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Guide to Councils

Participating as a candidate

Who can stand as a candidate in a council election

To nominate for election as a councillor, a person:

  • must be an Australian citizen
  • must be at least 18 years of age on the election day
  • must be enrolled as a voter in the municipal district in which they are standing.

A person may not nominate as a candidate for a council election if they are:

  • an undischarged bankrupt
  • of unsound mind
  • a member of council staff who has not taken leave to stand
  • convicted of certain criminal or electoral offences
  • banned from being a company director
  • a councillor in another Australian council
  • a member of the parliament of an Australian state or territory or the Commonwealth
  • employed by the parliament of a state or territory or the Commonwealth as a ministerial officer, parliamentary advisor or electorate officer – who has not taken leave to stand.

A person may not nominate for election to a council if they ceased to be a councillor of that council in the preceding four years for:

  • failing to take the oath of office
  • being absent for four consecutive ordinary council meetings without leave
  • failing to attend a call of the council without a sufficient excuse
  • having been disqualified after a finding of gross misconduct, which has not yet expired.

If you are considering candidature for a council election and are unsure of your eligibility, you should seek advice from the Returning Officer.

How to nominate

In order to be a candidate in a council election, a person must:

  • complete a nomination form and deliver it to the Returning Officer during the nomination period
  • sign the declaration on the nomination form in front of a Returning Officer
  • pay a nomination fee of $250 (which is refundable if the candidate is elected or gains at least 4% of the first preference votes in the election).

Information and assistance for candidates

Information and assistance are available in a number of forms prior to and during an election.

Prior to the election, the Victorian Electoral Commission usually holds information sessions for prospective candidates. These sessions provide information about the process and enable potential candidates to meet the Returning Officer appointed to run the election. Details of information sessions are available from the Victorian Electoral Commission or the council.

The Victorian Electoral Commission also provides a comprehensive candidate information kit that describes the election process and timelines. The kit also explains the requirements of becoming a candidate and includes forms to be completed by candidates.

The local government peak bodies Municipal Association of Victoria and Victorian Local Governance Association often also conduct information sessions for potential councillors in the months leading up to an election.

The Victorian Electoral Commission website contains information about council elections, including candidates’ handbooks, which detail the requirements of being a candidate.

Key election dates

Candidates for council elections must adhere to certain key dates and conditions.

Entitlement date

To stand as a candidate a person needs to be an eligible voter in the local government area. Entitlement date (57 days before election day) is important for a candidate because it’s the last chance a person has to be correctly enrolled to vote.

Notice of election

Not less than 40 days or more than 60 days before an election, the Returning Officer must give public notice of the election and call for nominations to fill the vacant positions.

Close of nominations

Candidates must be nominated by 12 noon on the day that is 32 days before the election day.

Close of voting

The election day is the last Saturday in October.

In postal elections, ballot papers must be posted by 6pm on the day before the election day and they must be received by the returning officer within nine days after the election day.

In attendance elections, voters cast their votes between 8am and 6pm on election day 

Declaration of the poll

The Returning Officer will publicly declare results after the votes have been counted and scrutineers have had time to examine the record of the count. 

The Returning Officer will read out the person or persons elected and, where appropriate, the order in which they were elected. The event may include acceptance speeches by successful and unsuccessful candidates.

The declaration of the election may be delayed if the returning officer decides to conduct a recount.

Campaign donations

Within 40 days of election day, all candidates must give the council’s Chief Executive Officer an election campaign donation return. This will provide details of any gifts, goods or services worth $500 or more, received during the donation period for use in connection with their election campaign. This applies to all candidates, whether elected or not, and whether they received campaign donations or not.

The ‘donation period’ is defined as the period beginning 30 days after election day in the previous election and ending 30 days after election day in the current election.

Copies of election donation return forms will soon be included in candidate information kits and available from Local Government Victoria.

Within 14 days after the deadline for lodgement of completed campaign donation returns by candidates, summaries of each return lodged will be made available on the relevant council’s website for a period up until the entitlement date for the next general election. Completed campaign donation returns are also available for public inspection at the council offices for four years after the election.