Bendigo councillor queries ‘doubtful’ electoral process

SERIOUS CONCERNS: Cr Helen Leach at a Victorian Electoral Commission information session last night – 'we’ve serious concerns process and have voiced those concerns to the VEC,' she said afterwards. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

SERIOUS CONCERNS: Cr Helen Leach at a Victorian Electoral Commission information session last night – 'we’ve serious concerns process and have voiced those concerns to the VEC,' she said afterwards. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

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A sitting councillor has raised “serious concerns” about the counting of votes at the City of Greater Bendigo elections – but her rival candidate has said it is not a concern shared by the community. 

Eppalock Ward councillor Helen Leach attended a Victorian Electoral Commission information session last night at which several candidates raised their concerns about the integrity of the vote, which closes this Friday. 

“The meeting clarified what the process will be, but there’s still a lot of concern from a lot of candidates about the process, which we consider doubtful,” Cr Leach said. 

“We’re still not happy – our concerns have not been allayed.”

Those concerns relate to changes to recent changes to the local government act, which will extend the timeline of the vote count. 

As of next Monday, ballots will be removed from their envelop – which identify the name of voters – and placed into secure boxes to be entered into the data base next Friday. VEC spokesperson Lawson Fletcher said this would ensure the secrecy of each vote. 

Among the most vocal candidate critical of the VEC’s process last night was Julie Hoskin.

The Whipstick Ward candidate led the legal challenge against Bendigo’s mosque to the Supreme Court, which dismissed the case in December. 

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But Eppalock Ward candidate Yvonne Wrigglesworth said those candidates’ concerns were not reflected in the wider community.

“It’s a simple, straightforward process that takes into account changes in legislation that means there is a delay of five days,” Ms Wrigglesworth said. 

“I have full confidence in a process that's been happening for years and years in Australia and through which we've always had a robust result and I look forward to the outcome.

“I’m quite sure that there’s not a wide-level of distrust – I absolutely don’t share that distrust and I don't believe the community shares that distrust in a well-known process which has been proven with its integrity time and time again.

I do not share any of those candidates or councillors' concerns," - Eppalock Ward candidate Yvonne Wrigglesworth

VEC spokesperson Lawson Fletcher said the counting procedures for the Bendigo elections was the same as the 2012 elections. 

“What has changed is the counting timeline,” Mr Lawson said. 

“Regulations introduced this year allow the VEC to accept postal ballots that were mailed by the close of voting up to 12 noon Friday 28 October.

“Given that results can only be determined once all admissible ballot papers have been received and included into the count, the counting and results timeline has been extended compared to 2012.

“The VEC has devised a count plan that ensures both ballot paper security and resource efficiency throughout the entire counting process.” 

Counting activities will commence in the week following the close of voting and full provisional results will be calculated and published after the extended postal receipt deadline, between 12 noon Friday 28 October and Sunday 30 October.

Results are provisional until the public declaration of results, which will be held between Monday 31 October and Friday 4 November.

Cr Leach said she was not “casting any aspersions” on the the ability or intent of local VEC staff. 

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