THE SUPREME Court of NSW has considered the election of all Singleton Councillors "void" in a decision handed down on Thursday.
Following Singleton's most recent Council elections, the Australian Electoral Commission said 55 of the 2467 iVote ballots lodged had "failed".
In January this year, the electoral commission commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW "seeking a ruling about the validity" of the election. The proceedings were heard in the Supreme Court on 22 and 23 February 2022.
As well as Singleton, the court case examined results for Kempsey Shire Council and one of four wards in Shellharbour City Council.
"With considerable reluctance I consider that, because the system of election for the three Councils is proportional representation, it is necessary to declare all of the Councillors' elections void," the decision of his Honour Robert Beech-Jones said.
"It follows that, at some point, the Court will make declarations that each of the three subject elections were void and this will necessitate a full election for each of Kempsey Shire and Singleton Councils and both positions in Shellharbour City Council-Ward A.
"As noted, such an election will have to occur within three months of the declaration. At present, there are various contingencies affecting an election in that period including an impending federal election, the pandemic and perhaps the recent flooding."
While the electoral commission named the nine councillors as defendants, it said at the time this "involved no suggestion of any wrongdoing or impropriety on their parts".
In its decision, the Supreme Court cited the narrow margin by which Singleton's final councillor was elected.
First preferences in the election had Sarah Johnstone on track to secure a spot on council, however, final counting saw Ms Johnstone miss out by just three votes to Cr Val Scott.
Cr Scott told the Newcastle Herald that the Singleton Community is "exhausted" and described the decision as "mind-boggling".
"The people here are election tired," she said.
"The cost to council of going through an election and now dealing with floods. The people have had enough.
"I've got issues I want to follow through on and I was hoping to do that in the next couple of years."
Cr Scott added she "knew the iVote system was never going to work".
The Electoral Commission announced on Wednesday that it would not be using the iVote System in the State election scheduled for March 25 election "or at any intervening by-elections between 1 July 2022 and 25 March 2023".
The Supreme Court decision noted that Council and the Electoral Commissioner "had agreed in principle to the reimbursement of the latter's expenses in the event that any elections were voided".
"At present the successful and unsuccessful candidates will unfairly bear the burden of the failure of the iVote system that was administered by the Electoral Commissioner," the decision stated.
"I have already accepted that a failure of the iVote system resulting in a new election is likely to cause a loss of faith in the electoral process.
"That loss of faith will only be exacerbated if candidates are forced out of standing because they cannot recover at least some of the resources expended in the December 2021 election."
Singleton Council General Manager Jason Linnane said on Thursday that Council could not make an informed response until it had been briefed by their legal team.
"However, it is apparent we will be undertaking a re-election of the nine councillors. When that will occur will be determined by the court at the next hearing on 5 April 2022," Mr Linnane said.
The case was restricted to the election of the nine councillors, not the separate ballot for mayor won by Sue Moore.
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