The council election results are (nearly) in!

By Sean Car and Jake Pike

An early sample of City of Melbourne election votes suggest Sally Capp is a warm favourite to be returned as Lord Mayor, but she might still face a challenge from rival Arron Wood on preferences and donkey votes.  

By the time CBD News published its November 2020 edition on October 28, some scrutineer sources had Ms Capp as a firm favourite, while others predicted the count would go down to the wire following the council elections on October 24. 

While a winner wasn’t expected to be announced until Friday, October 30 at the very earliest, some early scrutineer data had already suggested some likely certainties with the first five councillor positions locked in.

With Ms Capp understood to be polling around 30 per cent on both the leadership and councillor cards, her first two councillor candidates in Kevin Louey and Liberal party member Roshena Campbell appear to have won the first two spots on council. 

With Arron Wood believed to be polling at around 18 per cent and a lower 15 per cent on the councillor card, his first councillor candidate Jason Chang too appears a certainty. He’ll be joined by Greens councillor Rohan Leppert and the Labor Party’s Davyyd Griffiths. 

Should Ms Capp’s vote continue to hold steady, it would likely see the first ever indigenous councillor elected to the City of Melbourne in Mark McMillan, who ran third on the Team Capp ticket. 

Arron Wood’s second councillor candidate in former councillor and Liberal Party member Peter Clarke also appears likely to get up. But perhaps the biggest surprise is the likely election of Liberal Democrat candidate and Southbank resident Paul Silverberg. 

Early predictions have Mr Silverberg polling around six per cent in what many have put down to a sheer case of winning over dummy Liberal voters purely on the basis of having the word “Liberal” in his party name. 

While the Liberal Party officially endorses candidates in neighbouring cities such as Sydney and Brisbane, the result could provide the impetus for changing its strategy in Melbourne, with its unofficial candidate Philip Le Liu now in a struggle to win back his seat. 

This election also looks to have been somewhat of a hit to the left, with The Greens’ second councillor Olivia Ball facing a nervous wait to reclaim the party’s second seat on council, previously held by the retired Cathy Oke. 

Docklands resident and independent candidate Jamal Hakim is presenting as Ms Ball’s biggest challenge. Despite polling with around 0.3 per cent of the primary vote, his clever preference negotiations could see him home. 

Early predictions suggest Mr Le Liu should sneak home on preferences, however the first candidate on the Jennifer Yang ticket Elizabeth Doidge is a smokey but would require a significant drop in the Capp primary vote, which appears unlikely. 

The Labor Party’s endorsed team led by party veteran Phil Reed also appears to have underperformed, with second councillor candidate and highly-regarded operator Mary Delahunty missing out on a council spot. 

But the real interest hangs on the leadership contest which on early projections has Ms Capp winning with a team of five, joined by her deputy candidate and Labor Party member Nick Reece. 

But with many late votes still to come in when CBD News went to print, early predictions could yet be undone and Mr Wood, who has the luck of the donkey vote, negotiated some great preference deals and ran a solid campaign, is still a big chance. 

While Team Capp’s decision to not negotiate any preference deals was admirable in one sense, it probably wasn’t the smartest political move and it has potentially left her exposed should Mr Wood’s vote draw to within 10 per cent of her own.  

But while Mr Wood will collect some major preferences from the likes of The Greens and sits above Ms Capp on the voting card, a preference-donkey vote victory for Mr Wood weighs heavily on voters following their how-to-vote cards, which is historically low. 

But an election in a pandemic is unchartered territory so throw out the rule book as anything is possible! 

Either way, if early data doesn’t lie then we would appear to be have a council that is slightly more conservative, less gender-balanced and has less residents than non-residents. As many predicted, the virtual nature of the campaign has certainly weighed in favour of those with more political capital and profile, with grassroots campaigns thrown out the window thanks to COVID-19. 

But should Ms Capp hold on, the result would suggest a vote for stability during a pandemic, with the Lord Mayor having shown a steady pair of hands in her first two years since assuming the role from Robert Doyle. 

While Mr Doyle recorded above and around the 40 mark on both the leadership and councillor cards in 2016, Team Capp has had to compete with a much for stacked field this time around, which has also seen a significantly higher voter turnout. 

Despite leaving his run late, if Mr Wood does manage to sneak home it would be quite the achievement, and one hard not to admire given what was a solid and well-articulated campaign from the former Deputy Lord Mayor. 

But either way, he’ll leave a legacy of having teamed up with The Greens to remove councillor Jackie Watts from the council, who exits the council after three terms running on the Gary Morgan ticket.

What will prove a significant difference this time around under Ms Capp as Lord Mayor, is that she’ll wield more power on the council with her new bloc of five meaning less paralysis in decision-making. 

She said overall, she remained optimistic about her chances, but wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“We all just have to be patient while the count continues,” she said. 

 “As we await the final results from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC), I continue to carry out the duties of Lord Mayor.”

 “I’m meeting with the CEO of the City of Melbourne to ensure that we do not miss a beat, do not miss an opportunity to help city businesses to re-open.”

 “My focus remains on the City of Melbourne, making sure we can re-open in a COVID safe way to save lives and livelihoods.”

With results yet to be formally announced by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) watch this space! CBD News’s sister publications Docklands News and Southbank News will bring you more comprehensive coverage of all of the winners and losers in the coming weeks. 

Voter confusion 

The new local government electoral rules which regulated the October 24 local government elections have caused some confusion among voters. 

If you received a secondary voting pack from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for an investment property or building lease this election for the first time, you’re not alone.

CBD News has received reports of people receiving ballot packs for additional properties they own in Victoria for the first time, despite owning the properties for years. 

The new 2020 legislation meant that anyone on the state electoral roll for an additional property before 2020 was automatically added to the new system, which is why people have received additional ballots this year. 

Senior media and communication advisor at the VEC, Ruth Murphy said that the new legislation has led to a decrease of 200,000 non-resident votes this election across the state due to non-Australian residents not being automatically added to the state roll.  

“There has been a slight decline in the number of non-residents on the roll for the City of Melbourne, because property owners who do not live in Australia are no longer automatically on the roll,” she said. 

But non-Australian residents who were enrolled and had overseas addresses listed received voting packs by priority post. 

Since the 2018 Lord Mayoral by-election for the City of Melbourne, the VEC has worked with the Local Government Inspectorate (LGI) to inform property managers on voting laws after the LGI found that property managers had illegally filled out 41 voting packs for landlords. 

Voting for another person could come a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, but it is almost impossible to detect and the offenders in the 2018 by-election were only caught because they signed their own names to multiple ballot packs. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the voting rights in Victoria, landlords have been able to vote in council elections where they own property since 1986, as long as they do not live within the same council area.

But the good news is that voting packs for non-resident property owners and ratepayers are not mandatory if the council area is not the same as your primary address and you will not be fined if you didn’t vote with your secondary ballot. 

That is unless the property is in the jurisdiction of the City of Melbourne, which due to the City of Melbourne Act 2001 means that all eligible voters are required to vote or risk a fine. 

If you didn’t vote in the council elections, you can expect a fine of $83 if you can’t convince the VEC that you had a valid excuse when they send out failure to vote notices in January 2021.

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