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(Posted 26/4/05 Last Updated 13/6/05)
Council Elections, November 26, 2005:
So Much Will Have Changed The Next Time You Vote
(26/4/05 - C)
New ward names, ward boundaries and voting system. You should know about these changes if you are going to make informed choices.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
When Macedon Ranges’ residents vote next November to elect a new Council, one of the few things that will be the same will be the school or hall they visit to vote. Even this might not be the same, depending upon whether Macedon Ranges’ Council decides to stick with attendance voting or change to postal voting (see item 12 below).
1 Sweeping State Government Reforms
When the State government passed the Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act in 2003, it introduced sweeping reforms about how local government and Councils operate, including how Council elections will be conducted.
2 Electoral Representation Review
As a result of these State government changes, last year the Victorian Electoral Commission [VEC] conducted an Electoral Representation Review of Macedon Ranges Shire’s local (Council) electoral structure. The Review recommended major changes.
3 Number of Wards Reduced from Nine (9) to Three (3)
The VEC recommended, and the State government approved, replacement of our current system of nine wards (with one Councillor in each ward) with a new, ‘three ward’ electoral system (with three Councillors in each ward). For the November Council election, Macedon Ranges Shire will be split into 3 very large, multi-member wards.
Public submissions to the Review were roughly evenly split between keeping or modifying the existing ward structure, and making some form of change.
A multiple, multi-member ward structure was supported in submissions by Macedon Ranges’ residents Noel Harvey (Kyneton), Terry Larkins (Gisborne), John Letchford (Gisborne), Christine Roussiyan (Gisborne South), Christine Thompson (Gisborne South), Russell Mowatt (New Gisborne), Ron Cole (Romsey), Geoff Neil* (Romsey), Alex Forrest* (?), RFC & SJ Campbell (Mt. Macedon), and John Benson (Cherokee via Romsey), and by the Proportional Representation Society of Australia, Victorian-Tasmanian Branch (West Brunswick), and Councillor Gurm Sekhon (Yarra City Councillor and delegate to the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)).
* Supported in principle in first submission, subsequently did not support the final VEC multi-member ward option.
The VEC Guide for Submissions document identified the pros and cons of multi-member wards as follows:
4 The New Wards
A map of the new wards, produced by the VEC, shows:
The South Ward is almost identical to the former Shire of Gisborne’s boundaries and includes Gisborne, South Gisborne, New Gisborne, Bullengarook, Macedon and Mt. Macedon.
The West Ward starts south of Woodend, with the Calder Freeway, Mowbray and Three Chain Roads, Chases Lane and Pipers Creek forming the ward’s eastern boundary. Areas included in the ward are Ashbourne, Cadello, Carlsruhe, Edgecombe, Fern Hill, Greenhill, Kyneton, Lauriston, Malmsbury, Spring Hill, Trentham East, Tylden, and Woodend.
The East Ward is the largest. It includes almost all of the former Shire of Romsey as well as parts of the former Shires of Newham & Woodend and Kyneton, and stretches from Riddells Creek on the Shire’s southern boundary to Baynton on the Shire’s northern boundary. Areas in the ward are: Baynton, Benloch, Bolinda, Chintin, Cherokee, Clarkefield, Cobaw, Darraweit Guim, Goldie, Hesket, Kerrie, Lancefield, Monegeetta, Newham, Pastoria, Pipers Creek, Riddells Creek, Romsey, Sidonia, and Springfield. Some parts of Barringo, Carlsruhe, Mt. Macedon (Woodend side) and Woodend areas are also included.
MAP OF NEW WARDS
Map produced by VEC
Click here to go to full sized map
5 Senate-Style Proportional Counting Replaces Preferential Counting
The way our votes will be counted has also dramatically changed. Elections will be decided by proportional counting (the type of counting used at Federal and State level for Senate or Upper House elections) instead of the preferential counting system (50% + 1 vote) we have used until now. Candidates in Macedon Ranges Shire will instead now need a ‘quota’ of first preference votes to be elected. Candidates who don’t get a ‘quota’ of first preference votes face a complex system of vote transfers and reduced value second preferencing.
The VEC describes proportional representation as follows:
“The basis of proportional representation is that candidates are elected in proportion to their support. Under the proportional representation system:
To be elected, a candidate must obtain a 'quota', which is calculated by dividing the total number of votes** by 1 more than the number of vacancies, and then adding one (for example, in an election for 3 vacancies with 800 votes cast, the quota would be 201 formal votes).
When a candidate receives more votes then a quota, the surplus votes are distributed to the continuing candidates at a reduced value, calculated by dividing the surplus votes by the total votes for the candidate (for example, if a candidate achieved 300 votes and the quota was 201 votes, the candidate's surplus would be 99, and ballot papers would be transferred to the remaining candidates at a value of 99 divided by 300).
When all surplus votes have been distributed and there are still vacancies to be filled, preferences are distributed from the lowest-scoring candidates until a candidate has a quota.
This system means that any candidate who obtains a quota, either through first-preference votes or through the flow of preferences, is elected."
