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2021 NSW Local Government elections: Political Participants Bulletin No.19

Bulletin No. 19
Issued 23 December 2021

NSW Electoral Commissioner's statement

iVote and the 2021 NSW Local Government elections

All of the Local Government Elections held on 4 December 2021 managed by the NSW Electoral Commissioner have now been declared.

Although the ordinary election processes are now complete, the Electoral Commissioner previously indicated that a number of electors who registered on election day to use the iVote system did not receive the necessary security credentials to cast their vote before the close of the poll.

The Electoral Commissioner indicated he would be undertaking an assessment of the materiality of this iVote issue.

Analysis of the impact of the iVote issue on these elections

An analysis of the potential impact of this iVote issue on the outcome of all the elections has been completed.

View the analysis on the NSWEC website

The Electoral Commissioner is satisfied, based on this analysis, that there was no material impact on these elections, with the important exception of three contests.

In relation to:

  • Kempsey – Councillor elections 

  • Singleton – Councillor Elections 

  • City of Shellharbour – Ward A – Councillor elections

The Electoral Commissioner has formed the view there is a possibility that, if all individuals who registered to use iVote on election day had been able to vote, a different outcome might have occurred.

Why the Electoral Commissioner has approved the declaration of these three contests

Under the Local Government (General) Regulation 2021, an election manager is to approve a returning officer declaring an election as soon as practicable once any recount period has expired. The Electoral Commissioner decided it was appropriate to provide his approval in accordance with the Regulation, and usual practice, despite the uncertainty raised by the iVote issue, including for the following reasons:

  • while there is a possibility of a different outcome in these contests, it is not certain that this would have occurred had all registered individuals cast a vote using the iVote system 

  • if the three elections had not been declared, and subsequently failed, due to a number of logistical factors (including the forthcoming Federal Election) it may be practically impossible to hold fresh elections until the middle of 2022 

  • these elections have already been deferred twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to delay or refuse to approve a declaration over the Christmas/New Year holiday period would have caused additional uncertainty for election participants and their communities 

  • declaring the elections means the impacted councils can function with a governing body as soon as possible, which supports the operation of the local government sector, noting the important role of councils in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on their communities.

The Electoral Commissioner notes that the exercise of his approval function for the returning officers to declare the elections is not a determination that these three elections are valid more generally.

Next steps in relation to these three elections

To address the risk of ongoing ambiguity about the materiality of the iVote issue for these elections, as well as to support the integrity of the electoral system more generally, the Electoral Commissioner will be applying to the Supreme Court as soon as practicable after the Christmas/New Year holiday period for a declaration about the validity of the election results in these three elections only. 

The candidates in these contests, relevant registered political parties and the general managers of the three councils involved will be kept informed by the Electoral Commission about these proceedings via Bulletin. Any candidate who may be entitled to become a party to any proceedings in the Supreme Court will also be contacted directly early in the new year.