Council elections:  Who cares?

By Shane Scanlan

Municipal voters in the CBD and Southbank are the most disinterested within the City of Melbourne, recently-released data has shown.

At the request of CBD News, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has revealed by postcode where voters did not participate in last October’s municipal election in which Team Doyle was returned with a majority of councillors.

The Melbourne municipality had one of the worst voter turnouts in the state, with only 55 per cent of voters participating.

But in CBD (postcode 3000) and Southbank (postcode 3006), the situation is even worse, with more than half of eligible voters failing to vote in the poll.

But the data shows that is not so much local residents who are failing to participate.  Rather, it shows that absentee landlords are the culprits, with only 43.67 per cent of the “non-resident owner (automatic entitlement)” class of voters casting a ballot in the CBD.

In Southbank, the figure for engaged absentee landlords was even less, with only 38.75 per cent bothering to return their postal ballot – the lowest percentage for any category of voters in the municipality.

Residential turnout within the CBD was a relatively healthy 57.02 per cent (or 4938 people) but, as CBD News has pointed out before, only a very small percentage of local residents are actually enrolled to vote.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates some 36,000 people live in the CBD, but only 8660 are enrolled to vote.

In Southbank, enrolled residents are also far more engaged in local democracy than their absentee landlord counterparts, with 59.30 per cent (4420) participating in the October election.

By contrast, voters in Flemington, Kensington and East Melbourne are the most engaged.  Figures show that overall participating is nearly 70 per cent in these suburbs.

In these postcodes, even the absentee landlords are involved, with 66.32 per cent (1217) voting in East Melbourne and 61.33 per cent (1326) voting in postcode 3031 (Flemington and Kensington).

And, while most CBD absentee landlords avoided the poll, those that did vote made up the largest voting group, with 10,149 participating.

This group, combined with corporations, outvoted CBD residents by a factor of three, making up about three quarters of the 20,977 votes cast within postcode 3000.

The CBD has 41,972 eligible voters – broken down as: “state elector”, 8660; “non-resident owner – automatic entitlement”, 23,238; “corporation (owner) application”, 2811; “occupier ratepayer application”, 108; and “corporation occupier application”, 7155.

While 66.13 per cent of business owners voted, the percentage for larger group of business occupiers (7155) who voted was only 55.26 per cent.

Under the rules governing City of Melbourne elections, these classes of voters are award two votes.  This contentious anomaly is under review and could be changed before the next municipal election in 2020 (see our story on page 1).

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