Councils frustrated as covid delays local govt elections – again

Local government elections in NSW have been delayed as the state struggles to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant of covid-19.

Linda Scott

The state government says it took the decision to postpone the September elections until December 4 for safety reasons.

The three month deferral is the second time local government elections, originally planned for September 2020, have been put off.

The announcement has angered the peak NSW local government body, which says the decision will discourage candidates and impose an administrative and financial burden councils.

But local government minister Shelley Hancock says the decision was made in consultation with the NSW Electoral Commission and NSW Health.

 “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current public health orders impacting Greater Sydney, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the local government elections until later this year,” she said. 

“We have taken this step to postpone the election to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities, voters, polling staff and candidates.” 

Risk to democracy

Frustrated by the ongoing delays, LGNSW has called for the government to commit to holding elections by the end of the year.

President Linda Scott warned that further delays to elections will be a risk to democracy and challenged OLG to publish its health information.

She said many candidates didn’t have the time or money to keep delaying their campaigns and a number of councillors who had already been asked to extend their terms had decided not to stand for another term.

“COVID safe local government elections must be held by the end of the year, to uphold democracy and ensure renewal,” LGNSW President Linda Scott said.

“Public health and safety must always come first, but we do not want to reach a situation in which democracy delayed is democracy denied.”

Covid-safe voting

Ms Hancock says the government is providing $37 million to ensure covid-safe elections.

She says the government has worked with the Electoral Commission and NSW Health to ensure voters can cast their ballot in person, by post or online.

Electronic voting will be available in a first for local council elections, and voters will 13 days to cast their ballot ahead of the ballot to reduce polling day congestion.

The election will see 5.2 million voters decide on 1,200 councillor positions across 125 local councils.  

Five thousand candidates are in the running across the state.

Nominations open on Monday 25 October 2021 and close on Wednesday 3 November 2021. 

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3 thoughts on “Councils frustrated as covid delays local govt elections – again

  1. Why is it going to take so long to count the votes? The proposed timetable for postal votes means that incumbent Mayors will be in sole charge from 4th December until 21-23 December when new councils declared.

    1. Unfortunately service standards for delivery of mail by Australia Post have declined so much in recent years this has been factored into the time allowed to receive what is expected to be an exceptionally large volume of votes. Even by December it is likely that the risk of COVID and personal contact will still be a significant concern and people would rather opt to post their votes. (In fact they will probably continue to be encouraged to do so.) Timing of the election so close to Christmas has made the arrangements for electing new mayors within the compulsory three week time frame after the declaration of a poll – where there is no popularly elected mayor – rather tricky. Councils need to carefully consider caretaker arrangements and plan accordingly for those now.

  2. And is the Minister taking action to ensure that postal voting can be used when the Santa Variant hits in November?

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