Labor is considering a legal challenge against Liberal Gladys Liu’s apparent victory in Chisholm over misleading how-to-vote instructions distributed on Chinese social media platform WeChat.
The action in the court of disputed returns would mirror a case to be brought by independent candidate Oliver Yates, protesting against Chinese language signs designed to resemble Australian Electoral Commission material in Kooyong and Chisholm.
Liu currently leads Labor’s Jennifer Yang in the seat of Chisholm by 1,373 votes with 87% of the vote counted, and was welcomed to the Liberal party room meeting on Tuesday as an incoming MP ahead of the declaration of the poll.
Labor’s putative challenge would focus on how-to-vote information distributed on WeChat telling residents to vote “1” for Liu and copy the instructions “exactly as it is to avoid an informal vote”. The ABC has reported that Liu denies authorising the material despite it being posted by her account in late April.
The Electoral Act prohibits material that misleads or deceives voters about the process of casting a vote – but the prohibition does not extend to material that is directed to the voters’ formation of their judgment about who to vote for.
Guardian Australia understands Labor is considering bringing legal action but no final decision has been made.
A spokesperson from the Liberal party’s Victorian division told the ABC in a statement that the party was not aware of any such action being taken by Labor.
“Should that change, the party will respond as appropriate,” the spokesperson reportedly said.
Yates told Guardian Australia he had raised more than $10,000 from more than 300 donors to a crowdfunding campaign to challenge misleading signs in Kooyong.
The signs, using the purple and white AEC colours, told voters “the correct voting method” was to put a “1” next to the Liberal candidate and then number the rest of the boxes from lowest to highest
The AEC refused to take action against the signs because they were authorised and there are no rules regarding the use of colour in campaign signage.
Yates said he has discussed a challenge with Labor and the Greens, because they were “all in the same boat” in having been disadvantaged by the material.
“This needs to be brought to a legal conclusion because we can’t keep accelerating towards more and more misleading and deceptive conduct,” he said.
Yates – who won 9% of the primary vote in Kooyong – acknowledges the challenge will not change the result in his electorate, retained by the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, but has argued the principle of “political integrity” is at stake.