December 4 council election date set in stone says Office of Local Government

The Office of Local Government has no plans to postpone the council elections scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 4.

The local government elections were originally planned for September 4 but had to be deferred due to the delta outbreak of the coronavirus, which eventually forced the entire state of NSW into a lockdown.

The election in Port Stephens is expected to see a host of new faces with at least four councillors - John Nell, Ken Jordan, Sarah Smith and Jaimie Abbott - indicating they would not be nominating.

Steve Tucker has reneged on his earlier decision to resign and says now he will seek a fifth term as a central ward councillor.

The mayoral election in Port Stephens is expected to be a contest between incumbent Ryan Palmer and Labor Party nominee Leah Anderson.

Asked about the likelihood of another election postponement in light of voter health and safety, a spokesperson for the OLG stated categorically: "There are no plans to further postpone the elections, and the government will take all steps necessary to assist the Electoral Commission conduct elections which are COVID-safe. The NSW Government has allocated a total of $57 million for the elections in 2021, including $37 million to deliver them in a COVID-safe way."

The NSW Electoral Commission says there would be some changes to the rules and regulations regarding the election, particularly around postal and electronic voting.

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COVID safety measures at polling booths includes checking in and out; mandatory wearing of face masks; physical distancing; voters encouraged to use their own pen (single use pens will be available); use of hand sanitiser; staff to manage queues; and screen inserts to be regularly cleaned.

"In addition to existing postal vote eligibility criteria, residents would be able to use postal voting if they are permanent or temporary residents in a hospital, nursing home, retirement village or similar facility; are self-isolating because of COVID-19 related reasons; or if they reasonably believe that attending a polling place on election day will pose a risk to the health or safety of themselves or people around them, because of the COVID-19 pandemic," an electoral commission spokesperson said.

People can apply for a postal vote online or by sending an application in the post at 231 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW 2000.

The iVote voting process has four steps.

  • Step 1: Submit an application to use iVote online or over the phone (when applying, you will be asked to create a password).
  • Step 2: Cast your vote. You will need your iVote number and password to cast your vote. Once voting is complete, you will be provided a receipt code; online voters will also be provided with a QR code to verify their vote.
  • Step 3: Verify your vote. Online voters can verify their vote by downloading the iVote Verification app on a second device. Scan the QR code to verify your vote preferences.
  • Step 4: Check your vote was received. Voters can check their vote was received by entering their receipt code into the online 'check your receipt' option. Steps 3 and 4 are optional.

As for candidates, registered political parties and third party campaigners wanting to hand out 'how to vote' cards, a six-metre rule will apply.

"It is an offence to canvass for votes (that is, distribute how-to-vote material) within six metres of the entrance to a voting centre," the spokesperson said.

"It is also an offence to use a loud speaker, amplifier or similar broadcasting device that can be heard within a voting centre or within six metres of the entrance to a voting centre.

"Distribute also means placement of electoral material that can be collected by electors. A person must not display or cause to be displayed any poster of any size within a voting centre; within six metres of an entrance to a voting centre; or on the exterior of a building used as a voting centre."

Nominations will open on Monday, October 25, and the lodgment of postal vote applications will open on Tuesday, October 26.

Nominations and close of registration of candidates and groups will close on Wednesday, November 3 at 12 noon. The ballot draw will be conducted on Thursday, November 4 at 10am.

On Monday, November 22: iVote applications and voting opens; pre-poll voting period opens.

Information is available at elections.nsw.gov.au.

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