COUNCIL ELECTIONS

Local government election: Port Stephens voters head to the polls

Incumbent Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer meeting a voter at Irrawang High School in Raymond Terrace on Saturday morning.
Incumbent Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer meeting a voter at Irrawang High School in Raymond Terrace on Saturday morning.

Irrawang High School proved to be a popular spot for election candidates to greet voters on Saturday morning.

Peter Kafer (independent), Christopher Baguley (independent) and Giacomo Arnott (Labor) - who are each vying for a west ward councillor spot - introduced themselves to voters as they made their way into the school hall to cast their ballot.

Incumbent mayor Ryan Palmer (independent) also made the school his base to greet voters for the day. The Nelson Bay resident has stationed himself in Raymond Terrace throughout the pre-polling period.

"I spend a lot of time over here to get as know as many people as possible. That's what polling is all about - meeting people in the flesh. Spending more time here and talking about the issues, I think, is the right thing to do," he said.

Mr Palmer is seeking re-election against first time candidate Leah Anderson (Labor). Both are from east ward.

He said he has received "really good responses" from voters that he has spoken to during the pre-polling period and on Saturday morning.

"It has been a long campaign so far. This has been 18 months in the making because the election has been cancelled twice," he said.

"When you're an independent you don't have the framework of a big party so you have to rely on family, friends, friends or friends to try and help cover 24 booths.

"Unfortunately, I think that's the way that we're going, that the big parties will take over councils and decisions won't be made on local issues, they'll be made based on party politics, which is a shame.

"We'll give it a good crack this time and see how we go."

Mr Baguley and Mr Kafer both stated that they had also received positive feedback from voters.

Ms Anderson has spent Saturday at the Salamander Bay Social and Welfare Club on Foreshore Drive.

The booth is the second largest in the east ward, behind Corlette, in terms of voter numbers.

Ms Anderson said she had been buoyed by the many positive messages from electors since polls opened.

"We have not seen great numbers of people coming through and that is probably due to the large percentage of people taking advantage of the pre polling option," she said.

"But I have to say the response from the locals has been very great and gives me plenty of confidence. Many people I've spoken to say they wouldn't ordinarily vote for Labor ... in fact many were voting Labor for the first time. They were appreciative of the values I stood for and commented on my community work."

Mayoral candidate Leah Anderson in Salamander Bay on Saturday with supporter Graham Froment and her two children, Mackenzie Goring and Hunter Goring.

Mayoral candidate Leah Anderson in Salamander Bay on Saturday with supporter Graham Froment and her two children, Mackenzie Goring and Hunter Goring.

Also greeting voters at Salamander Bay were Ryan Palmer's number three candidate Bruce Scott, president of the Tomaree Sports Council, and his team of helpers Gail Miller, Cheryl Gorrie and John Gorrie.

The east ward's Liberal candidate Matt Bailey was also on hand greeting voters as they arrived to cast their vote. He was accompanied by supporter Rob Boucher.

"It's apparent that a huge percentage of residents have pre-polled, but we're here with plenty of energy and enjoying our time talking to the punters," Mr Bailey said.

Independent central ward councillor Chris Doohan set up camp at Wirreanda Public School in Medowie on Saturday. He said he has received "fantastic support" from friends and family in his campaign for re-election and from central ward voters.

"I'm feeling really positive," he said. "The feedback from the community as they are coming in, there's a lot of thumbs up."

It was a different greeting to the booths for voters with candidates and their supporters unable to hand out how to vote cards this year due to the Electoral Commission's COVID regulations.

It led to candidates wearing shirts showing residents how to vote for them in the local government election which will determine three councillors in each of the Port's three wards (east, west and central) and a mayor.

Mr Palmer labelled some of the Electoral Commission's COVID-Safe restrictions as "ridiculous".

"There's been ridiculous rules put out by the Electoral Commission around putting signs up before 7am and taking them down after 7pm. It makes absolutely no difference to the COVID situation," he said.

"One use pens [to vote] and checking in is good but as far as candidates go, its been a very interesting election.

"A lot of people have asked for handouts. Some people like that we're not handing out [how to vote cards]. But its been completely different. Electioneering has changed this time around."

Saturday's election saw turnout numbers vary from booth to booth due to the large percentage of pre-poll voters. The numbers in central ward's Anna Bay Public School (pictured) also varied throughout the day.

Saturday's election saw turnout numbers vary from booth to booth due to the large percentage of pre-poll voters. The numbers in central ward's Anna Bay Public School (pictured) also varied throughout the day.

The outcome of mayoral and many councillor elections could be clear within hours of voting closing on Saturday, but crucial final ward results may not be known for weeks.

According to early data, about 10,000 from 57,000 registered voters in Port Stephens voted before election day.

To find out where in Port Stephens you can vote, click here and select your ward.

Residents have until 6pm on Saturday, December 4 to vote in the council election.

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