The wasteful and intimidating practice of handing out how-to-vote leaflets for council elections at each and every booth could be a thing of the past if Ballina Shire Council has its way.
Councillors this week unanimously voted to seek approval from the NSW Electoral Commission to conduct a trial run, at the upcoming poll in September, to eliminate the practice.
Council will also explore the possibility of having a voluntary agreement with candidates for the September poll whereby the leaflets would not be allowed to be handed out at polling booths.
Cr Keith Johnson, who was behind the move, said large volumes of how-to-vote leaflets were printed and distributed at polling booths with most then discarded on election day.
Cr Johnson said not only did the volume of paper used meant more trees were chopped down but many voters found the handing-out process intimidating.
‘It creates congestion at the entry to booths, it has been known to cause fights and arguments among those handing out and voters, it is ultimately a waste of money for all concerned,’ Cr Johnson said.
Cash-rich candidates also gained an advantage ‘unrelated to their merit’ as a result of the process.
Cr Johnson said a simple alternative was to use a standard size/format how-to-vote leaflet for each candidate displayed inside each voting cubicle and voters could then copy the leaflet of their chosen candidate onto their voting paper.
‘This would then eliminate any perceived advantage from having the biggest, brightest, smartest how-to-vote card.’
He said the upcoming poll gave Ballina the opportunity to offer itself as a pilot or test case for the reform.
Cr Johnson said the proposal was not only better and cheaper for all concerned, but ‘decidely more civilised and mature’.