No easy fix for low turnouts at Local Government elections

No easy fix for low turnouts at Local Government elections

VOTER participation in the City of Fremantle reached a new low during the recent Local Government election.

The Beaconsfield, East and Hilton wards were the worst offenders with a less than 30 per cent turnout, while the City ward, despite performing the best of all six, only managed to receive a 34.5 per cent participation rate.

Preston Point Ward, the only one contested in the Town of East Fremantle election, also received a participation rate of only 25.54 per cent.

The voter rate in Fremantle has steadily declined with every election in the last 10 years, with as many as 55 per cent of eligible residents voting in the City ward during the 2005 election.

Fremantle chief executive Graeme Mackenzie said Fremantle traditionally received a higher voter turnout during a mayoral election year, which 2015 was not.

“In 2009 and 2013 when mayoral elections were held, the voter turnout rates were 46.9 per cent and 40.8 per cent respectively but by comparison, in the past three non-mayoral election years of 2007, 2011 and 2015, voter turnout rates were 43.2 per cent, 35.9 per cent and approximately 30.3 per cent respectively,” he said.

“Declining voter participation is a state-wide trend, which has also impacted Fremantle.

“The core reasons for this are unknown. However, the growing apathy towards governments at all levels is likely to be a factor.”

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said the Government was not considering the introduction of compulsory voting at council elections, despite another notoriously low voter turnout.

A record number of 1021 candidates vied for 449 mayoral and councillor vacancies across the State at this year’s local government election, but only 27.5 per cent of eligible electors voted.

Mr Simpson said it was a disappointing result, but the local government sector had not indicated support for compulsory voting.

“Councillors who are making multimillion-dollar decisions are only being elected by a few hundred people,” he said.

“I do note there was significantly more effort by some councils to get ratepayers to participate in referenda on local government reform than on local elections.

“If ratepayers are happy to let others decide who will represent them on council, that is their prerogative.”

Mr Simpson said online voting could be the way of the future, especially as efforts to encourage voter participation had not increased turnout. He said it was a matter for the Minister for Electoral Affairs.