Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Photo: Michael O’SullivanThe NSW government is “fixated on manipulating the City of Sydney” by moving to allow compulsory postal voting in council elections, lord mayor Clover Moore says.
Changes introduced to Parliament on Wednesday would enable councils to abolish ballot boxes and conduct elections entirely through postal votes.
This follows the introduction of new laws that make business voting at City of Sydney elections compulsory, and grant businesses two votes – a move interpreted by some as undermining the progressive Cr Moore.
There had been suggestions the new laws were burdensome for business voters living outside the area, who would have to travel to a polling booth or pre-register for postal voting.
The proposed changes would mean postal voting packs are sent to all non-residential electors, potentially increasing business voter turnout.
Cr Moore said the government had “rushed through another change to manipulate city elections”.
“The government lacked the courage or the foresight to discuss these changes with the local community, elected representatives or with City of Sydney staff,” she said.
“Allowing governments to set the rules controlling their own election is a dangerous proposition.
“Incumbent administrations will naturally choose to use the option they think will give them an electoral advantage”.
The change is based on recommendations by a 2012 parliamentary inquiry into council elections.
The inquiry found that postal-vote elections in Victoria were 16 per cent cheaper.
It also found that Victorian councils that conducted postal vote elections in 2012 had a 72.5 per cent turnout, compared with 63.6 per cent for other councils.
The turnout at the City of Sydney elections in 2012 and 2008 was just below 70 per cent.
The head of an independent review into NSW’s local government sector, Graham Sansom, said postal voting “should only make a marginal difference to turnout” for resident voters.
He said the cost savings should be balanced against whether the “quality of democracy is diminished when you go to postal voting”.
“If we want the community to understand the importance of local government, then there’s a strong argument for saying that having to turn up and vote in person is important,” he said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said compulsory postal voting would hinder candidates who relied on “community supporters to hand out [leaflets] on election day” and could not afford expensive mail-outs. It would also disadvantage younger and transient voters, potentially boosting the conservative vote, he said.
Labor MP Sophie Cotsis said the move would “disenfranchise community participation”.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole said the government had “always been committed to removing obstacles that inhibit people from exercising their democratic right to vote”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.