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Byron Shire
December 5, 2023

Last chance for tickets to Byron Shire Council Meet the Candidates forum

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Byron and Ballina Shire council candidates getting ready for the 2021 ballot draw. Photo Aslan Shand

Today is your last chance to get tickets to tonight’s Byron Shire Meet the Candidates forum in the Byron Theatre.

Bay FM Community Radio and The Echo is teaming up to host this evening’s free event, which is a chance for voters to ask questions of nearly all 32 council candidates.

The deadline for submitting questions has officially passed and you can expect to hear candidates canvas a variety of local issues including development, wildlife, the arts, homelessness and youth, to name a few.

Each of the nine mayoral candidates is to present a three-minute introduction to or overview of their leadership pitch, including how they see the shire in ten years’ time.

There’s been a lot of drama in the leadup to the Byron Shire Council election and plenty of political intrigue, so if you’re feeling confused, having nearly all the candidates in the one room with equal opportunities to speak increases your odds of being an informed voter.

Bay FM presenter and Echo reporter Mia Armitage is to moderate tonight’s forum and tickets are available via the Byron Theatre online.

Make your vote count: number the boxes and don’t deface your ballot

Of the nine people running for Byron Shire mayor, there are: eight men and one woman; three current serving councillors and two others with previous council experience; two representing political parties and another five independents with teams; and two ungrouped candidates.

You can pick one candidate for mayor and leave the other boxes vacant; you can number all nine in your preferred order; or you can number more than one but less than nine.

According to mathematical theory, the more boxes you number, the longer your vote stays in the count.

It’s important not to deface your ballot by writing or drawing anything besides numbers in boxes – no protest slogans or symbols – as defaced ballots aren’t included in the final count for councillors.

People power: it’s up to you if, who and how you preference

Four of the mayoral candidates have joined forces to form what they’ve called a United Front, whereby they are asking voters to preference their four teams above all other candidates.

The United Front includes the Labor team and the current mayor, a former Greens member, who has become an independent since winning a council seat on a Greens ticket in 2016.

The United Front has excluded the Greens and two other current serving independents – one a progressive, the other a conservative – from their preference alliance.

But preferential voting is optional in NSW local government elections and you don’t have to follow anyone’s ‘how to vote’ cards even if you support the team handing them out.

It’s up to you who you preference and in what order, even when teams have ranked their own members.

Should you ONLY ‘vote 1’, opting out of preferential voting, and your chosen candidate or team doesn’t win enough votes to get a seat, your vote will be officially exhausted – it will NOT automatically pass on to candidates outside that group.

How to maximise your preferential voting power

For example, if you want to vote for The Greens, as many voters did in the most recent Byron Shire Council election, you can either ‘vote 1’ for the team as presented above the line on the general council voting form; you can number the team members in their preferred order below the form; or you could jumble the order of candidates around according to your liking.

You could even choose to only number one, two or three of the four candidates if there is one you don’t fancy, since you only need to number four candidates in total below the line on the council voting form, regardless of which group or otherwise they are in.

Using the Labor team as an example, which has six candidates, if you vote for that team below the line and aren’t interested in any other candidates, you still only have to pick four out of the team of six (Labor has the biggest team of all this election).

It’s up to you whether or not you continue to preference beyond the minimum of four but theoretically the more you preference, the more powerful your vote.

And one more time, in case it isn’t clear: it’s up to you how you order the names below the line.

You could do a Byron Shire Council fruit salad of preferences if you want to and simply pick one candidate from each of the seven groups plus the two ungrouped candidates – coincidentally, voting this way would total nine preferences, also the number of councillors that ultimately need to be chosen.

For more information on the various candidates, check out past articles and interviews in The Echo’s elections section online and take a listen to interviews on Bay FM’s website.

Anyone who can’t make tonight’s event in person can tune in to Bay FM 99.9 or via bayfm.org.

Not too late to declare yourself a Byron Shire voter

Voting in in NSW local government elections is compulsory if your address is registered in the state.

Anyone who recently moved to or from the Byron Shire but hasn’t yet officially changed their address can still vote for the Byron Shire Council.

All you need do is front up to a pre-polling booth with either proof of your new address or someone to attest to the facts you are who you say you are and live where you say you live.

There are two pre-polling booths in the Byron Shire: one in the Byron Community Centre and the other in Mullumbimby Civic Hall.

Pre-polling booths are due to open every day this week but aren’t open on official Election Day, slated for Saturday 4 December.

Chances are the Australian Electoral Commission has gleaned your address details, even if you haven’t bothered officially registering to vote, which means you could receive a fine if you don’t vote.

A NSW Electoral Commission spokesman told Bay FM recently anyone somehow missing from the electoral roll but wanting to vote for the first time would not be punished for missing past votes through fines.

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