Participating as a candidate
Who can stand as a candidate in a council election?
To nominate for election as a councillor, a person:
- must be an Australian Citizen
- must be enrolled as a voter in the municipal district in which they are standing
- an undischarged bankrupt
- of unsound mind
- a member of council staff who has not taken leave to stand
- convicted of certain criminal or electoral offences
- a Councillor in another Australian Council;
- a member of the Parliament of an Australian State or Territory or the Commonwealth;
- employed by the Parliament of a State or Territory or the Commonwealth as a ministerial officer, Parliamentary advisor or electorate officer – unless they are on leave from that position and not performing any duties of the position;
- if a person on such leave is elected to a Council, they must vacate the former position before they can take the oath of office as Councillor.
A person may not nominate for election to a Council if they ceased to be a councillor of that council in the preceding 4 years for:
- failing to take the Oath of Office
- being absent for 4 consecutive ordinary Council meetings without leave
- failing to attend a call of the council without a sufficient excuse
- having been disqualified after a finding of gross misconduct, which has not yet expired.
How to Nominate
In order to be a candidate in a local government election, a person must:
- Complete a nomination form and deliver it to the Returning officer during the nomination period
- Sign the declaration on the nomination form in front of a Returning Officer (Or provide a signed statutory declaration containing particular information)
- Pay a nomination fee of $250 (which is refundable if the candidate is elected or gains at least 4% of the first preference votes in the election)
Information and Assistance
Information and assistance are available in a number of forms prior to and during an election.
Prior to the election, the electoral commission usually holds information sessions for prospective candidates. These sessions provide information about the process and enable potential candidates to meet the Returning Officer who is appointed to run the election. Details of information sessions are available from the electoral commission or the council.
The electoral commission also provides a comprehensive candidate information kit which describes the election process and timelines as well as explaining the requirements of becoming a candidate. It also includes forms to be completed by candidates.
The local government peak bodies Municipal Association of Victoria and Victorian Local Governance Association also conduct information sessions in the months leading up to an election for potential councillors.
The Victorian Electoral Commission website contains information about council elections, including candidates’ handbooks, which detail the requirements of being a candidate.
Key election dates for candidates
To stand as a candidate a person needs to be an eligible voter in the municipality. Entitlement Date (57 days before election day) is important for a candidate because it is the last chance a person has to be correctly enrolled to vote.
Notice of election
Not less than 40 days or more than 60 days before an election, the Returning Officer must give public notice of the election and call for nominations to fill the vacant positions.
Close of nominations
Candidates must be nominated by 12pm on the day that is 32 days before the election day.
Ballot paper draw
The order of names on the ballot paper is determined by a single random draw. The Returning Officer will conduct the draw at the election office after nominations close. Candidates will be advised of the time for the draw.
Candidate statements (Postal elections)
Candidates in postal elections are entitled to lodge candidate statements and indications of preferences for inclusion in the ballot packs sent to voters:
- A candidate statement includes a 150 word statement and a photograph. These must be lodged in person by the candidate, or by a person authorised in writing by the candidate, no later than 4pm on the day following the close of nominations
- An indication of preferences describes the candidate’s recommendations to voters as to how to number their preferences on the ballot paper. These must be lodged in person by the candidate, or by a person authorised in writing by the candidate, no later than 4pm on the third day after the close of nominations
How to Vote cards (Attendance elections)
Candidates who wish to distribute how-to-vote cards at voting centres during an attendance election must have their cards registered by the Returning Officer in advance.
How-to-vote cards can be submitted to the Returning Officer from the first working day after the close of nominations until 12 noon on the sixth working day before election day. The Returning Officer is required to register or refuse a how-to-vote card by noon on the day following the day it is submitted.
Only registered cards can be handed out at or near polling places.
Close of Voting
In postal elections ballot papers must be received by 6pm on the day before election day. In attendance elections, voters cast their votes between 8am and 6pm on election day. The election day is the last Saturday in November.
