How to Vote in the City of Sydney Council Elections 2016

Words Amy Willing

The NSW Local Government elections are coming up on Saturday September 10. We know you’re busy, and you probably don’t have time to do the research – so we put it all together for you! Where to vote, how to vote, and who you’re actually voting for when you put a 1 in that box… Here’s a quick guide to help you enjoy that election sausage knowing you’ve got the best out of your local vote.

All information is correct (subject to my interpretation) at time of publishing. Some details may change so be sure to check out the VoteNSW website before you head out to vote!

I’m not enrolled in the City of Sydney – is it too late? 

No! If you are over 18 and currently reside in the City of Sydney council area, you can still enrol to vote at any polling place. You just need to show up with a NSW drivers licence or photo card with your current address printed on it (and proof of citizenship if you were not born in Australia). This process – enrolling and voting all in one go – is called ‘Enrol and Vote’.

I own a business in the City, and I’ve heard that I can vote. How does that work?

People who own businesses in the City of Sydney are eligible to choose up to two people (depending on size) to vote on their behalf. This must have been done before July 14 – if you missed this deadline, it’s too late to register.

Here’s the tricky bit: it might sound like you get two votes – not quite. If you live in the City of Sydney AND own a business there, you get to vote once as a residential voter. If you live outside the City of Sydney council area, but own a business within it, you get to vote once in your own local government area AND once in the City of Sydney.

There’s a bit more to it – you might want to check out more information on the City of Sydney website.

Where can I vote?

On the day of September 10, you can vote at many different locations throughout the city. Find your closest one here. There is no absentee voting for this election, so if you know you have other commitments on September 10, think about voting early (see below) or registering for a postal vote.

When can I vote?

You can vote now! Pre-poll voting is open. You can vote from now until September 10 at one of the following places:

Redfern Town Hall: 

29 Aug 2016 – 09 Sep 2016
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Closed on Sun

St Barnabas Church Broadway

29 Aug 2016 – 09 Sep 2016
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Sat: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Closed on Sun

Sydney Returning Officer’s Office

29 Aug 2016 – 09 Sep 2016
Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Fri (09 Sep): 8:30am – 6:00pm
Sat: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Closed on Sun

Sydney Town Hall 

29 Aug 2016 – 09 Sep 2016
Mon – Wed, Fri: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Thu: 8:00am – 8:00pm
Sat: 9:00am – 4:00pm
Closed on Sun

If you have special access needs check the NSWEC website – some places are less easily accessible than others.

Even if you’re going to be around on September 10, think about voting early. You get to skip the queues and get it over and done with!

The Nitty Gritty

Who am I voting for – the mayor or the councillors?

Both. At the polling booth you will get two ballot papers, one for Lord Mayor and one for the nine elected councillors.

The mayor and the councillors are elected separately. Even if somebody is not elected Mayor, they are still eligible to (and often do) become councillors. If a person is elected Mayor they cannot also be elected a councillor. Their votes from the second ballot paper are passed on to the next member of their party or team.

How do I vote?

Like a Federal election, you can vote in one of two ways. On the Mayoral ballot paper (the smaller one) you can either:

  • Place a number 1 in the box next to the candidate you prefer. Don’t put anything in the other boxes.
  • Number the candidates 1-5 in order of your preference.

In the ballot paper for the councillors (the larger one) you can either:

  • Vote above the line. Place a 1 in the square above the group of candidates you wish to vote for. If you wish, you can continue to number the boxes above the line in the order you prefer, but you don’t have to. Don’t write in any of the boxes under the line. Like this:

Vote below the line. Number at least 5 candidates below the line in the order you prefer. If you wish, you can keep going and number as many candidates as you like. Don’t write in any of the boxes above the line. Something like this:

Voting 1 above the line does not mean that you are voting for all members of a party or team equally. If you vote 1 above the line, that means you are giving a first preference vote to the first candidate listed in that party, with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th going to the following candidates. It is equivalent to numbering all the candidates in that group 1-9 in the order they are listed. If you want to vote for a particular person in a party, you should vote below the line and number that person first.

If you’re interested in how votes are allocated, you can read more here. Sydney uses the proportional representation voting system.

Who am I voting for anyway?

That’s up to you! It’s worth it to take some time and research what all the candidates – the mayoral candidates at least – stand for. Think about all the issues that are important to you in Sydney – public transport, lockout laws, parks and green spaces, LGBTQ representation, affordable housing… There’s a lot. The great thing about local government candidates is that they live here in Sydney too. They experience the same things we do, and love the city for many of the same reasons, and they all have different ideas for how to take care of it. Take some time to find a candidate who cares about the same things you do. Check out their websites, talk to their representatives at polling booths, or read some of the flyers that are out there. Elections get a whole lot less boring when you’ve actually had a chance to speak to a candidate and know what they stand for.

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