BOTCHED: How the Steve Tully made a complete shambles of the 2006 state election count

stevetullynotuptoit The Victorian Electoral Commissioner Steve Tully has been accused by political insiders of making a complete mess of the Legislative Council count at the last state election by cutting corners and then embarking on a cover-up. Some even think he presided over a stolen election in one upper house seat.

Tully was appointed in 2005 on a ten year appointment and quickly demonstrated an inability to deal with the serious responsibilities entrusted to him. He is paid around five thousand dollars a week and employs a permanent staff of over fifty.

At the highest levels of government, following the 2006 election counting debacle, many expressed concerns to Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who had championed Tully’s appointment, that he “might not be up to it.”

The Legislative Council count involved eight Senate style elections, many of them expected to be very close outcomes with many different candidates. It was never going to be easy and insiders say was made all the more difficult by poorly trained VEC staff who operate with a Tully imposed culture of short-cuts, secrecy, abuse of power and intimidation of those questioning their decisions.

A substantial number of votes “went missing” during the count of the upper house Western Metropolitan seat between “Count A” and “Count B”. (There were also gravely serious procedural errors in the Northern Metropolitan count too with a failure to reconcile to the number of ballots issued with the number of ballots in the system but that’s a story for another day)

In Western Metro, on Count A, Labor moderate Henry Barlow clearly won, defeating the Greens party candidate, narrowly beating the Greens party comrade.

A recount was called, prompted by suspicions of errors in Tully’s process after the Northern Metro debacle, and the Greens party’s Colleen Hartland was elected. The total of that count, Count B, was hundreds of votes lower than Count A. It’s worth noting we’re not talking about votes being allocated incorrectly but about the total number of votes counted in the system. Self-evidently, that should never happen in a recount unless ballots were removed from the counting room. Hundreds of votes “went missing” and have never been accounted for.

Further casting suspicion on the integrity was the substantial discrepancy between the number of lower and corresponding upper house ballots.

To this day, Tully has refused to explain this strange situation. Some in Labor circles believe that respected Labor staffer Henry Barlow was “robbed” in a “stolen election” by either Greens party scrutineers/cheats or incompetent or maliciously motivated electoral officials. It has been repeatedly rumoured in inner-city political circles that Greens party activists have been planted in the VEC, encouraged to apply for work there by Greenist strategist Stephen Luntz.

Either way, what is beyond dispute is that Tully was desperate to cover his tracks.

The data records of the count had been destroyed – or in Tully’s words- “overwritten” for no good reason but had the effect of destroying a potential audit trail. Some believe the records still exist and that he simply refuses to hand them over because they reveal the level of incompetence or errors in the count. These errors are not necessarily the fault of all VEC staff but of the short-cuts and shoddy culture imposed by the Commission boss Tully.

Critics thought it very odd indeed that a government agency would spend a great deal of money – possibly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – keying in data and then destroying earlier versions of it, without explanation. They expressed concern that this was purely calculated to cover up his many mistakes.

An IT expert who spoke with VEXNEWS said he found the decision to destroy data that could be later audited was “astounding and possibly suggesting some untoward conduct or cover-up. No professional system would have back-ups destroyed, it just wouldn’t happen. If it happened at a bank, the Fraud Squad would be called in straight away.”

“No professional IT person could tolerate the management of their system in this way, it stinks to high heaven. There are many unanswered questions.”

Indeed there are. And the biggest one is should Henry Barlow be a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria?

When asked at a Victorian Parliamentary committee to explain himself, Tully offered no explanation about why the data had been destroyed.

Both sides of politics are believed to be puzzled about this odd situation but both are reluctant to call Tully on his errors in public for fear of causing grave offence to a powerful man who is really ultimately accountable to no-one. Not even the supposedly all-powerful corruption busting Ombudsman is able to probe Tully, under Victorian law.



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18 responses to “BOTCHED: How the Steve Tully made a complete shambles of the 2006 state election count

  1. Anonymous

    What a dickhead. Whats the process to remove him from his position?

  2. Anonymous

    The Ombudsman can probe obscure pissy little councils but not the organisation trusted to process democracy – something is very wrong there.

  3. Anonymous

    Very fishy indeed.

  4. Right Said Fred

    Andrew, thank you for providing us with a hard factual retort to cut down those soft arse hippy fuckers when they start droning on about the US electoral system and how Bush stole an election.

    The question is, will Hulls have the balls or the brains to do something to make sure that this does not repeat itself in the next election.

  5. Anonymous

    Was Tully overseeing Florida in 2000?

  6. Blue and Green

    Common knowledge that ALP srutineers were either not up to the Job on the recount, or Greens and Blues had inside knowledge.
    The weirdest count I have ever seen.
    And a certain Mr L was kept out of the loop by Tully
    Green mow blue, anything but red

  7. This is just the tip of the iceberg of incompetence, cover ups and lies. The story is much more intriguing.

    Steve Tully has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the conduct of the 2006 Elections, his actions include harassment and intimidation, as we witnessed last week, of those that dare question the operation and processes put in place. Question that should not be left unanswered.

