Long wait for poll result

VOTERS could be left waiting for nearly two weeks for counting to be completed in the knife-edge election for the marginal federal seat of Richmond.

And then there could be a recount.

Returning officer Michael Averay said yesterday counting was continuing on about 2000 prepoll votes remaining from late last week, while potentially more than 5,000 postal votes are yet to be counted.

He said over 4,000 had been checked and were ready to count, but he was waiting for checks on hundreds more before being given clearance from Australian Electoral Commission senior staff to begin counting those.

Mr Averay said 13 days was allowed after the close of the polls on Saturday for postal votes to be received - provided they were postmarked before the close of polling.

That, he quipped, was to allow for the receipt of votes "that might be coming from north-west Afghanistan".

In the event of an extremely close vote, Mr Averay said he might not be able to declare the poll until October 22.

But so long as he was convinced there were "fewer votes outstanding than the gap between the two candidates" the poll could be declared earlier.

But Mr Averay added, he, along with candidates, had the opportunity to call for a recount.

The recount could be conducted either at his Tweed Heads office or taken to Sydney and "done by a completely fresh team".

Yesterday staff continued to recheck votes watched by scrutineers from the major parties and counted prepoll votes.

The fresh scrutiny of votes is expected to continue for several days.

According to electoral office figures yesterday just over 55 per cent of prepoll votes were favouring Mr Anthony but he was still trailing Ms Elliot by about 1400 votes.

After preferences Ms Elliot had 50.63 per cent of the vote with a 2.31 percent swing against Mr Anthony from the last election in 2001.

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