Elections Policy | City of Casey
Skip to main content
Endorsed: 16 July 2019

Elections Policy

Version 1.0

Purpose and Intent

This policy addresses priorities to ensure Council complies with its statutory obligations as set out in the Local Government Act 1989.

Local Government Election Period

To articulate processes which will ensure the obligations under the Act will be met during an election period.

State and Federal Elections

To ensure good governance at Casey prior to and in an election campaign period, this policy has been created to assist Councillors and officers to act in the best interests of the community, whilst undertaking normal business, including the pursuit of legitimate advocacy in an unbiased manner.

Scope

This policy applies to all Councillors and Council Officers in period leading up to local, state and federal elections.

Definitions

Key term

Definition

Council

means Casey City Council, being a body corporate constituted as a municipal Council under the Local Government Act 1989

Councillors

means the individuals holding the office of a member of Casey City Council

Council officer

means the Chief Executive Officer and staff of Council appointed by the Chief Executive Officer.

Candidate

a Councillor who is endorsed as a candidate for election by a political party or who if not a member of a political party has announced their intention to nominate as a candidate in an election

Election

the Federal or Victorian State election, or a byelection for either parliament.

Election Period

a period of time determined by the State Government immediately prior to a Local Government Election where the current Council have restricted decision-making powers

Electoral Matter

material which is printed, published or otherwise communicated which addresses issues connected to the election, a candidate or which is likely or intended to affect voting in the election

Event or Function

a gathering of internal and/or external stakeholders to discuss, review, acknowledge, communicate or celebrate a program, strategy or issue which is of relevance to the Council and its community and may take the form of conferences, workshops, forums, launches, proportional activities, social occasions such as dinners, receptions and balls

Formal nomination date

date set by the relevant electoral commission at which nominations to be candidates in an election close.

Major Policy Decision

section 93A of the Act defines major policy decisions as:

  • the appointment or dismissal of a CEO, or the renumeration of a CEO
  • approval of contracts with a total value exceeding $1.863 million (this is 1% of Council's total revenue from rates under s.158 in the preceding financial year); and

the exercise of any entrepreneurial power under s.193

Public Consultation

process which invites individuals, groups, organisations or the community generally to comment on an issue, proposed action or policy

The Act

the Local Government Act 1989

VEC

Victorian Electoral Commission

Policy

Local Government Election Period

In accordance with the Act, the election period commences the day after nomination day, and concludes at 6pm on election day.

The Act prohibits councils from publishing or distributing electoral material during the election period and from making ‘major policy decisions’ including:

  • decisions that are made by Council, a special committee of the Council, or a delegate of the Council
  • any material published by the Council
  • attendance and participation in functions and events
  • the use of Council resources
  • access to Council information
  • media services

This policy recognises that advocacy is a legitimate activity by Council with the objective of obtaining actions and projects to benefit the Casey community.

During the election period (commonly known as caretaker period) this policy will ensure community confidence in the practices of Council, Councillors, Special Committees and Council officers by restricting the decision making of Council in the lead up to an election so as to avoid actions or decisions which could influence voters or unnecessarily bind an incoming Council.

Decision Making during a Local Government Election

Major Policy and inappropriate decisions

During the election period, s.93A of the Act prohibits Council, Special Committees or a person under Council’s delegation from making major policy decisions as follows:

  • The appointment, dismissal or remuneration of the Chief Executive Officer
  • Approval of contracts with a total value exceeding $1.863m (this is 1% of Council’s total revenue from rates and charges under s.158 in the preceding financial year)
  • The exercise of entrepreneurial power under s. 193 of the Act.
  • Any major policy decision made during the election period is invalid under the Act.
    To avoid confusion, announcement of any major decisions should be made before the election period commences.
    Inappropriate decisions
    During the election period, Council in accordance with s.93B of the Act will not make inappropriate decisions that
  • may or may be perceived to affect voting in the election or
  • which could reasonably be made after the election

Communications

Published material

Under section 55D of the Act, it is prohibited for Council to print, publish, distribute or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, material which contains electoral material. During the election period, all publications are required to be certified in writing by the CEO, stating they do not contain any electoral material, in accordance with section 55D of the Act.