    Steve Tully had cut corners and stuffed up big time and in the process he has brought Victoria and the Commission into disrepute.

    When we requested the Chief Commissioner to provide information that was essential to the scrutiny of the count, Steve Tully deliberately acted to avoid disclosure by speciously claiming that crucial information and statistical data had been destroyed. This set alarm bells ringing as as to why and what was the Chief Commissioner seeking to hide? All the information requested should have been readily available as part of the Commissions commitment to maintain an open and transparent electoral process. Why was he seeking to prevent independent review?

    The information we had requested but was denied access too included:

    1. The number of pre-poll and postal votes the VEC had issued prior to the election day. The VEC was unable to provide this important information even though the issuing of pre-poll ballot papers and its administration was computerised and votes should not have been issued without an application and cross check with the voters list.

    2. Publication of the polling place returns for the upper-house . Previously this information was published on election night which is then used to reconcile the number of ballot papers issued with the number of ballot papers received back and included in the count. Again without this information it is impossible to know how many votes were supposed to be in the system.

    3. Copies of the below-the-line preference data recorded in the VEC computer system. This information is essential in undertaking the proper scrutiny of the count. It allows for verification and independent review of the data quality of the counting system put in place – without it is impossible to verify the accuracy of the data-entry process.

    Steve Tully refused to make this crucial data available. Why?

    Analysis of what information was available showed that votes went missing between count A and Count B. The total number of ballot papers recorded should not change between Count A and Count B as they should match the polling place return statements.

    The VEC failed to reconcile the data recorded with the polling place returns. Had they done so many of the mistakes made would not have occurred. Had they provided the information we had requested they would have known how many votes should have been accounted for.

    No satisfactory explanation has been made as to where the missing votes disappeared. The figures presented by the Commission did not Tally. Steve Tully tried to bamboozle his way through by claiming that votes had been incorrectly allocated to the wrong candidate.Missallocation of the vote distribution should not change the total number votes (Which includes formal and informal votes).

    Whilst Steve Tully has admitted to the mistakes in the count in relation to the Northern Metropolitan election he failed to provide a satisfactory detailed explanation as to what had changed in the Western Metropolitan count. The result of the Western Metropolitan election was won with a margin of 150 votes on the recount with over 250 vote discrepancy in the total number of votes accounted for between Count A and Count B.

    Elections in Victoria under Steve Tully are no longer open and transparent.

    Steve Tully has acted to avoid and prevent open public scrutiny.

    We had to FOI the Commissioner in order to obtain a copy of the detailed election results, it took Steve Tully three months to provide the information requested, information that should have been readily available during the count and prior to the declaration of the poll.

    When the Commission eventually provided the information requested under FOI Steve Tully failed to provide crucial data pertaining to the primary count (Count A) for Western Metropolitan province.

    Questions asked about the of professionalism of the VEC’s Operation?

    Under cross examination, by the Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee, when Steve Tully was asked to provide copies of then missing data files. Steve Tully stated in his evidence that the crucially data had been destroyed. “Overwritten during the recount procedures.”

    Deliberate attempt to mislead or an act of professional negligence?

    If you believe the statement given, that the data was destroyed, then you need to ask why were backup copies not made and what procedures and processes of risk management was in place to prevent the loss of this crucial information? Clearly the procedures in place do not meet professional standards in securing the data recorded? It is unfathomable that and unthinkable that an organization that spends 36 million dollars a year in developing a electoral system that they failed to basically secure the data and make backup copies.

    Did Steve Tully deliberately or inadvertently mislead the parliament, when he gave evidence that copies of the crucial data files no longer existed?

    Was Simon Hancock, VEC Manager of IT services, professionally negligent by failing to ensure that proper data backup procedures where in place?

    Either way the statement by Steve Tully is damming and sends alarm bells ringing.

    Having raised a number of issues and quetsion in relation to the conduct of the 2006 State election Steve Tully responded by harassing and intimidating myself and others who challenging the validity of the VEC systems of administration, the conduct of the election count in 2006 and the procedures put in place for the 2008 Municipal elections. His actions are seen as a deliverate attempt to prevent evidence being preseneted to the State Parliament.

    This is a serious offence as it sends a signal that anyone who dares to complain or expose the wrong doings of the Commission will be subjected to harassment.

    The level of harassment by Steve Tully has included making false statements to the office of public prosecution, illegal removal of names from the Victorian voters list, threatening and intimidating letters issued to witnesses giving evidence at a Parliamentary hearing.

    Requests to have the State Obmudsman review the conduct of the Commission have been denied, as the Ombudsman Act excludes the VEC from review.

    Steve Tully should face tougher scrutiny and review of his actions which have and continue to bring Victoria and the Victorian Electoral Commission into disrepute.

