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Local Government election shake-up initiated

Some major changes have been put in place for local government elections.
Some major changes have been put in place for local government elections. Claudia Baxter

SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council elections are set for a shake-up through proposed local government changes that would give voters a more detailed say in who they put into power.

Save Our Shires Action Group secretary Mary Rofe said it was pleasing that steps were being taken to improve the local government voting system.

Ms Rofe and SOSAG filed a submission with local government minister David Crisafulli in January this year outlining the changes they would like to see put in place.

He said under the proposed changes, mayors and councillors would "no longer be able to rely on their popularity and the size of their war chests to secure a seat on council", based on the current first-past-the-post system.

Currently voters are required only to list their number one preference for mayor when casting their vote.

However, under a suite of electoral reforms introduced into State Parliament, people would be able to vote for mayoral candidates in preference order.

 

Mr Crisafulli, talking exclusively to APN Newsdesk on Wednesday, said the changes surrounding preferential voting when electing a mayor would be a win for communities.

"It is not fair people only have the opportunity to vote for one person," he said.

"In the same way, I do not think we should be forcing people to have to preference. You should not be excluding them from exercising their right if they wish to.

"People should be able to choose who they like the most and indicate who they like the least."

Similar changes would also see a shake-up on how councillors are elected in undivided councils such as Southern Downs.

Voters would have the option to vote for as many candidates as they choose, up to the number of councillor positions available.

Mr Crisafulli said it would allow people to vote for as few or as many candidates on the ballot paper as they wished, and their vote would still be valid.

He said it would mean voters no longer had to number long lists of candidates.

"If there are only five candidates who I want to give an endorsement for, then I should have the right to do that," Mr Crisafulli said.

Mr Crisafulli said under the reforms, a council could choose to have its chief executive officer take control of future local government elections.

He said the chief executive officer would be empowered as the returning officer, with the Queensland Electoral Commission overseeing how the election was conducted.

Ms Rofe was very pleased with the proposal, which was one of the requests in SOSAG's submission.

Other changes proposed include requiring candidates to register how-to-vote cards, extending the postal vote option to all registered voters, increasing the penalty for electoral fraud from one year to seven years in jail and requiring voters to produce identification when casting their vote at polling booths.

Ms Rofe said she and SOSAG were not in favour of the postal voting system.

"The system as far as I am concerned is very open to abuse," Ms Rofe said.

The reform package has been referred to the LNP-dominated Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee where it is expected to be given the green light.

Topics:  council, elections, southern downs, stanthorpe


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