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Defence clarifies voting figures

AAP logoAAP 29/08/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Defence has clarified the number of Australian soldiers who took part in a military exercise at the centre of a federal election voting controversy.

The Liberal-National Party is considering a court challenge over the tight election result in Herbert - a north Queensland seat based on Townsville, which is home to thousands of defence personnel.

The seat, previously held by the LNP's Ewen Jones, was won by Labor's Cathy O'Toole by 37 votes.

Defence has previously said 628 army members taking part in Exercise Hamel in South Australia didn't cast their votes, but declined to say how many were from the Herbert electorate.

AAP has obtained, via a Freedom of Information request, an email trail in which Defence tells the Australian Electoral Commission how many personnel would be on the exercise and where they were based.

The "key participating forces" included 200 personnel from Townsville's 3rd Brigade and 300 from the city's 16th Brigade.

Defence said 1274 voted at polling stations in the exercise area and 1371 were transported to polling stations in Port Augusta, Whyalla, Port Pirie and Kadina.

While the emails to the AEC say the number of personnel taking part was "around 9000", Defence told AAP in a clarifying statement on Monday only 5700 were Australian personnel and the rest from foreign forces.

"Not only did the total numbers in the training area fluctuate during the course of the exercise, but some personnel involved in the exercise were not in South Australia on election day," the statement said.

Defence said prior to the exercise a notification was sent to personnel in May outlining the federal election voting process.

"This notification included detail on absentee voting, pre-poll voting, postal voting, overseas voting and enrolment."

The LNP is still taking legal advice on the matter.

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