  8. Anonymous

    Tully’s “trust me” attitude is a disgrace. He should be held to account. Hulls must recognise his error in appointing this baffoon and sack him. If Hulls wont do it, Brumby should.

  9. Anonymous, It is the responsibility of the Parliament to act on this issue. Whilst the government plays a role the Chief Commissioner is an officer of the Parliament.

    The Parliament needs to amend the Ombudsman Act, as a matter urgency, to allow the Ombudsman to review the administration of the VEC. Many of the issues raised are technical and require detailed professional review. The Parliament also needs to seek evidence from Simon Hancock, the VEC Information Technology Manager, to ascertain the truth and facts as to missing data files and why the VEC did not make copies and backups of this crucial data?

    The operation and administration of the VEC also needs to meet ISO certification standards as applies to other Electoral Commissions.

    Better still would be to restructure the administration of elections and create a single national electoral authority, such as the AEC, that can properly administer the conduct of elections in Victoria. An organization that can restore public confidence and maintain an open and transparent electoral process.

  10. Anonymous

    Maybe data has gone “missing” because some in the VEC wanted it to??

  11. Simon

    Simon Hankok has been left out to dry and his professional standing has been compromised as a result of Steve Tuly’s deception about copies of data-files being destroyed. Copies are available.

    Simon Hancock
    Manager, Information Technology

    Simon Hancock commenced at the VEC in April 2000 and was appointed manager of the newly formed Information Technology Branch in October 2003. Prior to working at the VEC, Mr Hancock worked for a number of information technology companies providing project management and technical consultancy over a range of industry settings.

  12. IT Review

    If Steve Tully is found to have deliberately or inadvertently mislead the Parliament then this is a serious offence and he should resign or be sacked. Clearly Parliament needs to investigate this issue and interview VEC IT staff. If backup procedures are not in place then Simon Hancock needs to be replaced as it is his duty to ensure that this information and data is protected.

  13. O what tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive

    Glenda Frazer, Manager, Election Services, is also responsible for the design and management of the VECs Electoral Management system. The Parliament should also call on her evidence in relation to the missing data-files and reports that VEC staff had accessed the results of the electronic voting kiosks, without scrutineers being present, prior to the close of voting in 2006. VEC staff are now engaged in a cover-up of deception.

    How many other professional staff will become involved in the cover up and deception. The VEC is a hot bed of corruption and incompetence.

  14. Reds Are Better in Bed

    Yes Tully should have ordered Tapinos out of the City of Moreland Council Election.

    Tapinos and his election manager Michelle De Bryn should be facing charges over what was a horrible electoral fraud. No doubt De Bryn learnt this type of dishonesty from his father, the notorious christian extremist Joe de Bryn.

    Come on Tully do your job and out the crims’ that live among us.

  15. Anonymous

    Steve Tully has removed openness and transparency from Victoria’s public elections and replaced good will with suspicion and mistrust.

    Elections must not only be honest and fair but they must also be seen to be honest and fair if public confidence is to be maintained.

    Steve Tully has destroyed that trust.

    Of course winners will never complain, but it is clear to most that Steve Tully has no understanding of the importance of having an open or honest election.

    There needs to be a full investigation into the why the VEC destroyed data pertaining to the result of the election.

  16. Anonymous

    I scrutinised the election last month which involved a data-entry computer count and we had no way in knowing verifying the quality of the data-entry or the validity of the results of the election. The system is widely open to abuse.

    Normally ballot papers are presorted into primary votes which allows scrutineers the opportunity to scrutinise the vote. This did not happend in this election.

    Ballot papers were punched into the computer in a random fashion. Scrutineers were denied a copy of the data file sop they were unable to verify the content of the information recorded.

    This information, I am told,was made available to the City of Melbourne.

    The Returning Officer said that the decision to not provide copies of the data came from Steve Tully.

  17. I do not think Steve Tully is a corrupt in as crooked, but he is incompetant, revengeful and deceitful. His attempts to cover-up his mistakes and his propensity to cut corners, and in the process stuff things up, is reprehensible.

    His attack on Ray Collins last week was disgraceful, if not verging on being corrupt.

    His refusal to provide access to crucial data files seriously brings into question his suitability to remain Chief Electoral Commissioner.

  18. Winners are grinner’s and loses are denied their rights

    There is a growing number of complaints about the way the VEC conducted the 2008 Victorian Municipal elections. With some of the complaints likely to head to court.

    [Hume] Election friction

    [Hume] Ex-mayor lodges complaint

    [Moyne] Nervous wait as votes recounted

    [Moyne] Moyne recount call Prendergast queries three-vote result

    [Moyne] Recount makes no difference on council decisions

    [Moorabool] Bungal bungle result stands in Moorabool Shire

    [Maribyrnong] Postal ballot bombs with voters

    This is just the tip of the ice-berg of the number of complaints received about the way the VEC last month

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