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Council elections: Who cares?

11 May 2017

Council elections: Who cares? Image

By Shane Scanlan

Municipal voters in Southbank and the CBD are the most disinterested within the City of Melbourne, recently-released data has shown.

At the request of Southbank Local News, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has revealed by postcode where voters did not participate in last October’s municipal election in which Team Doyle was returned with a majority of councillors.

The Melbourne municipality had one of the worst voter turnouts in the state, with only 55 per cent of voters participating.

But in Southbank (postcode 3006) and the CBD (postcode 3000), the situation is even worse, with more than half of eligible voters failing to vote in the poll.

However, the data shows that is not so much local residents who are failing to participate.  Rather, it shows that absentee landlords are the culprits, with only 38.75 per cent bothering to return their postal ballot – the lowest percentage for any category of voters in the municipality.

In the CBD, the percentage of the “non-resident owner (automatic entitlement)” category of voters was 43.67 per cent.  

In Southbank, enrolled residents are far more engaged in local democracy than their absentee landlord counterparts, with 59.30 per cent (4420) participating in the October council election.

Residential turnout within the CBD was also relatively healthy at 57.02 per cent (or 4938 people) but, as Southbank Local News has pointed out before, far from all local residents are actually enrolled to vote.  

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates some 16,000 people live in Southbank, but only 7454 are enrolled to vote.

By contrast, voters in Flemington, Kensington and East Melbourne are the most engaged voters.  Figures show that overall participating is nearly 70 per cent in these suburbs.

In these postcodes, even the absentee landlords were engaged and involved, with 66.32 per cent (1217) voting in East Melbourne and 61.33 per cent (1326) voting in postcode 3031 (Flemington and Kensington).

And, while most Southbank absentee landlords avoided the poll, those that did vote almost matched the number of voting residents, with 3626 participating.

This group, combined with corporations, actually outvoted Southbank residents by a small number (4654 to 4420).

Southbank has 18,483 eligible voters – broken down as: “state elector”, 7454; “non-resident owner – automatic entitlement”, 9358; “corporation (owner) application”, 988; “occupier ratepayer application”, 52; and “corporation occupier application”, 631.

Under the rules governing City of Melbourne elections, business voters are award two votes.  This contentious anomaly is under review and could be changed before the next municipal election in 2020.

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