MORE than 60 “occupiers” have been kicked off Perth council’s voting list.
An audit of the council’s owners and occupiers list, presented to the city’s commissioners this week, found hundreds of other former voters didn’t bother reapplying. The list was under scrutiny this year following revelations of bogus voters during the Power inquiry.
The occupiers section of the roll contains business owners or their nominated voters (two per company). All 456 potential voters were asked to provide proof of a lease, but 61 were unable to supply any supporting documentation or simply didn’t respond to letters or phone calls.
A small number (sampling suggests less than 1 per cent) provided a copy of their lease when asked, but the day of first occupation was after they’d applied to vote.
In a report to commissioners, the City of Perth auditors opined “on this basis the occupier nominee claim should have been rejected rather than accepted,” but the rejections “were later overturned on appeal by the claimants to the WA Electoral Commission” and they will get to vote.
The 61 rejected voters are coming from a roll that should’ve already been cleaner than in previous years: it now has 700 fewer people on it compared to the last election.
Non-residents and occupiers have to reapply every two elections and there’s a few potential reasons behind hundreds of people staying away: In August the City of Perth announced it’d now be asking for proof of eligibility for enrolments. The same month two people alleged to have created a “sham lease” were charged by police and the case is ongoing. The issue of “sham” votes was aired in August 2019 during inquiry hearings.
The non-resident owners roll was deemed low risk since it’s harder to fake owning a property, and auditing a sample of 110 out of the 2161 non-resident owners showed no irregularities. The residents’ roll wasn’t audited as it’s just the state electoral role.
The increased scrutiny will continue past this election: Staff processing voter applications have now had training by a solicitor and a checklist’s been drawn up to determine if a lease is valid, and they’ve have been instructed to seek legal advice on complex claims.
Signs of trouble
DESPITE contesting the most scrutinised election in recent years, some Perth council candidates are still breaking rules.
On Monday an email went out to all candidates from the WA Electoral Commission at the request of Perth council’s governance team warning that electoral signage had been found on “council land” like roundabouts and verges.
That’s forbidden under the council’s signs policy and the candidates were given until close of business on Wednesday October 14 to remove them.
“Our rangers will remove any signs left out after this date,” the warning read.
The warning comes pretty late in the piece: Voting opened September 21 and if the trend is anything like previous years most will have already voted.
Neighbouring Vincent is considering toughening its election signage policy after the 2019 race saw a rash of complaints.
The proposed rules soon to be considered by councillors would ban election signs in parks and reserves for amenity and safety.
A permit would be needed to be place a sign on a footpath, tree or power pole, or to be within three metres of a road, and there’s a host of other stipulations about keeping them away from street signs or intersections.
They’d also be forbidden from being on or adjacent to municipal buildings to “reduce the risk that a sign… is interpreted as having the endorsement of the city”.
One former candidate suggested Vincent’s strict sign clampdown would give incumbent councillors an advantage since they already had name recognition.
Stories by David Bell