SA set to increase voter participation in council elections

By Staff Writer

South Australia plans to boost voter participation in next year’s local government elections through a series of proposed legislative changes.

The SA Minister for State and Local Government Relations, Gail Gago, has introduced a draft local government elections amendment bill, which is being circulated to councils for comment.

The Minister said the proposed changes aim to increase voter participation from 31 per cent to 50 per cent by 2014.

“Raising awareness of Local Government elections will improve the democratic process and encourage more participation in councils in the long term,” Gago said.

“Our changes strive to lift the profile of local elections and promote easy access to all candidate information via central web portal.”

She said multiple voting in each election would also be abolished to reduce the administrative burden placed on councils maintaining separate voters’ rolls for property franchises.

“Instead, councils will be required to divert these resources into a centrally administered publicity campaign that will encourage voting at elections and explain the role of local government and elected members.”

The changes are in response to an independent review of the local government elections, in consultation with local government.

Key changes include:

  • placing responsibility for promoting elections in the hands of the Electoral Commissioner;
  • provision for centralised publication of candidate statements on the internet providing information about each candidate and their policies;
  • legal consequences for a candidate failing to withdraw or retract misleading material if ‘requested’ to do so by the Electoral Commissioner;
  • requiring landlords, business owners and business renters to enrol before each election if they want to vote;
  • giving every person only one chance to vote in each council election – even if they own another property or properties in the same council area;
  • requiring each council to adopt a caretaker policy for conduct of council and staff during the election period; and
  • prohibiting the withdrawal of any candidate after the close of nominations to avoid the possibility of skewing the outcome.

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