Electoral Commissioner confirms tough new rules on how-to-vote material at council elections

Federal Labor MP Tanya Plibersek hands out how-to-vote leaflets for her brother Ray at Oyster Bay Public School on council election day in 2016. Picture: John Veage
Federal Labor MP Tanya Plibersek hands out how-to-vote leaflets for her brother Ray at Oyster Bay Public School on council election day in 2016. Picture: John Veage

The NSW Electoral Commission has confirmed campaign workers for the December 4 council elections will not be allowed to hand out how-to-vote material within 100 metres of polling booths or pre-poll centres.

Posters will also be banned within the same distance unless they are put up before 7am and not adjusted or altered in any way until after 7pm.

Electoral Commissioner John Schmidt has issued the directions under the powers which were provided in legislation passed by State Parliament in October.

The commission's website says "Breaking electoral material laws during the regulated period for an election is a criminal offence, and the NSW Electoral Commission monitors and enforces compliance".

In October, a spokesman for Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock said the government was working with the commissioner "to ensure council elections are conducted under as normal conditions as possible and sincerely hopes to see candidates and campaign workers able to canvass outside of polling places".

Clarification has been sought on whether the 100 metre limit applies from the gates or the room in which votes are cast. At some polling booths such as schools, there can be a considerable distance between the two.

The Labor and Liberal teams for the Sutherland Shire Council election in southern NSW have announced their support for the new rules.

In a joint statement, team leaders Michael Forshaw (Labor) and Carmelo Pesce (Liberal) said the rules also stopped material being left outside polling places for voters to pick up.

Cr Forshaw and Cr Pesce called on all other candidates to support the Electoral Commission's measures and agree to not hand out campaign material within 100 metres either at pre-poll or on election day.

"These new measures make a lot of sense," Cr Forshaw said. "We must put the public's health first at this election."

Cr Pesce said, "We believe the intent of the new regulations is to provide a COVID safe environment. We fully support that objective".

They said campaign workers were still allowed to be present at polling booths to provide advice if requested by voters.

Independent candidates have told ACMthe rules will put them at at a disadvantage to the major parties.

This story How-to-vote leaflets banned within 100 metres first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.