How local government elections work
Local government ordinary elections are held on the third Saturday in October every two years. The next state-wide ordinary elections are scheduled for Saturday 21 October 2023.
Councillors are elected for terms of four years in Western Australia. Elections are held every two years for half of the council, and candidates are elected using the first-past-the-post voting system. If a vacancy occurs within a term, an extraordinary election is held.
The Electoral Commissioner is responsible for conducting all local government postal elections in Western Australia and can also conduct voting in person elections on request under the Local Government Act 1995. By making the Electoral Commissioner responsible for these elections, the local governments concerned ensure that elections are conducted independently and with impartiality.
Postal elections for local government were first trialled by four local governments in 1995 and the number opting to hold postal ballots has steadily increased since then. By 2005 the number had reached 50 and at the 2019 ordinary elections the Commission conducted postal ballots for 86 local governments. The number was about 92 at the 2021 ordinary elections.
Postal elections are more convenient for many electors and typically result in a higher rate of voter participation than in person ballots.
If the number of candidates is equal to the number of vacancies, the candidate is elected unopposed. If there are more candidates than vacancies, the election will proceed.
Voting in a local government election
For local government elections, rolls close at 5.00 pm, 50 days prior to polling day.
Eligible electors who wish to run as a candidate at their local government election must nominate with the appointed Returning Officer by the prescribed close of nominations date and time. At the 2021 ordinary elections, the nomination period opened on Thursday 2 September and closed a week later at 4.00pm sharp, Thursday 9 September.
For postal elections, all eligible electors will receive a postal voting package two to three weeks prior to polling day, depending on the service delivery of Australia Post. The package will include candidate profiles, ballot paper(s), instructions on how to vote, a declaration that must be signed by the elector and a reply paid envelope. To vote, follow the instructions included in the package.
The Returning Officer must receive your postal voting package before 6.00 pm on polling day. If you do not think that your postal voting package can be returned by post in time, you can deliver it by hand to your local council office.
For local governments conducting their own voting in person election prospective candidates should contact the local government directly.
While voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia, all electors are strongly encouraged to vote.
Nominating as a candidate in a local government election
Electors who wish to nominate as a candidate in a local government election must complete a valid nomination application and present it to the Returning Officer before nominations close. Prior to nominating all candidates must complete the online candidate induction from the Department of Local Government, Sport & Cultural Industries website.
Nominations for a local government election open 44 days before polling day and close at 4.00 pm, 37 days before polling day. Use the Commission’s Nomination Builder to electronically complete the nomination form and candidate profile.
Other local government elections
At various times the Commission is also requested to conduct extraordinary elections or other polls on behalf of local governments. These mostly occur when a vacancy arises due to the resignation or death of a sitting Councillor.