A Charles Sturt political expert has used information sourced from the NSW Electoral Commission to create an explainer - detailing how, when and why to vote - ahead of the December 4 local government elections.
Elections are normally held every four years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic they have twice been postponed ... this means that the councils elected in December will serve a shorter term, so the elections in 2024 may occur as scheduled.
New South Wales will hold local government elections on Saturday, December 4, when members will be elected to 128 councils.
Elections are normally held every four years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic they have twice been postponed from September last year. This means that the councils elected in December will serve a shorter term, so that the elections in 2024 may occur as scheduled.
Most people are required to vote by attending a voting centre on election day or, alternatively, a pre-poll centre prior to December 4.
In limited circumstances, people may apply to the New South Wales Electoral Commission to cast a postal or electronic vote.
Candidate nominations opened on Monday, October 25 and closed on Wednesday, November 3. People could nominate as an independent candidate or as part of a group.
In 35 local government areas, including Orange and Port Macquarie-Hastings, voters will also elect a mayor. In others, it will be the elected councillors who choose the mayor for a two-year term.
Wagga Wagga City Council is one of the areas where voters must decide whether to change from the election of a mayor by councillors to the direct election by voters. This vote is called a constitutional referendum.
In some places, councillors are elected to represent wards, while in others there is a single election to elect councillors for the whole local government area. Councils have between five and 15 members.
Voting is compulsory, and everybody who is enrolled to vote for federal and state elections is on the roll for their local government area. Residents may check that they are enrolled on the Australian Electoral Commission website. This is also where first-time voters may go to enrol. The fine for not voting is $55.
Owners or occupiers of land in a local government area that is not their primary residence may apply to the council for inclusion on that area's non-residential roll. It is only in the City of Sydney that people on the non-residential roll must vote.
New South Wales local government elections use a form of optional preferential voting.
The minimum number of candidates to whom voters must give preference depends on the number of candidates who will be elected.
For example, if four candidates are to be elected, voters must vote for two candidates in order of preference but can vote for more if they wish.
If nine candidates are to be elected, at least five of them must be given a preference.
In areas where candidates are standing as part of a group, voters may instead vote above the line, as in Senate elections.
In this case, preferences will be distributed according to the order that the group has determined.
A candidate must receive more than 50 per cent of the vote to be elected.
If not enough candidates achieve this quota, preferences of the lowest polling candidate are redistributed.
If necessary, the preferences of the next lowest polling candidate are redistributed and so on until the required number of candidates are elected.
Information for this article has been sourced from the New South Wales Electoral Commission.
Dominic O'Sullivan is a professor in Political Science in the School of Social Work and Arts at Charles Sturt University.
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