Voting in Local Council Elections
Local Council elections are coming up on 27 October. Guest reporter Olivia has some tips on getting the most out of them.
If you are one of the lucky people who have turned 18 in the last couple of years, congratulations! Your first chance at exercising your democratic right to vote is coming up later this month at this year's council elections, taking place on 27 October 2012.
What Are Council Elections?
Local council elections happen every four years on the same date across the whole state. Whether you live in Geelong, Boort, Traralgon, Corryong, Nhill or anywhere else in Victoria, if you're enrolled to vote and 18 or over, on 27 October 2012 you're legally required to vote in your local council election.
You may have already seen the posters around your local suburb, with candidates' faces and names, asking for your vote. After seeing these posters, you may be thinking something like this:
- You don’t recognise any of the candidates who are running
- You know nothing about your current councillors
- You’re disappointed that your first shot at voting can’t be in the big federal or state election
- Council elections don't seem to be entirely based on the political parties you know about
Despite seeming like small potatoes, council elections are actually the greatest chance you have at making a difference to your community. It's your local council who looks after things like rubbish collection, sporting facilities and road repairs - things that can directly affect your life on a daily basis.
It's also not that hard to do some research into the candidates standing for election to your local council so that you know what they want to do if they get elected. Here are a few ideas and suggestions to help you get involved and to work out who you want to vote for in the council elections taking place on October 27 2012.
Make Sure You're Enrolled
For starters, if you want to to vote you need to be on the electoral roll. You may have already received a "Happy 17th Birthday" card from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) or the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) asking you to enrol. If you have, check out the card - it's got details on how you go about enrolling.
Alternatively, you may have had someone from either the AEC or the VEC come to your school and give you some enrollment forms. If not, you can get the forms from the AEC's website (new window) or the VEC's website (new window).
You're allowed to enrol to vote when you're 17, but you won’t be allowed to actually vote, or be put on the electoral roll, until you turn 18. It's important to make sure you are enrolled.
Electoral voting is compulsory in Australia for all citizens over 18. The enrolment date for the 27 October 2012 council elections has closed, but if you're already 18 and you haven't enrolled, not only are you not permitted to vote, you may be fined for not voting (unless there are exceptional circumstances of course).
For more about enrolling to vote, check out Youth Central's Enrol to Vote page.
Research the Candidates
As mentioned previously, local council elections are the best way to use your vote to make a direct change in your local area.
What do I mean by that? Well, the councillors you're voting for actually live and work in your local area and will be responsible for things like:
- Rubbish collection
- Maintaining public places like libraries, parks and sporting facilities
- Development of new buildings in the area
Everyone in your local community is allowed to attend meetings of their local council. At these meetings you can directly ask councillors questions about the things that concern you. Because so much direct contact is possible, you have a much better chance of getting your message across to a local councillor than you do with a a state or federal politician.
Some councils hold special election meetings before the election. At these meetings you can meet the candidates who are running for council and ask them questions.
Things you should think about asking about include questions about their interest in the local community, their plans to tackle problems in the community, and any initiatives they have planned to benefit the community.
For example: What are the councillors' plans to tackle the growing amount of graffiti in the area? What do they plan to do when they get elected into council? Do they belong to any political party?
Another way to contact candidates is by looking them up online. Local council candidates are looking for your vote, so they will often try to reply to your message quickly to show they are willing to participate with the voters and their community.
If you're not sure which council is your local council, or where to find their website, check out the Find Your Local Council website (new window).
Make Sure You Vote!
After doing all of your research, it's important to make sure you actually vote. Your local council will send information to you about the candidates through the mail, as well as details about where, when and how you can vote on Election Day.
All of this information about the election on the VEC's website (new window), as well as on your local council’s website.The VEC and your council, also provide information about about what to do if you can't vote on the day (for example, you might not be in your home town on the day of the election).
If you can't make it to vote on election day, most councils will allow you to cast a postal vote, or make a polling place available where you can vote before Election Day. Make sure you check the VEC website (new window) or your local council's website to find out this information.
Again, if you're not sure which council is your local council, or where to find their website, check out the Find Your Local Council website (new window).
The main point is make sure you remember to go and vote. Set a reminder in your phone if you have to. If you're enrolled to vote and you don't vote, you will be fined. "I forgot" isn't a good enough excuse for the VEC.
Having a Direct Impact on Your Community
Council elections may not sound all that exciting, but local elections can have a direct impact on you and your community, and voting for local councillors does make a difference. Because they're local elections, it's easier to get involved in their outcome than any other kind of election in Australia.
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