Local government elections are a vital part of Western Australia's democratic system.
Under the Local Government Act 1995 (Act), Ordinary local government elections are held every 2 years on the third Saturday in October. Council members are elected for a term of up to 4 years.
The next Ordinary election will be held on 21 October 2023.
To help local governments inform ratepayers of the electoral reforms and how they will affect the upcoming elections, we have created this toolkit.
The Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) is the lead State agency for electoral services in WA. The WAEC also plays a key role in local government elections.
Ahead of a local election, each local council will determine whether the local election will be conducted by in-person or postal voting. If the election will be by postal voting, the WAEC must conduct the election on behalf of the local government.
The majority of local governments elect to hold postal voting elections conducted by the WAEC.
If the election will be by in-person voting, then either the local government or the WAEC may conduct the election. This is determined by the local council.
An overview of how local government works.
Council members are part of an elected body that makes decisions on behalf of a local government through a formal meeting process.
Information on nominating to be a council member.
Prior to nomination, candidates must complete an online induction to be fully aware of what to expect as an elected member and the rules related of campaigning.
How local government elections are run.
Next steps when being elected.
Everything you need to know about gifts and crowdfunding when you are elected as a council member.
Information for candidates in Western Australian local government elections
In-person elections are being run for 15 local governments.
Nominations are called for the following Local Government Elections, to be held on Saturday 21 October 2023 to fill vacancies on the councils listed below. Nominations close 4:00pm Thursday 7 September 2023
Following local government elections, returning officers need to submit Form 20 reports to the Minister. The portal to submit the Form 20 is currently being updated and will be available soon.
Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all local electors are strongly encouraged to vote.
Where an in-person election is held, electors may apply for a postal vote, absentee vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.
The conduct of each local election is managed by a returning officer.
The Electoral Commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in-person elections conducted by the WAEC. A
list of these returning officers is available on the WAEC website.
If the local government decides to conduct the election, the chief executive officer of the local government is the returning officer, unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function.
For these elections, please contact the relevant local government for more information.
The office of a member of council as an elected mayor or president, or as a councillor, becomes vacant in certain circumstances as listed in the Act.
Following the 2023 election where optional preferential voting (OPV) is used, backfilling options will now apply to those candidates elected under the new Schedule 4.1 or Schedule 4.1A. Therefore a future vacancy may be filled by the first and second unelected candidates under Schedule 4.1A for the next 12-month period in lieu of holding an extraordinary election.
The first and second unelected candidates are the unsuccessful candidates who would have been next placed in the order of votes received. In the event that a position becomes available within 12 months of the current election, the first unelected candidate in the election for that position will be asked to complete the term of office. If they decline, the second unelected candidate will be asked to complete the term of office. If both candidates decline, an extraordinary election will be required to be held at a later date.
Actions are directly related to the time a resignation has been received, as there are options to either backfill (as mentioned above); apply to leave the vacancy unfilled in certain circumstances or to hold an extraordinary election in order to fill the vacancy.
The Act provides for elections to be held in certain circumstances, such as:
Public notice of local government elections are published in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The notices provide details about enrolling to vote, nominating to be a candidate in the elections, the ways in which a vote can be cast and the date of the
Local government elections are an important means by which council members are held accountable for their performance as community representatives. Local governments play a key role in supporting the integrity of the election process.
Elections must be conducted to the highest standards of fairness and propriety to maintain public confidence in the democratic process. It is the returning officer’s responsibility to ensure those standards are achieved.
The Returning Officer Manual is an important resource for returning officers.
The direct election by the council of its mayor or president and of the deputy mayor or deputy president in all local governments is an important process. It is noted that only some class 3 and 4 local governments have a direct election of the mayor or president, with other local government conducting this as a vote of electors.
The DLGSC has prepared the Schedule 2.3 Election sheet to assist local governments in conducting elections in accordance with Schedule 2.3 of the Local Government Act 1995. This spreadsheet can also be used for the election of the presiding member and
deputy presiding member of a committee of the council.
The spreadsheet can be used to assist in completing the distributions of preferences in the election in accordance with the requirements under the Local Government (Constitution) Regulations 1998.
The Director General of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries approved the Result of Election (Form 19) in accordance with regulation 80(10) of the Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.
The presiding officer, also known as an electoral officer, is pivotal to the smooth running of an election.
Presiding and electoral officers must act lawfully, professionally, impartially and with fairness, honesty and integrity and follow procedures correctly. The manner in which a presiding or electoral officer carries out their functions is under scrutiny on an election day.
The Presiding Officer Manual is an important resource for presiding and electoral officers.
Scrutineers play an important role in local government elections. Candidates have the right to appoint scrutineers to represent their interests by observing the conduct of the election at close hand to check that legal requirements are being met.
Scrutineers must understand the election process, and the responsibilities and duties of the individuals involved, so they can fulfill their role effectively.
The Guide for Scrutineers provides useful information for scrutineers.
In accordance with sections 4.80 and 4.81 of the Local Government Act 1995, within 28 days after notice is given of the result of the election, a person may make an invalidity complaint to the Court of Disputed Returns (Magistrate’s Court). The invalidity complaint is a complaint that:
The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries does not provide legal advice and strongly advises any person (including candidates and their supporters) seek their own independent legal advice concerning the invalidity of an election, before making a complaint to the Magistrates Court.
Historically voter turnout in Western Australian local government elections has been very low. In 2021 the percentage of people who voted was around 27%.
To help improve this, DLGSC and WALGA have joined forces to create a campaign to increase turn out by 3%.
Play your part in increasing voter turnout by amplifying this campaign through your social media channels.
Here are a couple examples of ready made social media collateral you can use.
Do not submit enquiries with this form.