Coronavirus crisis could postpone Queensland council elections if health advice changes
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Almost 1 million Queenslanders have already voted either via postal votes or at the pre-polling stations. (AAP: Dan Peled)
Native authorities elections and two state by-elections are nonetheless slated to go forward, however the Queensland Authorities now has the ability to postpone them beneath legal guidelines that went by way of Parliament final evening.
- The brand new legislative measures are momentary and solely apply to the 2020 native authorities elections
- Political commentator Dr Paul Williams says the powers now granted are “definitely unprecedented”
- Queensland’s structure has been altered to permit the Authorities to convene by way of video conferencing
At this stage, Queensland’s native authorities elections are to be held throughout the state for March 28.
The brand new invoice said that new legislative measures have been momentary and would solely apply to the 2020 quadrennial native authorities election “with a view to maximise public security and minimise the general public well being dangers related to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Nevertheless, beneath the phrases of the Public Well being and Different Laws (Public Well being Emergency) Modification Invoice 2020 that was handed, the Queensland Authorities now has the ability to:
- permit for the suspension or termination of the 2020 quadrennial native authorities election, if wanted, and ensure the respective caretaker preparations that apply throughout a interval of suspension,
- permit the timeframes for the receipt of postal vote purposes to be prolonged for sure electors,
- permit flexibility in deciding if a ballot is to be carried out by postal poll,
- present flexibility within the filling of councillor vacancies which will come up if the election shouldn’t be held in March 2020, and
- permit for the continuation of the Ipswich Metropolis Council and Logan Metropolis Council interim administrations if the election is considerably delayed.
Electoral Commissioner Pat Vidgen mentioned the brand new laws was mandatory.
“It signifies that if there’s additional well being recommendation and issues wanted to alter, it will permit some flexibility by way of how we ship the election,” Mr Vidgen mentioned.
“These are extraordinary instances they usually’re extraordinary amendments, however they’re required given the circumstances we’re in.
“It might imply there’s better flexibility to complete the present course of or relying on the well being implications, maybe a brand new course of.”
1 million Queenslanders already voted
Already near 1 million Queenslanders have voted both by way of postal votes or on the pre-polling stations.
“If there was one thing which meant we needed to cease the method now, we would must look throughout the board by way of what we have acquired, what’s excellent, how we’ll safe the ballots we have already acquired, and the way we will guarantee the group that any outcome we get down the observe is a sound and lawful one,” Mr Vidgen mentioned.
Keep up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
The Electoral Fee Queensland (ECQ) mentioned it had placed on extra employees to permit for the sleek working of polling stations and to make sure not more than 100 individuals entered a sales space directly.
Mr Vidgen mentioned he nonetheless anticipated nearly all of voters would vote on the primary polling day on March 28, however inspired individuals to take their very own pen or pencil, and to depart the 9:00am to 11:00am window for aged voters.
“Our intention is to get individuals by way of safely and rapidly, and we’ll want individuals to cooperate with that,” Mr Vidgen mentioned.
Griffith College political commentator Dr Paul Williams mentioned the powers now granted have been “definitely unprecedented”.
“In regular circumstances you’d discover numerous naysayers, numerous critics, as can be fairly proper in a democracy, [because] governments cannot arbitrarily transfer election dates,” Dr Williams mentioned.
“However I feel the general public this time could be very a lot in sympathy with this.
“Voters themselves do not need to put themselves in danger by standing in queues on the top of the disaster and that is why we have seen an enormous spike in pre-polling and postal purposes.
“I feel the Authorities’s on protected floor with this and it is most likely reassuring for voters.
“It won’t be in the perfect pursuits of electoral democracy nevertheless it’s far more vital to maintain Queenslanders protected.”
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On ABC Radio Brisbane this morning, incumbent Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner mentioned his newest recommendation was that the election would go forward.
“I spoke to the chief well being officer simply this morning, and there’s definitely no transfer at that stage to cancel the election,” Mr Schrinner mentioned.
“Principally what’s taking place right here is as an alternative of getting the election on sooner or later, which is the traditional scenario, it is being unfold throughout two weeks.”
Election should go forward: Legal professional-Basic
Queensland’s Legal professional-Basic Yvette D’Ath mentioned she had spoken to Chief Medical Officer Jeanette Younger, who had instructed it was “actually vital” the election proceed, with a view to present stability at an area authorities stage.
“Proper now they’re in caretaker [mode], and any delay means selections cannot be made and we want all ranges of presidency working,” she mentioned.
Nevertheless, Ms D’Ath added a big caveat.
“After all that recommendation can change and that is why we put contingency measures within the laws final evening – however the election is going on.”
Ms D’Ath additionally reiterated the recommendation from the ECQ, which was that voters aged over 60 ought to go early to vote.
Labor mayoral candidate Patrick Condren launched a press release that welcomed “unilateral settlement” among the many main political events within the Brisbane Metropolis Council marketing campaign to remove the bodily handing out of how-to-vote playing cards.
“Every political celebration will restrict the variety of volunteers current,” Mr Condren mentioned, including that he had additionally voted early within the pre-poll.
“This settlement is one which I welcome. That is the protected and accountable factor to do.”