Election: Down at the local

It was with great excitement that I rushed to the letterbox a fortnight ago to pick up my voting pack for local government elections. Voting and elections are fetishes of mine, and the pleasure of being able to do so twice in the space of two months - when many around the world for been denied the right to do it once in two centuries - was a rare honour. Imagine my disappointment when all that came out of the envelope was a DL sized slip that read:

Boroondara City Council elections November 2004

Gardiner Ward

There will be no voting required in Gardiner Ward. As only one nomination was received, Coral Ross is elected unopposed.

Geoff Bell
Returning Officer

Now Coral is an excellent councillor, and I have no problem at all with her representation. But this is an election, and elections should be contested. It's the free market spirit applied to democracy - competition keeps competitors on their toes and constantly striving to do better.

Fortunately, uncontested elections seem to be the exception rather than the norm in Boroondara. In the ward of Maranoa (not, apparently a seafood pasta sauce) there are eight candidates battling for the right to call themselves a councillor.

Perhaps the problem is that Boroondara has persisted with single member wards, meaning that unless there is an extremely local isse (wards have just a couple of thousand voters each, you see) there is little chance of unseating a candidate. Other local councils, such as Moreland, Stonnington and the City of Melbourne have instead created multi-member wards, so that proportional representation is used and the chances of new blood and fiesty competition is much greater. It also means that there is a larger pool of voters being wooed and so a broader range of issues enter the campaign.

As for who will win the contests in Boroondara, it is largely pot luck. The margins are likely to be small, turnout poor, and incumbants recontesting their wards are probably going to be safe. And Coral will get back in as well.


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