Declaration of the poll
The Returning Officer will publicly declare results after the votes have been counted and scrutineers have had time to examine the record of the count. This is usually within a day or two of the close of voting. Candidates will be advised of the declaration time and venue.
The declaration is often performed at a special ceremony. The Returning Officer will read out the person or persons elected and, where appropriate, the order in which they were elected. The event may include acceptance speeches by successful and unsuccessful candidates.
The declaration of the election may be delayed if the Returning Officer decides to conduct a recount.
Within 40 days of election day, all candidates must give the council’s chief executive officer an election campaign donation return, detailing any gifts, goods or services worth $500 or more, received during the donation period for use in connection with their election campaign. This applies to all candidates, whether elected or not and whether they received campaign donations or not.
The “donation period” is defined as the period beginning 30 days after election day in the previous election and ending 30 days after election day in the current election.
Copies of election campaign donation return forms will be included in candidate information kits and are also available from Local Government Victoria.
Within 14 days after the deadline for lodgement of completed campaign donation returns by candidates, summaries of each return lodged will be made available on the relevant Council's website for a period up until the entitlement date for the next general election. Completed campaign donation returns are also available for public inspection at the council offices for four years after the election.
Candidates should be aware of the following electoral offences, which can carry serious penalties. Consult the Local Government Act 1989 and Candidate Handbooks for further and complete details of offences.
A person who is not qualified to be a candidate or is not capable of becoming a councillor must not submit a nomination.
A person making a written declaration as a candidate, scrutineer or voter or as a person submitting a how-to-vote card must not knowingly make a declaration which is false.
Misleading or deceptive material
A person must not print, publish or distribute any electoral material that is likely to mislead or deceive voters in casting their vote.
False or defamatory statements
A person must not make or publish any false or defamatory statement about the personal character or conduct of a candidate.
Authorisation of electoral material
A person must not print, publish or distribute an electoral advertisement handbill, pamphlet or notice unless the name and address (the address cannot be a post office box) of the person who authorised the material appears at its end.
A person must not offer or invite any kind of bribe or inducement that may affect an election.
Offences relating to ballot papers
A person must not:
- tamper in any way with any ballot paper
- forge or fraudulently mark, deface or destroy a ballot paper
- without authority supply a ballot paper
- be in possession of an unauthorised ballot paper
- fraudulently put any unauthorised ballot paper into a ballot box
- without authority destroy, take, open or otherwise interfere with any ballot box or parcel of ballot papers.
- fraudulently remove a ballot paper from a ballot box
Any complaints should firstly be directed to the Returning Officer. If the complaint relates to the administration of the election, the Returning Officer or the electoral commission will handle the matter.
If it involves a possible breach of the Local Government Act, the electoral commission may forward the complaint for examination to the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.
Municipal Electoral Tribunal
The Local Government Act makes provision for candidates or any 10 enrolled voters to apply for an inquiry by a Municipal Electoral Tribunal (MET). The only eligible ground is that the applicants dispute the validity of the election. The written application must be lodged within 14 days of the declaration of the election result.
A MET is constituted by a magistrate or acting magistrate. Although able to operate with some informality, the tribunal is a judicial body. It can summon witnesses and penalise those who don’t appear, refuse to answer or show contempt. It can also award costs against either party.
The tribunal is not an investigatory body and makes its findings based on the evidence presented at the hearing. Applicants and other parties (eg the electoral commission, the council or other candidates) may be represented by legal counsel. Hearings are open to the public.
A tribunal has the power to:
- declare that any person declared elected was not duly elected
- declare any candidate duly elected who was not declared elected
- declare an election void
- dismiss or uphold an application in whole or part
- amend or permit the amendment of an application
- order the inspection of, and permit the copying of documents used in connection with an election, subject to such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate
- undertake a preliminary review of an application
- require any further information relating to an application
- impose a financial penalty