Deciding whether to have in person or postal elections

Local Government (LG) elections law is found in the Local Government Act  and the Local Government (Elections) Regulations and not in the WA Electoral Act.

The LG Act changes to electoral laws include move to optional preferential voting,  limiting wards to LGs with large populations, limiting EM numbers in smaller LGs, changes to filling casual EM vacancies and mayoral elections )

The LG Elections Regulations have been amended to implement the new LG Act voting laws see

LGs always hold elections, which can be conducted by in-person (where people have to apply for a postal vote if they wish to vote by post) or postal elections (where voters can vote by post or on on the day with their ballot paper received by post).

The Local Government Act 1995 added the postal option to in-person voting, noting both options include provision for the other in certain circumstances.

Furthermore, in-person voting is the default position where postal election requirements are unmet.

In-person voting better fosters free and fair elections in the absence of compulsory voting. Fraudulent voting is easier with postal votes, and is thus necessarily more likely to influence low voter number outcomes.

Postal voting lacks a secure chain of custody of ballot papers delivered to unsecured letterboxes through the many unmonitored movements of the ballot paper right up to counting.

Electoral manipulation was formally exposed by the 2020 City of Perth Inquiry (link here ) and in the Court of Disputed Returns ( ). In the Serpentine Jarrahdale 2021 election , an unsuccessful candidate was later elected after the court overturned the first result because of stolen postal ballot papers.

Postal elections may cost more than in-person elections. Only the WAEC can conduct LG postal elections, which it does on a cost recovery basis paid from the LGs’ municipal funds. WAEC postal elections costs have risen significantly, almost double, since the 2021 ordinary elections. Furthermore, the WAEC and LG CEOs do not always prosecute electoral offences, which fosters the risk of unfair election tactics to preference candidates willing to commit offences, such as stealing and fraudulently voting using stolen papers. The WAEC can hold in-person elections.

LG CEOs are the default Returning Officer to conduct LG in person elections. Many commentators believe CEOs have a conflict of interest in the outcome of the LG elections, and should never be the Returning Officer (to run the LG in person election) nor should any LG employee be engaged as an electoral officer. Councils can tender for the conduct of their in- person election (noting WAEC will have to approve the winning tender) and/or they can ask the WAEC to quote for in-person elections and for postal elections. All prudent Councils will already have a report from the CEO about their current and proposed electoral arrangements, which can be changed up to but not after a specified date.

Please note that many LG election time lines have been moved to a week sooner by the recent changes to the LG Act. The DLGSC has an online date calculator but which does not appear to take account of the Interpretation Act when a date lands on a weekend or public holiday.

Australian state and federal compulsory in-person resident preferential/proportionate voting system is envied worldwide by democracy academics. Furthermore, buildings do NOT vote in state and federal elections, as quite shockingly they do in WA local government elections through enrolments on the owner/occupier rolls as decided by CEOs.

Until the LG  Minister requires compulsory local government voting (in compliance with Labor Party policy), as it is in all other Australian jurisdictions except South Australia, prudent Councils interested in free and fair election outcomes will consider not conducting their elections using postal voting or using  CEOs as Returning Officers.

See here for DLGSC notice about changes ( )

There is, as at 24 May 2023, no DLGSC Operational Guideline about the new framework for Local Government candidates, elections and voting.

The DLGSC “Conduct of local government elections” is out of date, as accessed at 24 May 2023.

This is a link to a WAEC webinar about the Local Government Election vote counting process here LGE 2023: Information Q&A Webinar – View the recording | Western Australian Electoral Commission (