This weekend’s Local Government elections will go ahead around Queensland: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily
This weekend’s Local Government elections will go ahead around Queensland: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily

Mayoral candidates on whether election should go ahead

THE Local Government election is expected to still go ahead this Saturday, despite mounting social distancing rules being implemented to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland confirmed that based on current medical advice, the elections will proceed, on the basis that they facilitate an essential service by providing continuity of democratic representation for Queenslanders.

Many voters in the Maranoa region have already cast their vote, whether by postal ballot or at the pre-polling booth, but many are still expected to turn out this Saturday to have their say.

Mayoral candidates have been quick to defend the ECQ’s decision to proceed with the election as planned.

Mayoral candidate Rob Loughnan said he had been reassured by the amount of people who had taken advantage of early voting.

“I think it should proceed as planned, but people are taking advantage of early voting, and candidates are generally respecting the new rules regarding social distancing,” he said.

“The move from postal voting to providing polling booths in our towns in hindsight has been a negative move.

“Of course there was no way for the decision makers to know this would happen and that the traditional interaction between voters and candidates at the polling places would become illegal as a result.”

David Schefe said ultimately, local government had no say in whether the election went ahead.

“Whether the election goes ahead is a matter for ECQ and the State Government to decide, not local government,” he said

“There are social distancing and sanitisation processes in place at polling booths. It is better that people pre-poll over a period of time to reduce numbers waiting.

“ECQ could have gone to full postal voting however that window was gone long ago.

“The election could also be extended a week to allow more people to pre-poll and reduce numbers at booths. However again that is a matter for ECQ and the state government to decide.”

Incumbent mayor Tyson Golder was asked to comment, but did not respond in time of publication.

The ECQ confirmed measures would be put in place at polling places to limit the number of people inside the building and maintain good standards of hygiene.

Here’s what personal hygiene measures will be in place:

-Where available, hand sanitiser will be provided for voters and polling officials at early voting centres and polling booths.

-Additional cleaning of polling booth areas will be undertaken, to ensure that hard surfaces are regularly disinfected.

-All people in polling booths should follow social distancing guidelines, including maintaining distances of 1.5 metres where possible and avoiding handshakes.

-The ECQ has written to candidates, advising that no how-to-vote cards or other election material can be distributed at a polling booth.

-Voters are encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil with them to vote, although pencils will be available to voters.

Polling officials will be monitoring the number of people in attendance at polling booths to ensure there is compliance with social distancing guidelines implemented by the National Cabinet.

The ECQ will be employing additional staff to assist with managing queues and help people cast their vote in the most efficient manner.

If voters are unwell or in self-isolation or quarantine, telephone voting is available. Call 1300 912 782.