New South Wales

‘It’s a shemozzle’: Calls to postpone council elections due to COVID outbreak

He said holding an election during the lockdown was “undemocratic and unconstitutional”.

“It not only disadvantages all candidates from electioneering properly, but it also disadvantages our many locals who are hamstrung by technology,” he said.

Labor politicians are calling on the government to delay the elections. Credit:Getty Images

Labor’s local government spokesman Greg Warren is calling for the polls to be postponed for at least a month in Sydney and Wollongong.

“People in Greater Sydney, particularly parts of south-west Sydney, have one thing on their mind at the moment and that is the COVID-19 outbreak.”

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Mr Warren said he had twice written to Mrs Hancock to express “deep concerns that public safety will be put at risk and their democratic right to vote will be limited”.

“Communities should not be put in a position to decide between their safety and their ability to decide their local representatives,” he said.

Liverpool’s Labor mayor Wendy Waller did not want the elections postponed for a second year, but she said the state government needed to show leadership on the issue.

“From a practical perspective I would like to see them go ahead, but I can’t see people rushing to polling booths.

“I think there will be a high number of informal votes, and then you have to question how democratic it is.”

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone said the timing of the election was a matter for the state government.

“I support any decision they make as long as the safety of the community is put first,” he said.

Waverley mayor Paula Masselos wants the poll deferred for a couple of months or until early next year.

“We haven’t been able to campaign. The community has a fundamental right to know who they’re voting for.”

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Greens MP David Shoebridge said the government’s “one size fits all approach” imposed the same rules in COVID-19 hotspots, such as Canterbury Bankstown and Fairfield, as in areas that were unaffected by the current outbreak.

”We urgently need a detailed plan from the Electoral Commissioner that contains clear directions for voters, campaigners and councils to deliver safe and fair elections for local councils,” Mr Shoebridge said.

A NSW Electoral Commission spokesman said the COVID-19 outbreak in NSW was “a matter of significant concern”.

“We have been collaborating with NSW Health for some time to identify measures regarding COVID-19 transmission risks during the elections. Those measures include employing of additional staff for cleaning and queue management at our venues.”

The commission is also securing more and larger pre-poll venues given all electors can vote early; recruiting extra staff for polling places and counting venues, and making online voting available for vulnerable residents.

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