Participating as a voter
The entitlement to be enrolled and vote in a council election is restricted to people who are residents or ratepayers of the municipality. People who are entitled to vote are listed on the council’s voters’ roll and are entitled to vote for a councillor to represent their ward or district.
The exact voting procedure will depend on whether the council has decided to conduct an election entirely by postal voting or whether the election will be predominantly by attendance voting at voting centres.
A voter in a council election must be at least 18 years of age by the election day and must be entitled to be enrolled on the voters’ roll. To be entitled to be enrolled a person must qualify as a “resident” or as a “ratepayer”.
Enrolment as a resident
For council elections, a “resident” is a person who is enrolled on the state electoral roll for an address in the council area. (State rolls are maintained by the Victorian Electoral Commission)
Residents of a municipality who are Australian citizens must apply to the Australian Electoral Commission or the Victorian Electoral Commission to be enrolled on state rolls. Once on the state roll, they will then automatically be enrolled for council elections.
A state elector must be an Australian citizen (or a British subject who was on an Australian electoral roll on 26 January 1984). The address for which a state elector is enrolled must have been the person’s principal place of residence for at least one month prior to application.
Enrolment as a ratepayer
For council elections, “ratepayers” are owners or occupiers of rateable property in the council area. (Lists of ratepayer voters are compiled by the relevant councils.)
The council will generally enrol the owner of the property without requiring an application. There are exceptions to this:
if there are more than two owners, a maximum of two can be enrolled
if an owner is a corporation the council will not automatically enrol it. A corporation can apply to enrol one of its directors or company secretaries as a voter
if an owner lives at the property the council will not automatically enrol them because they will normally be on the State electoral roll. A resident owner, who is not on the State roll, can apply for enrolment on the council roll
Note: The following properties do not give rise to an enrolment entitlement: properties that are only single vehicle car parks, single boat moorings or lockable storage units with floor areas not exceeding 25 square metres.
Some occupiers of rateable property are required to pay council rates as a condition of their lease. They may apply for enrolment on the council roll as ratepayers.
owners and occupiers may not both be enrolled for the same rateable property. If occupiers are enrolled, owners will not be enrolled for the property
no more than two occupiers can be enrolled for a single rateable property
the enrolment of occupiers is subject to written agreement from the owner(s) unless council rate notices are addressed directly to the occupiers
Applications for enrolment by ratepayers and enrolment appointments by corporations are valid for a single term of the Council. Before the next election the council will send a letter to each person or corporation whose enrolment is due to expire, advising them how they can re-enrol if they are still eligible. All enrolment applications must be lodged by the entitlement day. Refer to Conducting Elections.
Enrolment arrangements for Melbourne City Council are different. Contact the council for details.
One enrolment only
A person can only be enrolled once in a council area, even if the person has entitlements in more than one ward.
if a person is on the state electoral roll for an address in the municipality he or she will only be enrolled for that address, irrespective of any other entitlement
if a person owns more than one property he or she can only be enrolled for one of those properties.
a person can not apply for enrolment as an occupier or a corporation representative if he or she is enrolled as a resident or as an owner
Some people are entitled to apply to be silent voters. A silent voter is entitled to vote but their address is not shown on the printed voters roll.
A person can apply for silent enrolment if they believe that having their address printed on the publicly available electoral roll could put their personal safety or their family’s safety at risk.
Applications to be silent voters need to be made to:
The Victorian Electoral Commission if the voter is enrolled on the state electoral roll as a resident of the council area, or to
The Chief Executive Officer of the council if the voter is enrolled as a ratepayer of the council
The voters roll
The voters roll names all those people eligible to vote at a council election. It is prepared by a “Registrar” who is generally a person appointed by the electoral commission conducting the election, but may be the Chief Executive Officer of the council.
Before the final roll is prepared, the registrar will prepare an exhibition roll for public exhibition. The registrar will advertise stating where exhibition roll can be inspected and the closing date for inclusions and amendments to the roll. The advertisement will include information about how to enrol or correct enrolment details on the roll.
To protect individual privacy, access to voters’ rolls is strictly limited by legislation and penalties may apply if rolls are accessed or used contrary to the Local Government Act.
Candidates may obtain copies of the voters roll for election campaigning, but subject to strict conditions and a requirement that all copies be returned or destroyed afterwards
A council may use the voters roll in connection with an election or for communicating with or surveying constituents about council matters
The privacy commissioner may also allow use of a voters roll for a purpose deemed to be in the public interest. This is subject to application and, again, strict conditions apply
An individual can access his/her own details on a voters roll under privacy legislation. If you require information about your personal enrolment records at the council, you may need to make your request in writing to the Chief Executive Officer.
Local council elections can be conducted by either postal voting or attendance voting. Each council chooses its preferred method before each election. At the 2008 general elections, 70 councils conducted elections by postal ballot, and 9 were by attendance voting.
Voting in postal elections
In a postal election, voting is conducted entirely by post. Voters are mailed ballot packs containing their ballot papers, instructions and information about the candidates. These are posted to the address at which voters are enrolled. Voters cast their votes by returning the ballot papers in the mail.
Voters packs include the following material:
A ballot paper
Instructions on how to cast a valid vote
A ballot paper envelope with voter’s declaration attached
A reply-paid envelope
Voters packs also include candidate statements and recommended preferences, which have been provided to the Returning Officer by each candidate.
To vote, a voter must
complete the ballot paper
place the completed ballot paper in the ballot paper envelope
sign and date the declaration on the outside of the ballot paper envelope
comply with any other instructions of the Returning Officer
place the ballot paper envelope in the reply paid envelope and return it to the Returning Officer
If voters have changed address after the entitlement date or can’t collect their mail when ballot packs are mailed out, they can apply to have their ballot pack redirected to another address. Applications for redirection must be received by the close of nominations. After the close of nominations, voters can request an early postal vote if they have a good reason for requiring it.
Voting in attendance elections
In an attendance election, most people vote at voting centres on election day. The locations of voting centres are advertised in local papers and from the Victorian Electoral Commission before elections.
When you arrive at the voting centre, an election official will ask you for your name and address and whether you have already voted in the election. If you are eligible to vote the electoral roll will then be marked and you will be given a ballot paper, which contains voting instructions. You should complete the ballot paper and place it in a ballot box at the voting centre.
If you wish to vote before election day, you can visit an early voting centre. Early voting is possible from the day after the close of nominations until the day before the election.
Alternatively, you can apply to the returning officer for a postal vote.
Information about early voting and postal voting will be advertised in local newspapers and from the Victorian Electoral Commission before elections.
Failure to vote
Voting in council elections is compulsory for all residents aged under 70 who are listed on the voters roll. Residents on the voters roll who do not vote may be fined if they do not have an acceptable reason.