Minor parties upset over NSW count delays

Minor parties have slammed the NSWEC for not releasing primary vote information for the upper house.
Minor parties have slammed the NSWEC for not releasing primary vote information for the upper house.

Nearly a dozen minor parties and independents claim they have been treated with contempt by those in charge of counting votes for the NSW election.

The group released a joint statement on Monday accusing the NSW Electoral Commission of discrimination by not releasing primary vote information for the upper house outside of the top seven parties.

Minor parties were told before the election that they would be put in an "others" pile on Saturday night but then counted and reported from Sunday morning.

On Monday, the NSWEC said the check count of upper house ballot papers started on Sunday and it will progressively report the check count for all groups and candidates from Tuesday.

The commission has so far counted nearly 63 per cent of Legislative Council votes - with 14.2 per cent going to the "others" category.

Among those on that list are David Leyonhjelm's Liberal Democrats, Keep Sydney Open, The Small Business Party and Advance Australia Party.

The group's joint statement said the "unprecedented delay is discriminatory and treats minor parties and their supporters with contempt".

"Our hard-working candidates and supporters deserve to see the results."

The group on Monday afternoon met with the NSW electoral commissioner John Schmidt to ask for extra staff to be put on immediately to expedite the process.

Keep Sydney Open founder and upper house candidate Tyson Koh said the situation was "the doctor's waiting room from hell".

"We literally have hundreds of thousands of voters around NSW not knowing if their vote has mattered or not," Mr Koh told reporters outside the NSWEC's office on Monday.

In a statement, the NSWEC said Mr Schmidt had agreed to a review of the current upper house count process in consultation with political participants before the next state general election.

It was decided in early 2018 that seven upper house groups - chosen as they currently, or previously had, held seats - would be counted at the same time as the lower house on election night, as part of the first preference count for both houses, the NSWEC said.

The decision was made in the interests of workplace health and safety and to provide voters with an early indication of the initial upper house count on election night.

Registered parties were advised of this new process at several points during 2018 and in the candidates' handbook for the state election.

"Allocating additional resources at this time in an attempt to change the current process would lead to disruption and confusion in count centres and could result in a delay in determining the election result," the NSWEC said.

The change has not affected the estimated date of the distribution of preferences or the declaration of results for the upper house, which is scheduled for April 12.

Australian Associated Press