Voters flock to Victorian LG elections in record numbers

Average voter turnout at last month’s Victoria’s local council elections was a record 81.4 per cent, the Victorian Electoral Commission said last week.

Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately congratulated Victorians on their record turnout for the election – which was conducted entirely by mail ballot because of Covid-19.

Campaigning was restricted during the lockdown with no face-to-face meetings, although letterboxing was allowed.

Mr Gately said several factors had likely contributed to the increased participation rate.

“We engaged students to design a campaign to appeal to all voters but particularly young voters … and the commission’s SMS voter alert also mobilised voters.

“Going by the record numbers of phone calls, emails and visitors using our website, we are confident the messaging landed well,” said Mr Gately.  

Voting enrolments were also the highest ever at 4.29 million people, as were the number of candidates – 2187 Victorians – who stood for election.

The Municipal Association of Victoria said the poll results were positive for greater gender diversity with female councillors now comprising 43.8 per cent of elected positions state-wide, up from 38 per cent in 2016.

The Greens performed notably well in the elections, securing 34 local council positions and winning a majority on the Yarra City Council.

In related news, the NSW Government has ruled out postal-only voting for next year’s council elections after the Local Government Association of NSW warned it risked skewing the outcome in favour of an older demographic.

The State Government had been considering a proposal from the NSW Electoral Commission for mandatory universal postal voting for the council elections.

LGNSW said it was “very pleased” the idea of enforced universal postal voting has been “put back in the box”.

“Local governments have always been strongly opposed to a postal-vote-only rule, and LGNSW has made its views clear with the NSW government,” LGNSW [and ALGA] President Linda Scott said.

She said councils did not oppose postal voting, but they were against a “one-size-fits-all approach” which stripped away other options.

“We have long called for the NSW government to ensure council elections are held in a manner as similar as possible to state and federal elections, to reduce voter confusion and encourage higher voter participation,” she said.