CBD: an electoral powerhouse

By Shane Scanlan

October’s Melbourne City Council election is likely to be determined right here in the CBD, despite fewer than one in five residents being enrolled to vote.

The CBD punches well above its weight in political terms.  The tiny postcode 3000 contains more than a third of the city’s 133,805 eligible votes.

With 42,151 eligible votes within the CBD, the election’s outcome rests on how these judge the performance of incumbent candidates and the potential of new aspirants.

But Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) figures show that the postcode’s voting strength is not with its 33,000 residents.  Only 7968 are on the state electoral roll.  It’s the CBD’s 34,183 non-resident voters who provide the muscle at the municipal election.

The bulk of these voters are investors who own property here, but don’t live in the City of Melbourne.  There are 23,346 in this category, and they can only be reached by election hopefuls via expensive postage – putting them out of reach of all but the most cashed-up candidates.

There are also more than 10,000 eligible votes awarded to corporations within the CBD.

Even though postal voting closes on October 22, the election results won’t be known until sometime between Monday, October 31 and Friday, November 4.

The VEC is allowing more time this year to reflect the falling delivery standards of Australia Post.

The city’s urban renewal areas of CBD, Docklands and Southbank account for more than half of the voting entitlement, with 71,732 votes.

Whatever the outcome, the City of Melbourne’s unique voting allocation system is bound to come in for criticism from unsuccessful candidates.

Chief among likely complaints is a prejudice which awards two votes to property-based voting categories, compared with only a single vote for voters on the VEC’s roll.

It is possible for four votes to be awarded to a single property under Melbourne’s voting system – two for the property’s owners and two for the business occupying the premises.

There are five categories which attract two votes  – Non-resident owner; resident owner (who is not on VEC roll); occupier ratepayer; corporation (owner); and corporation (occupier). These voters appear on what is known as the Melbourne CEO’s list.

The City of Melbourne actively surveys properties to maintain this list.  Overall, there are more voter entitlements on the CEO list (57,616) than the 54,790 on the electoral roll.

The postal voting system itself is also likely to come under renewed criticism.  Critics point out that it is easy to steal or otherwise intercept the ballots, particularly when they are delivered to non-secure mail boxes.

They also point out that the system is open to potential abuse when bulk ballots are delivered to agents representing property owners.

One Southbank agent had 1212 ballots delivered to pass on to property owners.

Such complications resulted in less than 60 per cent of eligible votes being received at the last election in 2012.

Spending by candidates would appear to be significantly down on 2012.  This year, a voluntary disclosure of donations received is being maintained by The Age newspaper.

The registered showed on October 17 that Team Doyle was leading the donations tally with $127,000 declared so far.  Ken Ong's team has declared $102,000 with most of it ($73,008) coming from the candidate himself.

Gary Morgan has stumped up $8855, The Greens have declared $26,633 and Phil Cleary's team looks like it will have at least $60,000 to spend.

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