The Liberal Party wants to amend electoral laws in a way which could dramatically impact the upcoming round of local council elections in November.
Shadow Local Government Minister Steven Griffiths wants to amend the Electoral Act to make re-enrolment automatic for all South Australian businesses and property owners.
While voters already on the roll in for House of Assembly do not need to re-enrol at council elections each year, they are entitled to an extra vote for each additional business or property they may own.
These property franchisee voters have to re-register each election.
“It makes it more difficult for people to exercise their rights,” said Griffiths. “It’s important that we make it as easy as possible.”
Griffiths will seek the support of Independent MP and Local Government Minister Geoff Brock to pass a bill for automatic re-enrolment with or without Labor’s support.
“The way the parliament is structured now does create an opportunity,” Griffiths said.
“If we get the support of (Independent MP) Geoff Brock that means it can get through the House of Assembly.”
Local Government Association Acting President Mayor Rosenberg said the LGA was keen to see automatic re-enrolment reinstated but did not believe there would be time to amend the Act before this year’s council elections in November.
Labor is reserving judgement until it sees the detail of the Griffiths’ plan.
Griffiths has spoken to Opposition Leader Steven Marshall about the plan and will take it to Shadow Cabinet next week.
He hopes a bill will be introduced to parliament before council elections in November.
The reform may have a significant impact on the makeup of councils around the state by increasing the traditionally low turn-out of businesses and property owners in local government elections.
Whilst contributing a high proportion of council revenues, holders of property franchise voting rights submitted just 17.2 percent of votes at local government elections in 2006-07.
A spokesperson for Business SA told InDaily, “it’s unlikely many businesses would be aware of their voting rights”, although no formal survey had been carried out on Business SA members.
“We are, of course, supportive of what we believe is an important democratic process for businesses with a huge vested interest in the future of city of Adelaide,” the spokesperson said.
Deputy Lord Mayor Natasha Malani said it was unreasonable for businesses to have to re-register at every election.
“Why make them register? Why make them go through the paperwork?” she said.
“Whoever is paying rates should be entitled to have their say.”
Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood told InDaily businesses and young people were the groups which traditionally voted in the lowest numbers at council elections.
“I’m not saying that businesses should vote more than residents or that young people need to vote more than old people, I’m just saying that everyone should cast their vote,” he said.
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