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November 30, 2021

Why we should vote with preferences in council elections

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It is important that when we cast our votes in the upcoming Council elections on Saturday 4 December, we fill in all preferences on the ballot form.

In the elections, we will be able to vote for a range of people with diverse ideas about how to run your Shire.

Byron Shire mayoral ballot paper.
Image: NSW Electoral Commission

In Byron, Ballina and Lismore Shire Council’s we will elect one mayor who will run the meetings, be the public face of the Council, and also have some backroom power between meetings. In the Tweed Shire Council elections the elected councillors elect thea mayor for periods of two years throughout their term.

At the same time, but on a separate ballot paper, you vote for the future councillors. The councillors are equivalent to the board of directors; they set policy and vote on issues that are important for us all.

The vote for a mayor

On your ballot paper for the mayoral vote (there will be nine candidates) you are required to vote 1 for your first preference but may, if you choose to, vote for other candidates in order of preference 2, 3, 4 etc. as far as you wish to go.

When polls are closed the votes are counted into piles according to candidate, and the first candidate to get an absolute majority is elected – that is 50 per cent of valid votes, plus one, carries the day. If there is no candidate with an absolute majority (which is normal) the votes from the candidate pile with the least number of votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates according to the second preference on each ballot form.

Is there a candidate with an absolute majority now? If yes, they are elected, if no, the next candidate pile with least number of votes is redistributed according to the second preferences on those ballots to the remaining candidates. Is there a candidate with an absolute majority now? If not, the process is repeated until a mayor is elected.

Exhausted votes

If you have not placed a second, third or more, preferences on your ballot it will be discarded or ‘exhausted’, in election speak, after one round. This becomes a totally wasted vote if you did not vote for the winning candidate.

As an example from the last election in Byrin Shire council candidate Jack Sugarman had the lowest vote, 483 first preferences. There were 271 of those votes that showed no second preference and were exhausted, leaving only 212 to be passed on.

The vote for councillors

At the councillor poll we are voting for councillors, and whilst the system is somewhat similar there is another set of rules.

You must vote for at least four candidates below the line in order of your preference but may, if you wish, continue your preferencing up to the number of candidates standing.

Similarly, in the counting, piles are placed in first preference piles by candidate and counted. Similarly, preferences are allocated as per the voter’s wish, and if there is no preference shown the vote is exhausted as before.

Candidates are elected once they achieve a quota of votes; calculated based on total numbers of votes cast and the number of vacancies.

It is vital to preference at least 12 candidates (rather than the legal requirement of four) to ensure that your vote is not exhausted.   

Make sure that your vote counts by distributing your preferences right to the end of your ballot papers.

The Echo has extensive election coverage online for the Byron, Ballina, Lismore and Tweed Local Government Areas (LGAs).

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