Businesses targeted in council election enrolment plea

Less than five per cent of business owners registered to vote at the 2018 South Australian council elections, prompting a new enrolment campaign from the electoral commission.

Jul 12, 2022, updated Jul 12, 2022
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Ahead of November’s council elections, figures from the Electoral Commission of SA show more than 130,000 business owners across South Australia did not enrol to vote at the 2018 poll – equating to less than five per cent of businesses across the state.

The data exclude businesses enrolled in the Adelaide City Council area.

The low numbers have seen the electoral commission launch an advertising campaign with Business SA to encourage business owners to enrol before this year’s July 29 cut-off date.

ECSA director of communications James Trebilcock said there was an awareness issue with council elections that needs to be addressed.

“It’s really because businesses don’t actually know they’re entitled to vote in council elections,” he said.

“Unlike the federal and state elections, businesses are actually enabled to vote but they have to actually enrol.

“The process of getting onto the council roll is a little bit more convoluted … then what happens as a general voter.

“You’ve actually got to go and enrol and submit your enrolment to the local council, and once that happens you get placed on the roll and get the ballot paper sent out.”

Asked whether an automatic enrolment model for businesses would address the problem, Trebilcock said ECSA could only work within the legislation it was given.

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“If that change was made, obviously you’d have more people enrolled, more people would get ballot papers and more people would potentially vote,” he said.

“But that’s something up to the legislators to make that change.”

Overall turnout for the 2018 council elections stood at just below 33 per cent.

The District Council of Kimba, which has a population of around 1200, recorded the highest turnout at 81 per cent, while Marion Council, with a population of more than 90,000, recorded the lowest at 25.5 per cent.

Ballots for this year’s 67 council elections will be mailed from October 14 to October 20.

Voting will close on Thursday, November 10 and the count will begin on Saturday, November 12.

Trebilcock said the commission was working on a “fairly extensive broadcast campaign” to promote awareness of the elections in September, followed by an “urgency message” in October through to November.

“There’s a big job that needs to be done in terms of, number one: the general public and engaging them to vote in council election, but also telling businesses and people who are not necessarily on the electoral roll already,” he said.

“There’s quite a number of differences between federal and state elections and council elections, and most people aren’t aware of those differences.”

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that businesses are automatically enrolled to vote in the Adelaide City Council area. 

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