered that just over 9000 ballot packs for the South Gippsland election were not delivered and have issued the below media release (see link):

http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/about-us/media/extended-voting-deadline-for-south-gippsland-shire-council-election

“The VEC’s processes have uncovered that the Day One ballot packs were not distributed by Australia Post. The Day Two and Day Three ballot packs have gone out to voters.

“The VEC have reprinted the Day One ballot packs and they will be distributed this afternoon (to arrive with voters by Wednesday).

“To ensure voters that have not yet received their packs have time to get their votes in, the Commissioner has exercised his powers and extended the voting period by one week to 6pm Friday, October 29.

“Ballots sent in by this date will have until November 5 to reach the VEC for counting.

“The VEC expects to be in a position to declare the results by 12 November.

“Both the council and the candidates running in this election have been notified.”

But what happened to the other votes? Were they lost completely, or didn’t they exist in the first place?

Anyway, it’s on with the voting now in what has been the most divisive of the contests, in Tarwin Valley Ward.

Answers needed on Shire election bungle, says O’Brien MP

The State Government has been called on to provide a full investigation and explanation for the bungle that left a third of South Gippsland Shire residents without ballot papers until this week.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien said he was very concerned that one of three batches of ballot papers had not been mailed to voters ahead of the South Gippsland Shire Council election.

“I am calling on the State Government to fully investigate this mistake and provide a fully transparent report on what went wrong,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has indicated that Australia Post did not send the 9,000 missing ballot papers, but we need to have an idea of where the system fell down.

“I am pleased that the VEC agreed to extend voting by a week, but this should never have happened.

“The date of the election was set more than two years ago when the former Council was dismissed and with only one election across the state there should be no excuses with respect to resourcing.

“I’m also asking the Government to assure us that the election is completely fair and transparent. For example, I am aware that many people contacted the VEC to advise that their ballot papers not arrived and therefore were sent new ones. We need an assurance that there are no instances where people have received two sets of ballot papers.

“It’s great to have democracy back in South Gippsland Shire and it’s disappointing that we have experienced this mistake. Hopefully we can look to a brighter future under a new council.”