2 December 2021

Saturday is election day for 124 NSW councils: here's what you need to know

| James Coleman
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Pre-polling is available across the region until Friday, 3 December. Photo: Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC).

The day is nearly upon us.

After a false start earlier this year, ratepayers and residents in no fewer than 124 local council areas will vote this Saturday, 4 December, in council elections across NSW, including Cootamundra-Gundagai, Eurobodalla, Goulburn-Mulwaree, Hilltops, Junee, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Valleys, Snowy Monaro, Shoalhaven, and Wagga Wagga.

Some of the local government areas are also throwing in mayoral elections, constitutional referendums and polls.

Compared to previous years, however, this election day will look a little different.

Firstly, the polling places will be a lot quieter.

How-to-vote cards are off the agenda after the NSW Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt ruled that no electoral material could be either handed out in person or left out for collection within 100 metres of the entrance to a polling place or a pre-polling venue.

Posters, corflutes, and A-frame signs are allowed at polling places, but must be put in position before 7 am on the day. They then cannot be adjusted or moved until after 7 pm.

Ostensibly, this is to limit the transmission of COVID-19, but is attracting criticism from many of the candidates who are puzzled that such a rule is in place as vaccination rates approach 95 percent and restrictions ease across the state.

In many of the regional areas, 100 metres away could also be across the highway, thus foiling any attempt by members of the party faithful to distribute their advertising material.

For this reason, voters are encouraged to take the time to check out what the candidates in their area are standing for before arriving at the venue.

Candidates are either standing in groups designated by letters of the alphabet, or individually as ungrouped.

Inside the polling places, current COVID-19 restrictions require voters to wear face masks. COVID-19 vaccination is not a condition of entry in this case.

Single-use pens and hand sanitiser will be available, while dedicated staff will regularly clean high-touch surfaces, including the voting screens.

Everything else will be business as usual.

Most of the elections will be won through a conventional ballot paper. This is divided into two parts by a thick line with voting squares both above and below. Above the line gives voters the option of numbering the groups as a whole, while underneath the line, voters can number the candidates themselves.

In some LGAs, the mayor is elected by popular vote, including in the Eurobodalla Shire Council and City of Shoalhaven. Voters in these areas can expect to receive two ballot papers – one for the council and the other for the mayor.

Both the Bega Valley Shire Council and City of Wagga Wagga are looking to adjust the way they elect their mayor with a referendum. This will decide whether the future mayor will be elected directly by the voters or chosen by the council after the fact.

Election officials will be on hand in the booth to help out. Voters may also take a friend or family member to help.

Pre-poll voting is available at locations across NSW until 3 December. Polling places for the day are listed on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Those who live more than 20 km from a polling booth are eligible to vote online or by phone via the iVote system.

Most importantly, voting is compulsory for residents so be sure to check your eligibility before Saturday to avoid copping a fine. If you are an owner, rate-paying lessee or occupier of rateable land which is not your primary residence, you may also be entitled to be enrolled to vote.

The counting of votes will commence after polls close at 6 pm. The results page on the NSW Electoral Commission website will be updated progressively as results come in over the following days and weeks. A final result should be in by Christmas Day.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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