Election proceeds with new safety measures

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By Laura Green

COUNCIL elections will continue as planned on 24 October, despite a second wave of COVID-19 cases.  

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton consulted with Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Electoral Commission to deliver a “COVIDSafe election plan”. There will be marked changes to the way voters deliver ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Additional safety measures devised in the COVIDSafe Plan included social distancing in election offices, limiting face-to-face contact, enforcing mask wearing, and increased cleaning and sanitation requirements for ballot-counters. 

The Premier was optimistic for the delivery of safe and fair elections. “I am pleased Victorian communities can have their say on their local government representatives at democratic council general elections as planned,” he said.

In June, Kingston councillors approved a motion to ask the Premier to push back the election date and delay the redistribution of Kingston’s ward boundaries (“Council asks to defer election”, The News, 1/7/20). 

Under laws introduced in the Local Government Act in March, Kingston Council will bump up the number of local councillors from nine across three wards, to 11 across individual wards. The decision conflicted with independent advice given by the VEC last year.

The request to delay the election followed the dismissal of Victoria’s local government minister Adem Somyurek that same month. 

Victorian Greens MP Sam Hibbins said “as minister for local government [Mr Somyurek] proposed new ward boundaries for a number of councils and Victorians need assurance that this was done in good faith and not for political gain.”

In October, residents will be supplied with postal ballots with instructions on returning their vote. Anyone who misses the deadline will need to hand deliver their ballot to a voting office. 

First published in the Frankston Times – 24 August 2020

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