THOUSANDS of ratepayers missed out on voting in this year’s council elections because of a change to electoral laws.THOUSANDS of ratepayers missed out on voting in this year’s council elections because of a change to electoral laws.
Only 54 property owners living outside Murray Bridge voted in the election last month, down from 2500 eight years ago, despite a targeted public awareness campaign.
The drop was due to a change in voting laws: property owners, business lessees and non-citizens are now removed from the electoral roll on January 1 of an election year and have to re-apply to vote.
At its meeting on December 8, the council called on the Local Government Association to assess the State-wide impact of the laws and lobby for a return to the old rules.
Cr Jerry Wilson said the current system was not conducive to getting a proper election result, and Cr Theo Weinmann said he was surprised at how many permanent residents of Murray Bridge were unable to vote.
“The Electoral Commission or somebody’s not doing their job,” Cr Weinmann said.
“It needs fixing urgently.
“They should automatically have the right to vote if they’re paying rates.”
The full impact of the changed electoral law first became evident in 2010, when non-resident property owner votes fell by 94 per cent, but it took a second poor showing this year to bring the council to act.
The original argument for the laws, outlined in a 2007 report to the State Government, was “one person, one vote” – South Australians should only get to vote once in one council election, no matter how much property they owned.
The extra expense of maintaining two electoral rolls – one for voters in State and Federal elections, another for property owners – was also a factor.
On the other side of the argument was the catch phrase “no taxation without representation” – because a majority of council income comes from property rates, property owners should have more say.
The two ideas will clash again if the State Government considers whether to change electoral laws again next year.
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