Polling day election material banned due to Covid

Bellingen Shire Mayoral candidate Andrew Woodward has called on fellow candidates to support a NSW Electoral Commission ban on the distribution of election material. Photo: Bellingen Shire Labor.


COFFS Harbour City Council and Bellingen Shire Council election candidates will not be permitted to distribute election material on polling day at the upcoming Local Government Elections on Saturday 4 December.

The directive was handed down by the NSW Electoral Commission last week to NSW local government election candidates to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission between electors, election officials and candidate/political party volunteers.

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The usual ‘six metre rule’ has now been extended to 100 metres, with the Electoral Commissioner issuing new directions under the Local Government (General) Regulation 2021.

These directions include no electoral material being handed out, or left out for collection, in a publicly owned or occupied area (such as on the footpath) that is within 100 metres of the entrance to a polling place or a pre-polling venue on polling days.

No posters can be displayed in a publicly owned or occupied area (such as on the footpath or school fences) within 100 metres of the entrance to a polling place or pre-poll venue on polling days, unless they are put in place before 7am.

Any posters put in place before 7am on a polling day must not to be adjusted or moved again until after 7pm.

Material or posters that contravene these directions can be confiscated and destroyed by election officials.

Mayoral candidate for Bellingen Shire Council Andrew Woodward supported the recent directions and went a step further and wrote to three other Bellingen Shire local government election candidates Dominic King, Steve Allan and Joanne Cook to seek their agreement not hand out ‘how to votes’ to people going to vote at booths at all seven Bellingen Shire polling booths on Election Day and in the two weeks before at the pre-poll voting booth from 23 November.

“I propose this in the interests of public health and safety due to the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases on the Coffs Coast,” Mr Woodward stated.

“I believe in Bellingen Shire, we need to go a step further to protect our residents and campaign volunteers.

“It will also prevent waste and save money.”

Mr Woodward said the number of Covid-19 cases in the Coffs Coast area may grow in the weeks ahead as more people are allowed to move more freely around the State.

“We must do what we can locally to limit the risk of infection,” he said.

“I therefore propose in the two weeks before the election, at the pre-poll booth that no campaign hands out ‘how to vote’ leaflets to people intending to vote, and on polling day, 4 December 2021, no campaign hands out ‘how to vote’ leaflets to people intending to vote.”

Council candidate nominations for the upcoming local government elections opened on Monday 25 October and closed on Wednesday 3 November.

Both Coffs Harbour City Council and Bellingen Shire Council will now enter the Caretaker period from Friday 5 November until Election Day, which will see the Councils unable to make significant decisions such as determining controversial development applications and entering into contracts worth more than $150,000.

Pre-polling voting opens on Monday 22 November and closes on Friday 3 December, prior to polling day on Saturday 4 December from 8am to 6pm.

A total of 125 NSW councils will be holding elections on Saturday 4 December for the election of councillors.

Coffs Harbour City Council and Bellingen Shire Council are also two of 35 councils across NSW holding a mayoral election, in addition to the election of councillors.

Important dates relating to the December 4 Local Government Elections include:
● 22 November – Pre-poll voting opens
● 29 November – Postal vote applications close
● 3 December – Pre-poll voting closes
● 4 December – Election day (8am-6pm)

The NSW Electoral Commission’s COVID safety plan for the NSW local council elections includes electors and election staff checking in and out of voting centres using the Service NSW QR code, anyone entering a voting centre must wear a face mask, electors are encouraged to bring their own pens or single use pens will be provided to mark their ballot papers, physical distancing measures will be maintained, additional staff will be employed at voting centres to assist with physical distancing and implementing hygiene measures, and changes to voting eligibility requirements in order to mitigate COVID-19 risks including expanded eligibility for postal voting.

Voting in the NSW local government election is compulsory.



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