Monday, February 26, 2024

Mayor calls for election timing rethink

City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council has announced it will call upon the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) to lobby the State Government to shift the timing of Local Government elections, so they are not held in the same year as the State Government election.

Mayor Robert Bria (pictured), who tried unsuccessfully in 2018 to get the LGA to lobby the State Government to make the change, said he hoped his second attempt would be supported by Councils at the LGASA‘s Ordinary General Meeting to be held in April.

In his Motion – which was unanimously supported at this week’s Council meeting – Mayor Bria requested the LGA write to Local Government Minister, Geoff Brock, proposing the date for periodic Local Government elections be changed.

“It is time the State Government takes a serious look at the scheduling of Local Government elections and follow the Victorian model of having State and Local Government elections two years apart,” the Mayor said.

“Clearly, having three (State, Local and Federal) elections in the same year with constant campaigning, corflutes, letters, door knocking and other materials and offering no respite for voters between elections can be exhausting,” he said.

“Voters in the seat of Bragg – which encompasses part of our City – also had to vote in a fourth election last year following the resignation of Vickie Chapman.

“South Australia faced the same situation in 2010, which should have been the trigger for a review of the timing of Local Government elections at that time, but sadly this did not occur.”

Mayor Bria said there were several reasons why the timing of periodic Local Government elections should change, including “election fatigue” and the pressure on the Electoral Commission of South Australia (ECSA) to manage its workload, make changes to the voter rolls and finalise representation reviews.

“ECSA has long argued that a change in the timing of periodic Local Government elections should be considered. It has repeatedly made recommendations to that effect in its Local Government Election Reports of 2010, 2014 and 2018, arguing elector fatigue and voter apathy are ongoing issues,” he says.

He specifically highlighted ECSA’s 2018 report, which stated: “Change the timing of Local Government periodic elections. The date should be shifted so that the periodic elections do not occur within the same year as a State election”.

The Mayor said shifting the timing of the elections to two years after the State election may increase voter turnout, which only reached 34.54% across SA in the 2022 Local Government elections.

“Why ECSA’s recommendations have not been supported remains a mystery. We can no longer afford to ignore what is an obvious problem and should just get on with fixing it,” he said.

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