Publications which require certification include:

  • Brochures, pamphlets, handbills, flyers, magazines and books;
  • Council newsletters;
  • Advertisements, and public notices;
  • Media releases;
  • Mass mail outs or letters sent to large number of people by or on behalf of Council;
  • emails to multiple addresses, used for broad communication with the community;
  • New website material;
  • Social media publications (which includes Facebook and Twitter posts).

Certification by CEO
In considering whether to certify/give approval for the publication of material during the Election Period, the CEO in accordance with the provisions of the Act:

1. Must not permit any materials to be published which include reference to the following:

  • the election
  • a candidate in the election
  • a current Councillor; or
  • an issue before the voters in connection with the election.

2. May approve publication of material which only contains information about:

  • the election process itself; or
  • Council information that does not include any reference to a current Councillor otherwise precluded by this policy.

Council agendas and reports
The Council agenda, reports and minutes do not require CEO certification. No major policy decisions are permitted under s.93A of the Act.
 
Annual Report
Council is required to produce and place on public display its annual report. When a report is to be published during the Election Period it will not include information about individual Councillors which may be regarded as electioneering.
The annual report does not require CEO certification, however any publication of an extract or summary of the Annual Report will require certification.

Social Media
Any publication on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and blogs during the election period must be certified by the CEO. At the commencement of the election period, Council will advise social media subscribers that comments containing electoral matter will be deleted.
Staff responsible for administering individual social media sites will monitor their respective sites during the election period and use moderation features where available to ensure no electoral matter is posted.
Information published prior to Election Period on Council’s social media and website is not subject to CEO certification.

Media Releases & Advice
Council’s Communication team undertake the promotion of Council activities and initiatives.
During the election period this team’s services must not be used in any way that might promote a Councillor as an election candidate.
Media releases will not refer to specific Councillors during Election Period. Where a spokesperson is required, the CEO or delegate will determine the appropriate person.
Councillors will not use their position as an elected representative or their access to Council staff and other Council resources to gain media attention in support of an election campaign.
Any requests for media advice or assistance from Councillors during the election period will be channelled through the CEO or the Director Corporate Services. No media advice or assistance will be provided in relation to election issues or in regard to publicity that involves specific Councillors.
During the election period no Council employee will make public statements or discuss with the media items which relate to an election issue unless approval has been obtained from the CEO.

Public Consultation

Council will avoid public consultations during the Election Period and will not undertake public consultation on a contentious topic which is subject to election matter. Where a public consultation is deemed necessary and approved by the CEO, results of such consultation will not be reported to Council until after the election.

Public consultation includes but is not limited to:

  • Community forums
  • Focus groups
  • Postal or electronic surveys
  • Web polls
  • Social media forums
    This clause does not apply to public consultation required under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or matters subject to s.223 of the Local Government Act 1989.
     

Attendance at functions and events

During the election period, current Councillors may continue to attend functions and events. Council run events will be scheduled to ensure only those essential to the operations of Council are run during the Election Period.

No election material or active campaigning is to be conducted at Council sponsored events or displayed in/on any Council building. Council will continue to prepare speeches for the Mayor’s official functions – such speeches must not contain electioneering material. During the election period the Mayor will not delegate to other Councillors any responsibility to represent him or her.

Council Resources

Council resources, including offices, mobile phones, IT equipment, vehicles, staff, hospitality, services, property, equipment and stationery must be used exclusively for normal Council business during the election period and must not be used in connection with any election campaign or issue.

Council branding

Council’s logo, letterhead, official photographs or events or social media brand must not be used or linked to a candidate’s electoral campaign.

Reimbursement of expenses

Reimbursement of Councillor’s out-of-pocket expenses will continue in line with the Councillors Support and Reimbursement Policy.

Information

Candidate’s access to information

All election candidates have equal rights to access public information relevant to their election campaigns. Neither Councillors nor candidates will be provided information or advice from staff which might be perceived to support election campaigns.

