Victorian Govt. unmoved by calls to delay council elections

Victorian council elections set down for October 24 will go ahead as planned, the State Government confirmed this week.

The decision comes despite claims the polls will be compromised by Covid-19 restrictions.

The State Government says it sought advice from the Chief Health Officer before making the decision.

“The Chief Health Officer has advised that October represents a period when risk is likely to be substantially lower than at present, and there are no compelling public health grounds for the elections to be delayed,” Local Government Minister Shaun Leane said.

Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) President Cr Coral Ross said it was frustrating that the Government had not taken the common-sense decision to delay elections.

“[The decision] means that the elections will not have the quality and diversity of candidates that Victoria deserves.

“We know that not all councils were in favour of postponing council elections until 2021, but in the current environment, it would have been a sensible and practical decision, for communities, candidates and councils”, Cr Ross said.

Mr Leane said a set of safe campaigning guidelines have been developed in consultation with health authorities to help candidates.

The Government has also launched its online candidate training course, which all prospective candidates will need to complete.

It covers how councils are run, support available to councillors, the councillor code of conduct, conflict of interest guidelines, and election donation rules.

To ensure pandemic restrictions are not compromised during polling, the Victorian Electoral Commission will increase social distancing in election offices, limit face-to-face contact, enforce mandated mask-wearing, and move operational activity online whenever possible.

It is expected vote-counting will be hampered by social distancing requirements, delaying the declaration of results for some elections by at least a week to November 13.