Every election is different. At local council elections the way you vote depends on many factors such as:
- If the public is voting for the Mayor
- The number of Councillors to be elected
- The format of the ballot paper
The instructions on the ballot paper will direct you how to mark your ballot paper correctly.
- If only one Councillor is to be elected for your ward, or if you are voting for the Mayor, you only need to write ‘1’ against your most preferred candidate. However, you may continue to number more squares, ‘2’, ‘3’, etc. if you wish.
- For a referendum or poll, you just need to write 'Yes' or 'No' next to the option that you prefer.
Who and what am I voting for?
Councillors and Mayor
The representatives on councils are called Councillors and the head of the council is the Mayor. At local council elections, you vote for people to become Councillors representing your local area.
You might also vote for who should be the Mayor, depending on whether your council’s Mayor is elected by the public or by the other Councillors.
Referendums and Polls
On Election Day, some councils use the opportunity to ask the public for their opinions on an important local matter. These kinds of voting are known as Referendums and Polls.
A council may hold a Referendum on any of the following issues:
- Determine whether or not the Mayor is to be popularly elected;
- Increase or reduce the number of councillors;
- Divide the council area into wards or abolish all wards; and
- Change the method of election of councillors for an area divided into wards
Voting in a Referendum is compulsory for all electors on the roll, and the result is binding on the council. If the Referendum is passed, the result takes effect at the next council general election in 4 years’ time.
A council may conduct a Poll on any issue for its guidance, for example:
- The introduction of fluoride into drinking water; or
- Constructing a roundabout in the main street.
Voting in a council Poll is not compulsory, and the result is not binding on the council.
How are votes counted?
- The optional preferential system is used for electing just one Councillor or the Mayor (where the mayor is popularly elected).
- The proportional representation voting system is used for electing two or more Councillors.
- The first past the post system is used for Referendums and Polls. This method means that whichever side of the debate (yes/no) gets the majority of votes, wins.
What are local councils?
In Australia, we are represented by three levels of government: Federal (whole of Australia), State (e.g. NSW), and Local (e.g. Griffith City Council, Sutherland Shire Council).
There are many local councils across Australia, including over 100 in NSW. Each council is responsible for the particular needs of a city or local community.
Local councils look after vital services including:
- local roads, footpaths and gutters
- libraries and public halls
- sporting facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses
- public land such as parks and other recreation areas
- housing development
- household garbage and recycling collections
Local government areas vary greatly in size and character and can consist of a group of suburbs, a town or a rural area. Some councils are divided into several wards, with voters in each ward electing a number of Councillors.