A new feature of the NSW local government electoral system is being introduced right now across many NSW councils, finally implementing a legislative change made in 2014. This change will see vacancies filled by countback of the original ballot papers, rather than a by-election. While this is an improvement, the reform is limited in its application so that it won’t apply to all vacancies across the state.
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I keep banging on about the importance of magnitude in determining how elections work. The number of councillors elected for each ward at the NSW council election has a major influence on each council’s party system and how votes translate into seats. Indeed the voting system has an influence on which parties run and how well they poll, and thus seats have an influence on votes, not just the other way around.
Last year’s NSW council elections were the first council elections to use iVote, the online voting platform. It proved to be a popular option, which caused problems with the platform being overwhelmed by late registrations on election day, leading to many voters not being able to cast their votes.
The 2021 NSW council elections produced a step change in the number of women elected to local councils. The numbers not only went up, but it was the highest increase that I could find on record. The numbers appear to have reached some kind of tipping point that means that a significantly larger number of councils now have a majority of councillors who are women.
Last week I updated my blog post analysing the vote for the bigger parties across Greater Sydney, with a map showing vote and swings.
In the process of doing other analysis I realised I hadn’t actually looked at the numbers of councillors elected. There’s also an interesting story about how voters outside of Greater Sydney are voting. While voting for independents remains the predominant choice, parties are growing quickly.
As my last blog post of the year, I thought I would focus on the closest of all the referendums held alongside the council elections. Wagga Wagga held a referendum about switching to directly electing the mayor. Similar referendums in Bega Valley and Ryde passed by wide margins, while a referendum proposing the opposite change in Griffith didn’t come close to passing.
One of the most interesting contests at the 2021 council elections was the referendum on abolishing the wards for Dubbo Regional Council.
The council was founded in 2016 as a merger of the old Dubbo council and its neighbour Wellington. Dubbo makes up the vast majority of the merged council, with Wellington very much the junior partner.
With the final election results declared by Wednesday, I’ve finally been able to calculate the informal and turnout rates.
There’s been a lot of discussion about informal rates being high, but this was premature. The early results included a lot of complex ballots in the informal pile, but I expected many of them to become formal.
The overall informal rate is down from 2016-17, which was down from 2012.
All election results for the NSW council elections have now been declared, but some seats have been so close that there have been attempts to call for recounts. It seems very unlikely that any of these results could be overturned, particularly with the switch from the use of random sampling to fractional transfer values.