POSTAL elections are a failed experiment and it’s time to go back to in-person voting, according to veteran Stirling councillor Elizabeth Re.
Letting people mail in their ballots was originally intended to boost voter turnout but it’s been hampered by issues like ballots going missing or even being stolen and submitted with fraudulent votes. A case of stolen votes in 2021 led to the magistrate’s court invalidating the election results in Serpentine-Jarrahdale’s north ward, requiring a fresh election.
Cr Re, who’s been through five council elections now, says research now points to postal voting potentially reducing turnouts and it’s more transparent and accountable to run in-person voting.
“The ‘total’ postal option as an election voting method became available around 2003 in WA,” Cr Re told colleagues at the August 30 council meeting. “And it was considered an option to increase voting percentage.”
But she argues across nearly 20 years it only did that “marginally”, and postal voting may now be a hindrance as people lose faith in the system.
“Due to issues which have increased over the years with regards to postal papers disappearing from letterboxes, research has shown now that people are more likely to vote if they have to go and vote at a premise, than take a postal vote ballot paper and post it.”
Cr Re’s foreshadowed a notice of motion asking council staff to weigh up the costs and benefits of sticking with the mail-in elections or switching to a system where people would have a three week window to attend an in-person voting station.
She said postal ballots could still be sent out by request to those who need them.
Cr Re reckons it could also save the council some dough, as “the cost of postal votes is becoming a huge impact on our budget,” and she’s requested the savings be tallied.
Councillors will vote on her motion to investigate a switch at the next meeting.
by DAVID BELL