It was already a historic council meeting – the first time it had been live streamed – but Campbelltown Council last night also took the first step towards universal postal voting.
It supported a motion from Cr Warren Morrison to undertake a cost and benefit analysis of postal voting.
He told the South West Voice in Macarthur this morning that he was keen to see the results of the report.
“There’s suggestions a postal voting system may affect voter turnout, because there won’t be voting centres where the candidates can hand out how to vote cards and interact with voters,’’ Cr Morrison said.
“But it could also show that we will save costs and increase participation rates, and maybe we will end up with better informed voters.
“We have been told we can’t introduce a new system until the election after this one, which is a bit of a shame if the report comes out positive on costs and participation,’’ he said.
The issue arose from a bid by council to reduce its own financial burden from elections.
Unhappy that its share of the costs would increase from 2024 onwards, the council wrote to the NSW local government minister Shelley Hancock in November.
It told the minister that it was also concerned with declining rates of voter turnout at council elections, with just 80 percent during the last Campbelltown elections in 2016.
In response, the minister said the government was looking at ways to both reduce costs and increase voter participation at council elections.
She said that in Victoria, which already uses the postal voting method, it resulted in higher participation rates, from around 62 percent to 74 percent
More than 90 percent of Victorian councils have so far adopted the universal postal voting method.
Ms Hancock said the postal system would be introduced in NSW at the 2024 council elections after consultation with local councils.
Cr Morrison, who confirmed he will be running under the Totally Locally Committed (TLC) banner at the 2020 elections in September, said it was important to properly investigate the impact of new ways of doing things such as elections.
“I am interested in finding out all I can on this issue before saying, OK, let’s implement it,’’ he said.
Cr Morrison said that in the future a logical extension of universal postal voting would be to include electronic methods of voting.
But while doing away with voting centres would mean the end of the democracy sausage – the sausage sizzle outside the booths – Cr Morrison says it could also open up new opportunities for charity fundraising.
“That would be a shame, because so much money is raised by these charity organisations, but maybe they could look to expand their operations around business parks and the like.’’