When are Council Elections held?
All Council elections are held every four years on the fourth Saturday in October. Victorian State and Local Government election dates are both fixed term but are scheduled to occur two years apart from each other. The next Council election will be held on 24 October 2020.
Who runs Council Elections?
The Victorian Electoral Commission
(VEC) is the statutory provider for all Council elections. The Returning Officer will be the Electoral Commissioner or his or her appointee.
To be eligible to vote at a Council election, people must be on the State or Council voters’ roll 57 days before election day. This is called the ‘entitlement date’. Entitlement date for Darebin City Council’s elections is 4.00pm on Friday 28 August 2020.
Close of Nominations
Candidates must submit their nominations in person to the Returning Officer before the close of nominations. Nominations close 32 days before the election day. Close of Nominations for Darebin City Council’s elections is 12 noon on Tuesday 22 September 2020.
Close of Voting
Darebin City Council elections are undertaken by postal voting. In postal elections, ballot papers must be completed and posted to the Returning Officer no later than the last working day before election day. Postal votes for Darebin City Council’s elections must be returned by 6.00pm on Friday 23 October 2020.
Key election dates are publicised in the lead-up to an election, enabling people to participate fully in the process. The Returning Officer, who will run Darebin City Council’s election, is also able to provide more detail of the election timeline.
How Votes are Counted
Two methods of counting votes are used in Council elections, depending on whether or not the election is for a single-member ward. As Darebin City Council will be changing to single member wards, the method of counting votes will be the Preferential Voting system.
This is similar to the system of vote counting used for single member electorates in the State Legislative Assembly and the Federal House of Representatives.
- All valid first preference votes are counted and sorted to determine the number of first preferences for each candidate.
- Where one candidate has an absolute majority (50% plus one of all valid votes) that candidate is declared elected.
- If no candidate has an absolute majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are re-allocated according to their second preferences.
- This process is repeated until one candidate obtains an absolute majority and is declared elected.
Declaration of Election Results
The Returning Officer will publicly declare results after the votes have been counted and scrutineers have had time to examine the record of the count. The declaration of the election may be delayed if the Returning Officer decides to conduct a recount.
Election Period and 'caretaker' arrangements
The ‘election period’ is defined in the Local Government Act as the period between the last day of nominations and the election day. This is a 32-day period in Victorian Local Government elections. The aim is to avoid the use of public resources in a way that may unduly affect the election result and to minimise Councils making certain types of decisions that may unduly limit the decision-making ability of the incoming Council.
Darebin City Council may not make the following types of decisions, either directly or by delegation, during an election period:
- Decisions relating to the employment or remuneration of the Chief Executive Officer, other than a decision to appoint an acting CEO, or a decision to terminate the appointment of he CEO.
- Commit the Council to expenditure exceeding one percent of the Council’s income from general rates, municipal charges and service rates and charges in the preceding financial year; or
- Matters the Council considers could be reasonably deferred until the next Council is in place; or
- Matters the Council considers should not be made during an election period.
An exception can apply if Darebin City Council seeks and obtains an exemption from the Minister for Local Government.
Councils may voluntarily place additional limits on their decision making during an election period to ensure they are not unduly committing an incoming Council. These limits are often described in the Council’s Election Period policy. Click here to view the Election Period Policy 2020
Publication of Electoral Matter
The Local Government Act prohibits Councils from printing, publishing and distributing material that is electoral matter during an election period. Electoral matter is broadly defined as ‘matter that is intended or likely to affect voting in an election’. This limitation does not apply to electoral material that is only about the election process.
Darebin City Council’s Election Period policy states that the Chief Executive Officer must certify all Council publications during the election period to ensure they do not contain electoral matter.
Documents published before the election period commences (but still available after commencement, for example on the Council’s website) do not require certification and are not caught by the prohibition. Statutory documents permitted under legislation (such as rate notices, food premises registrations and parking fines) may continue to be disseminated by Council during the election period without limitation.
Replacement of a Councillor
Occasionally, a position on Council becomes vacant between general elections. This can occur if a Councillor dies or resigns, or if a Councillor ceases to be eligible to hold office.
If a Councillor elected at the 2020 election leaves office during their term, they will be replaced in a by-election. A by-election must be held within 100 days of the vacancy occurring but is not required if the vacancy occurs in the last 3 months before a general election is scheduled. In a by-election, a complete election is conducted for the ward. This involves a new nomination process and voters casting votes in the same way as in a general election.
Electoral Representation and Ward Boundary Reviews
Electoral structures and boundaries for Councils need to be regularly reviewed to ensure that representation continues to be democratic and appropriate. This is particularly important in rapidly developing regions.
The Local Government Act sets out the process for establishing an Electoral Representation Advisory Panel to conduct reviews and advises the Minister in relation to the electoral structure of the Council.
If the number of voters per Councillor in one or more wards varies from the average number of voters per Councillor in any other ward by more than 10 percent by the time of the next general election is to be held, the VEC will conduct a review of the boundaries of the wards and provide a report to the Minister containing recommendations about ward boundary changes.