Whilst it is important that continuing Councillors receive information necessary to fulfil their elected roles, information or briefing material prepared or coordinated by staff will not be provided to a Councillor if related to an election issue.

Information Request Register

Governance will maintain an Information Request Register during the election period. This Register will be a public document recording all requests relating to electoral matters and non-routine requests for information by a Councillor or candidate, and the response provided to those requests.

Candidate’s Assistance

Candidates will be provided with a Councillor Candidate Information Kit to assist them in running and nominating for Council.

Council will run or facilitate information sessions prior to the elections, highlighting to candidates the roles and responsibilities of being a Councillor.

State and Federal Elections

To ensure good governance at Casey prior to and in an election campaign period, this policy has been created to assist Councillors and officers to act in the best interests of the community, whilst undertaking normal business, including the pursuit of legitimate advocacy in an unbiased manner.

Councillor to declare their candidacy in an election

As soon as practicable after becoming a candidate in an election, a Councillor must advise the CEO in writing. The CEO must advise all Councillors in writing as soon as practicable.

A Councillor who is a candidate for a State or Federal election should declare this at a meeting of the Council as soon as practicable after the formal nomination date.

Council Resources – use by Councillors

Council resources, including officers and support staff, hospitality services, equipment, photographs taken at or for official Council business and stationery, should be used exclusively for normal Council business at all times, and must not be used in connection with an election campaign.

Functions and Events

Councillors, including those standing as candidates, may continue to attend functions and events.

Speeches will continue to be prepared for the Mayor’s official functions and if requested, speeches will be distributed to the media at the discretion of the CEO.

During this time, the Mayor will not delegate to any Councillor who is standing as a candidate any responsibility to represent him or her.

Ward forums will not be held within six weeks of an election.

Media Advice and Releases

No media advice or assistance will be provided in relation to election issues or in regard to publicity that involves Councillors standing as candidates.

Media releases will not refer to specific Councillors in their capacity as candidates.

Councillors standing as candidates are not eligible to be Council’s official spokesperson on Council’s advocacy priorities. Council will nominate an alternative Councillor to be Council’s advocacy spokesperson where required.

Councillors will not use their position as an elected representative or their access to Council staff and other Council resources to gain media attention in support of an election campaign for a Councillor who is standing for election.

Photos of and references to Councillors standing as candidates will only feature in Council’s publications where it is related to usual Council business, functions or events.

Where Council’s City news magazine is due to be issued within six weeks of an election, Ward News will be held over, and alternative methods of communicating ward news will be arranged at the conclusion of the election.

Councillor candidates commenting on Council issues

Where a Councillor comments on Council issues as a candidate in an election the Councillor should clearly identify this fact.

Advocacy by Council

It is recognised that the community expects that Council will advocate prior to a State or Federal election for actions and projects for the benefit of the Casey community.

In undertaking advocacy Council will avoid “party political” positions and will instead advocate in an apolitical manner, for the benefit of the Casey community. Refer to 5.5 for advice on advocacy spokespeople.

Councillor/Officer protocols

Communication protocols will apply. Where required, the CEO will review if any additional provisions are required.

Customer requests escalated from Councillors in their capacity as a candidate rather than Councillor must be referred to the CEO in writing for action.

 Leave of Absence

A Councillor standing as a candidate in state or federal elections is encouraged to take leave of absence from the formal nomination date until Election Day.

Responsibilities

Who

What

CEO

Responsible for certification of all material published by the Council during the Election Period.  

Councillors

Responsible for adherence to legislative and policy requirements prior to local, state or federal elections.

Breaches

Sections 76D and 76E of the Act prohibit Councillors from misusing or inappropriately making use of their position. A breach of section 76D attracts serious penalties, including possible imprisonment.

Breaches under this policy will be subject to the Councillor Code of Conduct and provisions of the Act, as specified in the following attachments.

Relevant Forms

NA

Document History

Date approved

Change Type

Version

Next Review Date

16 July 2019

Document initiation: Merged the State and Federal Elections Policy and the Election Period Policy.

