Greens, independents say council fight set to be fairer after how-to-vote cards scrapped

Megan Bailey, Cranbourne Leader

September 2, 2016 2:15pm

CHANGES to postal ballot packs could make council elections fairer by making it harder for hopefuls relying on dummy candidates to get votes. State politicians last week voted to ban how-to-vote cards in postal ballot packs.The move was sought by the Liberals and backed by the Nationals and Greens.

Labor voted to keep the cards in the packs earlier this year, saying removing them would increase informal voting.

The change will mean that election candidates who plan to use dummies will have to spend more money sending their preference information to voters or pay to mail out brochures for dummy candidates running on their behalf.

“This is a good move but we’re yet to hear whether the VEC have been told by the government that these will be the rules for the election,” Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said.“We hope the government doesn’t do something dodgy to try and reinstate preferences and stooge candidates.”

Former Casey councillor Steve Beardon, who said he was now planning to run in October, said the decision was great news.“Independents have the greatest opportunity now more than ever to take control of council and return it to the people, to our communities,” he said.

Rex Flannery, who earlier in the year told Leader he felt he had no choice but to use dummy candidates in this election, said it would even the playing field for independents. “Four years ago when I ran in the Springfield Ward, I was subjected to eight candidates out of eleven placing myself at the bottom of the ballot paper,” he said. “This will make way for fewer dummy candidates running and give all independents a fairer chance of winning. “Only those candidates who want a chance to become a councillor will publish a brochure to send out to the residents and they will see who the real candidates are.”

Cr Gary Rowe, who will stand for election this year, said the decision may stop the manipulation of the election process.“There will still be “dummies” running in every ward but hopefully fewer of them,” he said. “They can be identified by lack of a genuine campaign, checking the flow of preferences and where they end up.“The ‘real’ candidate is the ultimate beneficiary of the preference flow.”

Monash councillor Geoff Lake said changes to how-to-vote cards were ‘overwhelmingly opposed’ by councils.  “If the opposition consulted councils, like the government recently did on this very issue, they would be aware that the overwhelming majority of the local government sector opposed this change,” he said. “Voters who are used to receiving a how to vote card whenever they vote are now going to be on their own when voting at these elections — in some situations with more than 20 boxes to number.”



We welcome the absence of How-toVote cards in the election packs sent out to residents. This will not remove dummy candidates  but it will ensure that it makes it that much more difficult for votes to be steered and manipulated in a specific direction.

The Leader article however is not 100% correct. Those councils undertaking attendance voting will still be permitted to hand out How-to-Vote cards in their election packs. Glen Eira has opted for postal voting.

Below we feature part of the ‘application’ process that candidates have to fill out. Question 4 is basically useless in that it asks candidates if they are ‘endorsed’ by any political party. Given that only the Greens officially ‘endorse’ candidates it reveals nothing about the candidates political leanings, nor does it reveal if they happen to be a member of either the Libs or Labor. When the flyers start arriving in letter boxes we urge all residents to carefully scrutinise candidates’ preferences.