Integrity concerns as Patrick considers election result challenge

Provisionally elected Adelaide Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith headlines a raft of changes to South Australia’s local government sector after Saturday’s council elections – but Rex Patrick is considering challenging the result due to concerns over election integrity.

Nov 14, 2022, updated Nov 14, 2022
Photo: SA Electoral Commission/Facebook

Photo: SA Electoral Commission/Facebook

Despite announcing her run weeks after her opponents, Lomax-Smith was on Saturday night declared the provisional winner of the City of Adelaide Lord Mayor race – defeating Patrick by the razor thin margin of 52 votes after preferences.

Incumbent Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor lost her bid for a second-term in office and was behind both Patrick and Lomax-Smith on first preference votes.

The Electoral Commission of SA provisionally declared Lomax-Smith the winner at 10:26pm on Saturday.

Results of the Adelaide Lord Mayor race. Figures: ECSA

But Patrick flagged on Sunday he was considering whether to dispute the validity of the election in the Court of Disputed Returns.

It comes amid allegations of a potential voter scam targeting international students living in four apartment buildings in the Adelaide City Council Central Ward.

InDaily reported last week concerns from Lomax-Smith that “possible intervention” may have resulted in voting packs not reaching some residents and traders.

Jane Lomax-Smith looks set to be elected Adelaide Lord Mayor for a second time. Photo: Angela Skujins

The Electoral Commission – which is conducting an investigation into the matter and “voting irregularities” in two other council elections – referred 90 ballots within the Central Ward for further scrutiny, of which 23 were rejected from the count.

Patrick said he would be writing to the Electoral Commissioner about the “scope, conduct and likely duration of his investigation”, and “given the small margins involved, whether he is confident, on the balance of probabilities, that the result of the Lord Mayoral election has not been affected by the conduct he is investigating”.

“Regrettably it is apparent that the integrity of the City of Adelaide Council election has been compromised with very serious allegations of illegal activity likely to have affected the outcome of the Lord Mayoral election and the election of Area and Central Ward Councillors,” Patrick said in a statement on Sunday.

“As has been reported in the media, very serious concerns have been raised relating to illegal practices alleged to have been conducted by or on behalf of a candidate for election as a Councillor in the Central Ward, the largest of the three City of Adelaide wards.

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“I am also giving consideration to making a petition to the Court of Disputed Returns disputing the validity of the Lord Mayoral election.

“It is vital that elections at any level of Australian Government, local, state or federal, be absolutely free of any taint of illegal or corrupt practice, or foreign interference.”

Electoral Commissioner Mick Sherry said in a statement on Friday he would not be commenting on the progress of the ongoing investigation.

He added: “We have thorough scrutiny processes in place which detects irregularities on returned ballots, and while this is extremely disappointing, I can assure you that ECSA has taken action to ensure the integrity of the election, and in the coming weeks and months, there will be a further investigation.”

The City of Adelaide election has also seen veteran area councillor Anne Moran concede defeat.

“Thanks for all the kind support. I have not been successful in the Council election,” she wrote on Facebook.

The Electoral Commission has not issued a provisional declaration for area councillor, although Moran looks set to lose her seat to former SA union boss Janet Giles while incumbent area councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh has been re-elected.

North Ward councillors Phil Martin and Mary Couros have been re-elected along with South Ward councillor Keiran Snape.

In the Central Ward, Jing Li leads with 511 first preference votes, followed by Carmel Noon (467), Simon Hou (356) and Alexander Hyde (341).

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