** Note: The VEC has advised that ‘the total number of votes’ means the total number of formal votes.
The change to multiple multi-member wards and proportional voting (counting) was supported in submissions to the Review by Macedon Ranges’ residents Noel Harvey (Kyneton), Douglas McIver (Kyneton), Terry Larkins (Gisborne), John Letchford (Gisborne), Russell Mowatt (New Gisborne), Christine Roussiyan (Gisborne), and by the Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victorian-Tasmanian Branch, West Brunswick) and Councillor Gurm Sekhon (Yarra City Councillor and delegate to the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)). Note: Proportional voting is compulsory in all multi-member wards.
6 Number of Voters In Each of The New Wards
The table below is taken from the VEC ward options map and shows how voters are to be distributed between the three new multi-member wards. The number of voters in each new ward triples the average number of voters in existing single member wards. Notably, the South ward (Gisborne area) has the fewest number of voters, which allows for much higher growth than the other two wards before voter numbers and electoral boundaries will need to be reviewed (voter numbers in each ward are now required to be reviewed before every second general election). The East ward is also capable of taking more growth than the West ward before triggering a review of voter numbers. The number of voters in each ward must not be more than 10% higher or lower than the average number of voters for each ward (total number of voters divided by total number of wards = average number of voters per ward).
|Totals for all Electorates||29,948||-4.84% to +5.26%||1,747.16|
Note: The average shown above (3,328) appears to be the average number of voters per Councillor. The average number of voters per ward is 9,983.
Other changes to flow from the State government’s reforms include:
7 No ‘Automatic’ By-Election to Fill Councillor Vacancies
Another significant change to the new local electoral system is that it attempts to avoid by-elections. If a Councillor resigns or dies, unsuccessful candidates at the last election in the same ward will be invited to participate in a countback of votes cast at that election. If only one unsuccessful candidate agrees to participate, that person is declared elected as Councillor. Where more than one unsuccessful candidate agrees to participate, a countback of votes cast at the last election is held, with votes received by the vacating Councillor redistributed to other candidates. A by-election will only be held if all unsuccessful candidates in the relevant ward at the last election decline to participate in a countback.
8 Your Entitlements to Vote Have Changed
Contact Macedon Ranges Council with questions about your entitlements.
9 Council To Be In ‘Caretaker Mode’ During An Election Period
Further State government changes prevent a Council, a special committee of Council or a person acting under delegation from the Council making ‘major policy decisions’ during ‘an election period’. An election period commences on the ‘entitlement day’ (the day the electoral roll closes). MRRA understands that in Macedon Ranges Shire, the ‘Caretaker Mode’ will apply from some time in September, 2005. ‘Major policy decisions’ are defined in the Local Government Act at Section 93A as relating to: employment or remuneration of a CEO, termination of the appointment of a CEO, entering into contracts with total value over $100,000 or 1% of Council revenue the preceding year, and undertaking activities relating to the exercise of any entrepreneurial powers (Section 193).
10 Councillors’ Terms-of-Office Extended
Currently, Councillors are elected for 3 year terms. In future, Councillors will have 4 years terms (as State parliament does) other than first term after November 2005. This ‘first’ term will remain a 3 year term to allow all Councils in Victoria to hold elections on the same day in 2008 (some Councils held elections in November 2004).
11 Fixed Date For Council Elections
The State government has decided that all Council elections will be held on the last Saturday in November, as are State parliamentary elections. Synchronized Council elections (for all municipalities in the State) will be held on the same day in 2008, 2012, etc., while State elections will be held in 2006, 2010, etc.
12 Attendance Versus Postal Voting
This is one issue Council can still decide. Macedon Ranges Shire has always conducted general elections by attendance voting (voting in person at a polling place). Council is currently considering how Shire residents will vote in November. A recommendation for attendance voting to be retained will be put before Council at its 27 April 2005 meeting at Kyneton.
Council voted to retain attendance voting at its 27 April 2005 meeting (as it had at an earlier committee meeting). Subsequently, Cr. Henry Bleeck submitted a rescission motion to overturn Council’s decision. The rescission motion was dealt with at a Special Council meeting on 8th June. Six Councillors (Bleeck, Connor, Evans, Gee, Petrovich and Relph) voted to abandon attendance voting by supporting the motion. The same six then carried a motion to formally adopt postal voting for the upcoming November Council elections. Councillors Dunn, Guthrie and Todd opposed the rescission motion and adoption of the postal voting system
Macedon Ranges Shire is in sore need of a Council where all Councillors pull their weight and consistently put the broad community interest ahead of political allegiances or their own political aspirations. Too often we see a ‘wheeling and dealing’ circus leading up to the election of a Mayor; support or opposition for issues because it follows the party line; and individual Councillors ostracized by the rest of the Councillor ‘team’.
It is often said that people get the government they deserve. As a community we must aspire to having the best representation we can get. Residents will need to take a strong interest in and question candidates before next November’s election. Your best interests are best served by candidates who put community interests before their own.
Contact Victorian Electoral Commission for information about the Electoral Representation Review and information about how Council elections will now be conducted. Results for Macedon Ranges’ Representation Review are available from the VEC website www.vec.vic.gov.au – go to Elections, Council Elections, Macedon Ranges, Representation Review. You can also contact Macedon Ranges Shire Council for information about voting entitlements and enrolment (email firstname.lastname@example.org). For more detailed information about how elections will be conducted, consult the Local Government Act 1989 (available at http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/). Make sure you get the most recent version of the Act as implementation of the Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act is producing on-going changes.