A win for democracy in a challenging year

Friday 13 November 2020

For immediate release

The last results from the Victorian local council elections have now been officially declared, capping off a number of highlights for the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) over the course of the elections - conducted in exceptional circumstances associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Electoral Commissioner, Warwick Gately, congratulated Victorian voters after a record turnout for council elections.

'I was very pleased with the way the community responded to the elections, their engagement with the process and in making the program a success,' said Mr Gately.

The average voter turnout of 81.4% was a significant improvement on the 2016 average turnout of 72.1% and marks the highest turnout rate ever recorded for local council elections in the State (previously 75.1% in 2005).

Voters not only turned out at a higher rate; more of them voted formally. The average rate of informal ballot papers across the State was 4.7%, a significant decline from 6.3% in 2016 (5.3% in 2012).

Mr Gately said a number of factors likely contributed to the increase in participation.

'We engaged students to design a campaign to appeal to all voters but particularly young voters, so we'll be looking closely at the participation of those aged 18-29. Going by the record numbers of phone calls, emails and visitors using our website, we are confident the messaging landed well,' said Mr Gately.

The VEC's free SMS and email VoterAlert service also mobilised voters with a 109% increase in the number of calls to the VEC compared to 2016.

Mr Gately said he considered the elections very successful, while acknowledging one matter concerning one ward election in the City of Moreland had been referred by the VEC to VCAT for consideration.

'Our people and providers stood the test well, having to navigate COVIDSafe operating requirements but still ensuring that deadlines were observed; I thank both them and the voters of Victoria who also came to the party. A win for democracy in an otherwise challenging year.'

VEC records during the 2020 local council elections included:

  • Highest ever average turnout for local council elections in Victoria – 81.4%
  • Lowest average level of informality since 2008 – 4.7%
  • Highest number of voters enrolled for an electoral event in Victoria – 4.29 million
  • Highest number of candidates in an electoral event in Victoria – 2,187
  • Highest number of simultaneous elections – 298
  • Highest number of website visitors for local council elections – 1.2 million (88% increase on 2016)
  • Highest number of phone calls – 288,016 (109% increase on 2016)
  • Highest number of emails – 13,434 (360% increase on 2016)
  • Highest number of replacement ballot packs mailed – 87,781 (compared to 43,849 in 2016).