Make up your own mind on council election preferences

Latrobe Valley residents will not be told ‘how to vote’ when they open their local government electoral packs this year.

Last week the Victorian Legislative Council disallowed Clause 38 of the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations 2016, meaning the preferences of individual candidates will be excluded from postal voting packs.

State Opposition planning spokesperson David Davis brought the motion before Parliament last Wednesday in a bid to discourage ‘dummy candidates’.

The move means candidates will need to distribute their own ‘how-to-vote’ material if they wish to do so at their own cost, rather than through Victorian electoral officials.

“The armies of dummy candidates lining up to run in this year’s council elections will have to think again,” Mr Davis said in a media statement.

“The VEC electoral officials should not be distributing how-to-vote cards, that should be a matter for candidates to distribute.

“Removal of how-to-vote material from the postal voting pack will discourage candidates who are not genuinely seeking to be elected to office.”

Two current Latrobe City councillors have since approached The Express to welcome the decision.

West Ward councillor Sharon Gibson said dummy candidates existed across the state and hoped excluding how-to-vote material from postal ballot information packs would result in a fairer election.

But, she said the policy could be stronger.

“Ratepayers don’t deserve games being played on them that they actually have to pay for,” Cr Gibson said.

East Ward councillor Kellie O’Callaghan said she did not think including how-to-vote material in council electoral ballot packs was necessary.

She said she strongly believed people should only run for council if they genuinely wanted to represent their community.

“You shouldn’t be running just to support another candidate’s campaign,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

“That in itself is a disingenuous way to approach an election.”

Cr O’Callaghan agreed with the changes and expressed her confidence in Latrobe City voters’ ability to make informed choices without being told how to vote.

The Municipal Association of Victoria and the Victorian Local Governance Association do not support the exclusion.

The State Government has also expressed its disapproval in a media statement and said removing preference indications from the packs would reduce information for voters.