Low voter turnout leads to concerns

Political engagement in the City of Melbourne remains significantly behind the state average.

The Victorian Electoral Commission’s (VEC) latest figures reveal that just 56.61 per cent of registered voters took part in May’s lord mayoral by-election, compared with a Victorian average of 73.75 per cent recorded in 2016. While the turnout figure for the council represents a slight increase on 2016’s figure of 55.15 per cent from the general election, the number remains one of the state’s worst.

After accepting the report at a recent meeting, several councillors said the figure needed to rise.

“In two years’ time we have a general election (and) I really hope that the voter turnout will be higher,” Cr Philip Le Liu said. “The more we engage with voters and the more they can vote on this, it just means we have a better representative council and a better representation of the people within the city.”

Lord mayor Sally Capp agreed.

“I think the ways in which we can encourage more people to be involved in our democratic process is really important.”

Cr Le Liu said the increase in “informal votes” (an incomplete or invalid voting ballot) from 3.6 per cent to 6.52 per cent was another cause for concern.

“We have a lot of informal votes. It’s pretty disappointing that a lot of people did put their vote forward but in the end it wasn’t counted,” Cr Le Liu said.

City of Melbourne elections are run as a postal ballot, and voter turnout has dropped each election from 2004 to 2016.

Cr Nicholas Reece was more optimistic about the recent VEC report, claiming the 1.5 per cent increase in turnout from the 2016 election could be a sign of things to come.

“I hope that it signals that the participation rates are on the rise in the City of Melbourne,” he said.

“I would like to see that participation rate rise significantly and let’s hope we can get that up to 70-80 per cent in the years ahead.”

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