City tightens voter scrutiny

BUSINESSES will have to prove their bona fides before voting in this year’s Perth council elections.

Businesses, which can get two votes, play a huge role in the capital city contest where there are low resident numbers, but the recent state inquiry into the council heard allegations of “sham leases” to rig elections.

Not checked

State regulations allow, but don’t require, council staff to check if a business voter is actually eligible by requesting to see a lease or agreement that proves they have the right to occupy a property.

The inquiry heard those checks never took place. 

Governance manager Mark Ridgwell, who’d been delegated the authority to check, said they requested documentation for candidates, but not for business voters.

Three weeks ago former councillor Reece Harley contacted commissioners calling for a clampdown to ensure a clean election: “I strongly urge you to ensure that the CEO of the City requests a copy of every relevant lease for all current, and future “occupier” electors on the City’s owner/occupier roll,” he wrote.

“The Act explicitly empowers the CEO to request copies of leases in order to determine eligibility. 

“Given what we know has transpired at the city … I consider this an essential measure to ensure the integrity of the upcoming City of Perth council elections.” 

Shortly afterwards the city’s election information page stated they would be requiring “evidence of the legal right to occupy the property” for all business vote applications. 

Mr Harley has since referred several 2017 electoral roll oddities to commissioners, after noticing large numbers of business votes going to sole addresses. 

In one instance nearly a dozen votes were registered at a single office suite, which would normally only be eligible for two. 

This week the City told us they’d start “a process of reviewing existing electoral enrolments”.

Integrity

Mr Harley tells us “it’s good to see the city’s new administration taking the issue of electoral integrity seriously. I welcome a close and full audit of the city’s electoral rolls to ensure that all electors are indeed eligible”.

Last week former councillor Jim Adamos pleaded not guilty to charges relating to what police alleged to be a “sham lease at a property in East Perth” which “enabled electors to be enrolled that were otherwise not eligible to vote”.

by DAVID BELL

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