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Local government elections

Last updated: 13/07/2017 1:08 AM
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Local government elections play an important role in Western Australia's democratic system. Ordinary local government elections are held on the third Saturday in October every two years. The 2015 local government elections were held on 17 October.

The majority of local governments conduct postal voting elections and contract the Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) to run the elections. Local governments that conduct in person elections receive support from the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC), with a small number contracting the WAEC. The WAEC appoints returning officers for the elections it conducts.

Extraordinary elections

If the office of an elected councillor, mayor or president becomes vacant due to the death or resignation of a member, or another reason listed in the Local Government Act 1995 (the Act), an extraordinary election must be held within four months of the vacancy occurring. The filling of extraordinary vacancies that occur after the third Saturday in January and up until the third Saturday in July in an election year can be deferred if approved by the electoral commissioner under the Act.

Other elections

The Act provides for elections to be held for other reasons, such as after a restructure of districts or wards; after the reinstatement of council following suspension; after all offices become vacant; or after council is dismissed. Extraordinary and other elections are advertised under local government notices in The West Australian newspaper. The advertisements give details about enrolling to vote, nominating to be a candidate in the elections, the ways in which a vote can be cast and the date of the election.

Voting systems

Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all electors are strongly encouraged to vote.

First past the post

Under the first past the post system, electors indicate the candidate, or candidates, of their choice by placing a tick in the box opposite the names of the chosen persons - up to the number of vacancies to be filled.

The result of an election will be determined by counting the number of votes received by each candidate in the count. In cases where there is a single vacancy, the candidate with the most votes will be elected, while in cases where there is more than one vacancy candidates will be elected in order according to the number of votes received by each.

In person and postal elections

A local government may run either a postal election or an in person election. Where a voting in person election system is in place, electors may apply for a postal vote, absent vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.

Returning officer

The election conducted in each local government is under the control of a returning officer. The Act provides that the council's chief executive officer is the returning officer for every voting in person election unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function.  The electoral commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in person elections conducted by the WAEC. A list of returning officers is available on the WAEC website. For all other elections, contact the relevant local government for more information.

Enrolling to vote

Eligible voters in a local government election must be either a resident, an eligible non-resident owner or non-resident occupier of rateable property in the local government district or a nominee of a body corporate that owns or occupies rateable property in the district or ward. Eligible voters also must be correctly enrolled to vote in State or Commonwealth elections and be at least 18 years old on election day. An enrolment status can be checked online at the WAEC website.

Related resources

More information about Western Australian local government elections is available at the WAEC website.

Each local government has information about its own election. Visit the local government directory for contact details.