1.0

31 July 2023

ATTACHMENT 1 – S. 55D LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1989

  1. A Council must not print, publish or distribute or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, any advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice during the election period unless the advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice has been certified, in writing, by the Chief Executive Officer.
     
  2. The Chief Executive Officer must not intentionally or recklessly certify an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice during the election period unless it only contains information about the election process.

 60 penalty units.
 

  1. Despite section 98(2), the Chief Executive Officer must not delegate the power to certify any advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice under this section to a member of Council staff.
     
  2. A Councillor or member of Council staff must not intentionally or recklessly print, publish or distribute or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice during the election period on behalf of, or in the name of, the Council or on behalf of, or in the name of, a Councillor using Council resources if the electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice has not been certified by the Chief Executive Officer under this section.

60 penalty units.

ATTACHMENT 2 – S. 76D LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT

  1. A person who is, or has been, a Councillor or member of a special committee must not misuse his or her position—
     
  2. to gain or attempt to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for themselves or for any other person; or
     
  3. to cause, or attempt to cause, detriment to the Council or another person.
     

600 penalty units or imprisonment for 5 years or both.
 

For the purposes of this section, circumstances involving the misuse of a position by a person who is, or has been, a Councillor or member of a special committee include—

  • making improper use of information acquired as a result of the position he or she held or holds; or
  • disclosing information that is confidential information within the meaning of section 77(2); or
  • directing or improperly influencing, or seeking to direct or improperly Influence, a member of Council staff in contravention of section 76E; or
  • exercising or performing, or purporting to exercise or perform, a power, duty or function that he or she is not authorised to exercise or perform; or
  • using public funds or resources in a manner that is improper or unauthorised; or
  • failing to disclose a conflict of interest as required under this Division.

 
ATTACHMENT 3 – S. 76E LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT
 
Improper direction and improper influence

A Councillor must not improperly direct or improperly influence, or seek to improperly direct or improperly influence, a member of Council staff in the exercise of any power or in the performance of any duty or function by the member.

A Councillor must not direct, or seek to direct, a member of Council staff—

  • in the exercise of a delegated power, or the performance of a delegated duty or function of the Council; or
  • in the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty or function exercised or performed by the member as an authorised officer under this Act or any other Act; or
  • in the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty or function the member exercises or performs in an office or position the member holds under another Act; or
  • in relation to advice provided to the Council or a special committee, including advice in a report to the Council or special committee.

This section does not apply to a decision of the Council or a special committee that is made within the powers, duties or functions conferred under this or any other Act.

ATTACHMENT 4 – S. 93B LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT

Conduct of Council during election period

  • Subject to this section, a Council, a special Committee or a person acting under a delegation given by the Council must not make a major policy decision during the election period for a general election.
  • If a Council considers that there are extraordinary circumstances which require the making of a major policy decision during the election period, the Council may apply in writing to the Minister for an exemption from the application of this section to the major policy decision specified in the application.
  • If the Minister is satisfied that there are extraordinary circumstances, the Minister may grant an exemption from the application of this section to the major policy decision specified in the application subject to any conditions or limitations that the Minister considers appropriate.
  • A major policy decision made in contravention of this section is invalid.
  • Any person who suffers any loss or damage as a result of acting in good faith on a major policy decision made in contravention of this section is entitled to compensation from the Council for that loss or damage.

In this section, a major policy decision means any decision—

  • relating to the employment or remuneration of a Chief Executive Officer under section 94, other than a decision to appoint an acting Chief Executive Officer;
  • to terminate the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer under section 94;
  • to enter into a contract the total value of which exceeds whichever is the greater of—
  • $100 000 or such higher amount as may be fixed by Order in Council under section 186(1); or
  • 1% of the Council's revenue from rates and charges levied under section 158 in the preceding financial year;
  • to exercise any power under section 193 if the sum assessed under section 193(5A) in respect of the proposal exceeds whichever is the greater of $100 000 or 1% of the Council's revenue from rates and charges levied under section 158 in the preceding financial year.