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Cr John Nell asks for Port Stephens Council to abandon polling days

CHAMBER DEBATE: A file photo of the Port Stephens Council chambers, 2014.Queuing upon polling day could become a chore of the past if Port Stephens councillor John Nell has his way.
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Cr Nell said Port Stephens resident clearly don’t like to turn out at polling booths for council elections as it is, if recent trends are any indication.

“The amount of pre-polling is increasing 10 per cent at every election,” he claimed.

“You don’t even need an excuse anymore as to why you can’t vote on the day.”

The matter was expected to ignite heated debate in the council chambers on Tuesday night.

The mayor, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, heeded Cr Nell’s call to bring it to council for discussion if nothing more.

The mayoral minute askedcouncillors to support a resolution to write the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton for permission to conductthe September 9 polls bypostal voting exclusively.

This would require a special exemption on the minister’s behalf since such matters must usually be resolved 18 months out from an election.

Cr Nell noted the council had not had that opportunity since the election date has only just been announced.

“If this [request] was approved no one would need to turn up at a polling booth on September 9,” he said.

The measure has its supporters and detractors.

Cr Peter Kafer said postal votes tended to support the incumbents.

“I’ve spoken to people in [state] parliament and they’re saying it usually favours the incumbents and people with deep pockets who are able to get their name out there,” he said.

“I’m an incumbent andI’m seeking reelection, so Ishould be for it but it’s not fair for others who want to represent their community.”

Cr Nell disagreed.

“You can make arguments for and against most things,” he said.

For him, there was one clear advantage for independents.

“It’s a hell of a job for any candidate to man the pre-poll centres for two weeks,” he said.

“Really, it’s no longer pre-polling, it’s a furphy, it’s just two weeks of polling.”

Cr MacKenzie said it was “really Nell’s idea”.

“People get really worked up on election day…it even gets physical. It’s a civil war sometimes with people handing out how to vote cards,” Cr MacKenzie said.

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