Residents in the City of Armadale and the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale were like chalk and cheese at Saturday’s council election.
Despite projected fears of voter fatigue due to the national referendum being held only a week prior, there was a significant surge of City of Armadale ratepayers exercising their democratic right.
In fact, all wards except the Hills ward recorded greater voter participation than in the past two ordinary council elections.
And there was a phenomenal turn-out for the hotly-contested seats in the Lake and Ranford wards.
Almost 40 percent of eligible voters in the Lake ward had they say in this election. For context, the Lake ward sometimes struggles to entice more than a quarter of registered voters to the ballot box.
While in Ranford – which recorded a voter turnout of just 22 percent in the 2015 election, and 26 percent in 2019 – more than 36 percent of people had returned their ballots since they were sent out a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, in SJ Shire, voter turnout couldn’t have been much worse.
Only 14.3 percent (3126 out of a possible 22,172) of voting residents put pen to paper in the first popular presidential race for the shire.
A measly 783 votes were cast (10.47 percent) in the North West ward.
For context, in 2017 there was a more than 35 percent voter turnout in the North West. There are now more than double the number of eligible voters in the ward (7690, as opposed to 3792 in 2017), and yet, there were 400 less votes cast on Saturday from the people of Oakford, Darling Downs and the north western chunk of Byford.
Even the more democratically robust voters in the south were noticeably more absent this year.
Nearly a third of South ward residents will usually cast their ballot in election years.
But on Saturday, just over 23 percent had their say.
There will likely be much soul-searching over the next few years to analyse why communities in the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale have become so disengaged with their local government.
What is clear, however, is that attempts by the state government to energise voting populations in our area hasn’t necessarily had the desired result.
Last month, Local Government Minister David Michael emphasised the importance of lifting the current low level of voter participation in local elections – about 30 per cent turnout on average – to make results truly democratic, and ensure successful candidates are more representative of the communities they serve.
The Cook government partnered with the WA Local Government Association (WALGA), to create a community engagement campaign ‘Vote for them’ that emphasised the importance of local government in the day-to-day lives of Western Australians, and the importance for all residents and ratepayers to vote for their local council representatives.
“Exercising your right to vote is crucial in determining who these decision-makers will be, and ensuring they are diligent representatives who make the right choices for you, and your community,” Premier Roger Cook said.
Despite more than 29 percent of people voting in the City of Armadale’s first ever mayoral race, that number still falls below the state average.