Banyule City Council’s proposed Local Government Electoral Reforms

Voters

Council believes what voters want is uniformity across all voting systems.  Some voters are confused why they need to vote in a Council election, particularly as a non resident owner of property.

For this reason we are suggesting that the State roll should be the main voters roll and that all voters on that roll should be compulsorily required to vote. (i.e. including the over 70’s. However, Council are suggesting that voting for over 70’s be by postal vote to increase participation – Refer “Polling Method” ).

Those currently “on the CEO roll” should have to apply if they wish to vote in a particular election.

Candidates

All candidates should have to complete a standard template at the time of enrolment as a candidate.  This standard template would include such information as membership of a political party, membership of any groups in City, any potential conflicts of interest (eg a real estate agent or developer).  A recent candidate’s photo should be also supplied.

This candidate statement should be published on the VEC website.

No other candidate statements or How to Vote cards should be published or distributed by the VEC as this practice promotes “Dummy” candidates.

All candidates should attend compulsory basic induction training pre-enrolment and that this becomes a condition of enrolment.

Donations to candidates should be allowed as present with the process being as current with full disclosure following the election.  The results of candidate’s disclosure statements should be published on the VEC website.

 

Caretaker period

Current arrangements appear satisfactory.

 

Elections

This is the area where there needs to be a major change from the current system in place.  The current system has lead to wide use of “dummy” candidates.

“Dummy” candidates cannot be totally eliminated but the numbers and their influence can be greatly reduced by making the following changes.  The current postal voting only system used by many Councils makes it too easy for “Dummy” candidates to run.

 

Polling method

The polling method should be uniform across Local Government and be the same as for the other levels of Government.  i.e. principally attendance voting with the availability of postal voting and pre-polling voting.  Postal voting should be automatic for over 70’s i.e. they are automatically sent a postal pack to vote. (This will maximise voter participation for this age group.)

Attendance voting will diminish large numbers of “Dummy” candidates as the resources to hand out at voting centres and distribute candidate information will not be there.

By having a uniform system of attendance voting, generally only residents from that City are involved in supporting a candidate.  Otherwise resources maybe “shipped” in from a nearby Council area that has already voted via a postal voting system.

To reduce the number of informal votes the voting should be decided using an optional preferential system, with the voter voting for a minimum of one candidate as a valid vote. (The comment often received: Why should I have to vote for people I don’t know?)

 

Political party involvement

The State Government, following issues at the Brimbank City Council, made a law that sitting Councillors could not be employed by a State Member of Parliament.

However, currently we have a system where the reverse can and does operate at  Local Government elections.  Any State (or federal) politician can actively be involved in Local Government elections.  They can support a candidate in a number of ways, development and printing of campaign material, endorsement of a candidate on campaign material and even hand out for candidates on election day.

It should be legislated that no State member of parliament or their offices can be involved in local government elections, with sanctions from the parliament if they do so.  In addition, there should be no endorsement by political parties of local Government candidates.

 

Complaints

Complaints should be made through the Returning Officer, who sends them to the appropriate body for action and a decision.

A decision on complaints should be made within 24 hours.

The VEC needs to outline in the Candidates handbook and on its website what it regards as:

Authorisation of material –

eg social media.  How do you authorise a candidates twitter account? eg Unless each tweet is authorised it maybe retweeted and the authorisation lost.

Deceptive material – eg pretending to be a relative of someone that may be linked to a political party eg Menzies or Hamer.  Penalties should be imposed for trying to deceive the voters.

How to Vote cards – Third party groups, such as a ratepayers group, currently can register How to Vote cards.  This practice should not be allowed.  It is a system open to abuse.

 

After the elections

Single member wards would limit the size of wards and enable more independent candidates to be elected.

Also with multi member wards you may find one Councillor dominating others or some Councillors leaving the bulk of workload to one Councillor.

7 to 9 Councillors appears appropriate depending on the size of the City.