Federal election nights may never be the same again, if Clive Palmer gets his way.
The businessman is calling on the High Court to ban the Australian Electoral Commission revealing preference results until all polls have closed.
This could force voters to wait several hours before learning the likely results.
Lawyers for Mr Palmer are asking that only basic voting figures be published until 9.30pm AEST, when the last polling booths in Western Australia and the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands have closed.
Mr Palmer, who is contesting a Senate seat for Queensland and running a team of United Australia Party candidates, argues publishing more detailed data sooner could influence people yet to vote.
His case is centred on the AEC’s two-candidate preferred counting practice.
In the lead up to an election, the AEC identifies the two most likely contenders in each electorate.
These candidates are then named on election night as preferences are distributed, giving the audience an early indication of the result in each seat.
The two candidates listed are almost always from the major parties, rather than from minor parties or independents.
Lawyers for Mr Palmer have argued people yet to cast their ballot papers may be affected by the practice.
David Jackson QC told the full bench on Monday people could be swept up in a “bandwagon effect” and vote for whichever party looks most likely to win.
He also argued the current process gives the appearance of the AEC – an independent umpire – favouring major party candidates and could misinform voters about the true state of the count.
Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue downplayed the potential “bandwagon” effect of releasing two-candidate preferred counts.
“It’s impossible to tell whether there’s any effect at all,” he told the court.
Mr Donaghue said WA voters who left their run until the final two hours of polling could be influenced by many other factors, including basic voting figures, opinion and exit polls.
He also pointed out the federal election was not a presidential race, with people in WA voting for different candidates in different seats than those on the east coast.
The solicitor-general argued the AEC’s calculations were not an opinion about who should win but rather a prediction of who was likely to win.
The hearing will resume in Canberra on Tuesday.