Wanneroo council calls for changes to election process

Wanneroo council calls for changes to election process

WANNEROO council has labelled the postal elections process during last October’s local government elections “disappointing and unacceptable” and has called for reform.

Councillors unanimously supported a motion for the chief executive Daniel Simms to write to the WA Electoral Commission (WAEC) last month seeking changes for the 2017 elections.

The decision sought “priority for lodgement and distribution of election packages be given (to) those local governments in order of elector population numbers and geographical size” rather than alpha- betically.

It was prompted by an issues paper that highlighted late delivery of election packages, low voter turnout and late votes that were not counted.

The April 5 report said 849 election packages arrived after the 2015 election day, compared to 1106 in 2013.

It attributed initial delays to problems at the printers, which meant the 100,690 election packages were lodged with Australia Post later than expected.

“This delay subsequently meant that all election packages for the City were delivered later with distribution most significantly delayed in the South Ward, a delay of approximately two weeks,” the report said.

“The City also received numerous phone calls from concerned electors who had not received their election packages within the expected timeframe.”

It said the delays resulted in “an extremely high number” of 407 people hand delivering their election packages to the Wanneroo Civic Centre on election day, delaying the count by 45 minutes.

Responding to questions from the Times, the WAEC said it had not yet received requests from the City to change the process.

“Under the Local Government Act, where councils opt to have their elections conducted as postal ballots, those elections must be conducted by the WAEC,” the response said.

“At the recent election the WAEC was required to distribute ballot material to over 1.3 million electors across 75 council areas.

“The despatch of material was handled by a mail house with material forwarded to remote, regional and Perth metropolitan councils in that order.

“The order took into account increased delivery times for more outlying councils.

“Although there were some printing delays, material was still received by electors in ample time for completion and return.”

It said any changes to legislation would be a matter for the parliament and government of the day, and it would pass on requests to the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC).

The department was unable to comment specifically on issues with the 2015 local government elections.

A DLGC spokeswoman said the department was “not currently reviewing the legislation regarding the local government election process”.

She said the City of Wanneroo had a voter turnout of 21.59 per cent in the 2015 local government elections, while Joondalup had 20.02 per cent and Stirling was 23.24 per cent. The WA average was 27.5 per cent.

The council decision also asked Mr Simms to work with the neighbouring councils on investigating the “appetite for compulsory voting and electronic or internet voting” to increase participation, and whether the WAEC should be the sole provider of postal voting services.