What’s in the box: your guide to this local election

Image courtesy of University of Queensland

Image courtesy of University of Queensland

We are in the thick of council campaigns, but don’t be blinded by the corflute and leaflets: there is another question on the cards.

This local council election will look a little different from previous years, so will you be prepared to face the polling booths?

Voters will be asked three different questions when they approach the ballot box on March 19, including the questions of whether or not to introduce fixed four year terms for the Queensland State Government.

To help you get your head around what is at stake, here is our run-down of what to expect when the time comes to cast your vote.

Voting for councillors in an undivided council

In an undivided council, all councillors are elected by everyone on the electoral roll through the ‘first-past-the-post’ system (also known as a simple majority vote).

This means that voters must place a cross next to the councillors they wish to support in the election.

The number of councillors you may choose is determined by the number of seats on council. If there are six seats on your local council, you will be asked to select the top six councillors that you favour.

Votes are tallied and the councillors with the most votes will win seats on the council.

The simple majority system differs from the preferential voting system because each vote is weighted equally.

Voting for your local Mayor

Mayors are elected using the optional preferential system of voting, meaning voters can choose to indicate their preferences for candidates.

If there are three candidates running for mayor in your council, you may choose to rank your vote from 1-3 according to your preference.

However you may chose to support just one mayoral candidate by placing a 1 next to their name.

If there is not a clear winner with 50 per cent plus 1 of the counted votes, then the Returning Officer has to ‘distribute preferences’, which means counting the second and third preferences until one candidate has the required number of votes to win the election.

State referendum on fixed four-year terms

In addition to voting for local council, the State government will be conducting a referendum on whether or not to introduce fixed four-year terms for Queensland’s State parliament.

This referendum is entirely independent of Queensland local governments, which already have four year terms for councillors and Mayors.

Voters will be asked to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether they support the introduction of fixed four-year terms.

Why vote yes?

The fixed-term voting system means that a State election will be held on the last Saturday of October, every four years.

This provides reassurance for businesses and citizens on when an election will be held, allowing for more certainty when planning holidays and events.

Supporters of the ‘yes’ case believe a four-term period allows the elected government sufficient time to implement policies and strategies.

An extended term may help to overcome the ‘stop-start’ pattern of growth that can be disrupted by the distraction of imminent elections.

A fixed-term for state government will also eliminate any unfair advantage associated with the calling of elections by the government of the day.

Click here for more on the ‘yes’ case.

Why vote no?

Key arguments against a four-year fixed term state government include concerns about reductions in democracy and voter control.

Under the proposed changes, voters will have to wait longer to vote out a bad government.

Regular elections provide protection in a State where there is no Upper House or Bill of Rights to review the policies and actions implemented by the government.

Those in opposition to the changes to state elections believe that a four-year term will not improve productivity and could even promote government complacency.

Proponents of the ‘no’ vote argue that fixed-year terms are designed to give politicians more power and job security.

Click here for more on the ‘yes’ case. 

March 19: what will you vote?

With a just week between you and the ballot box, make sure you know what to expect when you take to the polls!