OPINION: 10 reasons why your vote for council is important
The quadrennial local government elections will take place on Saturday March 19.
Big deal, you might say.
But there are some very good reasons why your voice is important in these elections – and there are important things to understand when you cast your vote.
Here are 10 of them:
1. Local governments are the closest level of government to the people. You are likely to personally know a councillor, or even the mayor. Local government looks after your local roads, maintenance of the parks, water and waste management, the condition of your local environment and rivers, and animal control. These issues are much closer to us than, say, foreign affairs or immigration or national defence.
2. Local government charges rates to households and businesses every year - and you are a ratepayer, even if you don’t own a home or a business. If you pay rent to a landlord or even your parents, THEY pay rates, and your employer pays rates, so you are still affected by rates, and are effectively a ratepayer.
3. Except for Brisbane and Townsville, political parties are not explicitly involved in fielding candidates for local government positions (though they may be operating implicitly behind the scenes). In other words, a candidate won’t obviously be a Liberal or Labor or other party person. Most people don’t like political parties’ involvement at the local level, as they’re sick enough of them at state and federal level already …
4. Voting at local government level is the same system as at the state level: it’s optional/preferential. That means you can do the “just vote 1” vote, or vote some, or all, of the candidates in whatever order you want.
5. You can even turn up and cross your name off on the electoral rolls, then leave without voting, if that’s what you want to do. That’s called an ‘informal’ vote.
6. Mayoral and councillor candidates can “swap preferences” – but all that means is they put recommended how-to-vote lists on their election handout materials. But you can vote however you want. And it’s your vote that counts, no matter what debates about preferences may take place.
7. You will be voting for your choice of mayor AND your choice of councillor(s). Read the Western Star to find out who’s running and what they stand for.
8. Sitting mayors and councillors can put their hand up to run again. Some councillors may decide to run for the mayor’s position. But if they do – and they lose – they can’t go back and resume their councillor position again. They will have to wait until the next election, in four years’ time.
9. This year, at the same time, you will also be voting on whether the Queensland Government should fall into line with most other states and adopt a fixed four-year term. A decision on this will have a significant impact on future state elections, as the premier will no longer be able to choose when to go to the polls as it will be gazetted on a particular day.
10. As with other levels of government, voting is compulsory. You will be fined if you don’t.