Election results for the City Of Moreland’s North West Ward have been referred to investigation by Victoria Police following revelations that at least “several hundred” mail ballots have been tampered with, in what some are a calling a “violation of the democratic process.”

The revelations came to light through the normal vote-counting procedure whereby a report is run to determine if a person has voted more than once. Duplicate votes are not uncommon, however, the City Of Moreland’s North West Ward received up to five times the amount of duplicate votes compared to the rest of the local electorate, as Sue Lang a spokesperson for Victorian Electoral Commission explained.

“What had actually happened is we’d received an original ballot pack from the voter – we presumed that was the voter. Then we had a request for a replacement ballot pack that also arrived for that same voter.”

Following this, voting staff removed the declaration flaps on the voting envelope, then compared signatures. 

“We found that the signatures were not matching and so we started an immediate investigation,” she said.

The matter was then referred to Victoria Police’s Fraud And Extortion Squad and Local Government Inspectorate on October 31. Vote tampering is a serious offence which carries a maximum penalty of $99,000 and or five years in prison.

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 A spokesperson for Victoria Police confirmed that “a number of ballots have been seized and will be forensically examined by police,” adding, “The matter is being treated with the highest priority and the investigation remains ongoing.”

Star Observer spoke with the rainbow aligned first time candidate Catherine Bonacci-Rocca, who was rightly stunned by the news. Bonacci-Rocca said she was “advised at an urgent meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the Brunswick Town Hall.”

“I was shocked about the news. This is my first time running for local council and didn’t even fathom something like this happening.

I am totally independent and don’t affiliate with any political parties. [Running for council] has been quite a learning curve and a rewarding experience.

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 A resident of Moreland of more than 30 years, Bonacci-Rocca believes the news has shocked candidates as much as it has fellow Moreland Residents.

I was encouraged to do it and thought, why not? I love Moreland and I love helping people. I would love to make a positive impact. I’m here to try and be an authentic voice and have a spot for the under-dog and the people less fortunate,” she added.

The urgent meeting held on Tuesday was called by Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately, who told candidates that he “was angered and disappointed at the attempt to interfere in the council election.” The VEC is by law obliged to finalise the vote count, and to declare the results of the election, which is expected this week. 

“By law the VEC must proceed with finalising the count and declaring the result of this election, but I will lodge an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an inquiry into the election for North West Ward as soon the result is declared,” stated

The VEC has asked anyone with information about the suspected vote tampering to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

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