Local government elections

​​​​​Local government elections are a vital part of Western Australia's democratic system.

Under the Local Government Act 1995 (Act), Ordinary local elections are held every two years on the third Saturday in October. Council members are elected for a term of up to four years.

The most recent Ordinary elections were held in October 2019, and the next elections will be held on 16 October 2021.

The Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) is the lead State agency for electoral services in WA. The WAEC also plays a key role in local elections.

Ahead of a local election, each local council will determine whether the local election will be conducted by in-person or postal voting. If the election will be by postal voting, the WAEC must conduct the election on behalf of the local government.

The majority of local governments elect to hold postal voting elections conducted by the WAEC.

If the election will be by in-person voting, then either the local government or the WAEC may conduct the election. This is determined by the local council. 

Illustration of people with the message: Be a vocal local

Be a Vocal Local and stand for council 

The Vocal Local campaign is a partnership between WALGA and the department, with support from Local Government Professionals WA and the WA Electoral Commission.

Local governments are encouraged to download and share these Vocal Local social media tiles and posters to spread the message and encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to stand for council.

Voting

Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all local electors are strongly encouraged to vote.

First past the post

Local government elections are conducted using the ‘first past the post’ system. This means the result of an election is determined by simply counting the number of votes received by each candidate and the candidates with the most votes win until all vacancies are filled.

Where there is a single vacancy, the candidate with the most votes will be elected; where there is more than one vacancy, candidates will be elected in order according to the number of votes received by each.

In-person and postal voting

Where an in-person election is held, electors may apply for a postal vote, absentee vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.

Returning officers

The conduct of each local election is managed by a returning officer.

The Electoral Commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in-person elections conducted by the WAEC. A list of these returning officers is available on the WAEC website.

If the local government decides to conduct the election, the Chief Executive Officer of the local government is the returning officer, unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function..

For these elections, please contact the relevant local government for more information.

Extraordinary elections

If the office of an elected council member, mayor or president becomes vacant due to the death or resignation of a member, or another reason listed in the Act, an Extraordinary election must be held within four months of the vacancy occurring.

The filling of extraordinary vacancies that occur after the third Saturday in January and up until the third Saturday in July in an election year can be deferred if approved by the electoral commissioner under the Act.

Other elections

The Act provides for elections to be held in certain circumstances, such as:

  • a restructure of districts or wards
  • the reinstatement of a council following suspension
  • all offices become vacant
  • a council is dismissed.

Public notices

Public notice of local elections are published in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The notices provide details about enrolling to vote, nominating to be a candidate in the elections, the ways in which a vote can be cast and the date of the election.

Returning Officer Manual

Local government elections are an important means by which council members are held accountable for their performance as community representatives. Local governments play a key role in supporting the integrity of the election process.

Elections must be conducted to the highest standards of fairness and propriety to maintain public confidence in the democratic process. It is the returning officer’s responsibility to ensure those standards are achieved. 

The Returning Officer Manual is an important resource for returning officers.

Presiding/Electoral Officer Manual

The presiding officer, also known as an electoral officer, is pivotal to the smooth running of an election. 

Presiding and electoral officers must act lawfully, professionally, impartially and with fairness, honesty and integrity and follow procedures correctly. The manner in which a presiding or electoral officer carries out their functions is under scrutiny on an election day.

The Presiding Officer Manual is an important resource for presiding and electoral officers.

Download the manuals

Note: Updates to these manuals are currently underway. The 2021 manuals will be published online in due course.

Guide for Scrutineers

Scrutineers play an important role in local government elections . Candidates have the right to appoint scrutineers to represent their interests by observing the conduct of the election at close hand to check that legal requirements are being met.

Scrutineers must understand the election process, and the responsibilities and duties of the individuals involved, so they can fulfill their role effectively.

The Guide for Scrutineers provides useful information for scrutineers.

Note: Updates to the Guide are currently underway. The 2021 Guide for Scrutineers will be published online in due course.

Key election milestones

Days from polling day Election activities or eventsRelevant Act sections or RegulationsDayDate
273 to 92If an elected member's office becomes vacant on or between these days, the council may, with the approval of the Electoral Commissioner, allow the vacancy to remain unfilled until the ordinary election.LGA s4.16(4)
LGA s4.17(2)
Sat to Fri16/01/2021 to 16/07/2021
91If an elected member's office becomes vacant on or after this day the vacancy will remain unfilled until the ordinary election.LGA s4.16(2)(3)
LGA s4.17(1)
Sat17/07/2021
80Last day for local governments to gain agreement from the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election (compulsory if intent is to hold a postal election).LGA s4.20 (2)(3)(4)
LGA s4.61
(2)(4)
Wed28/07/2021
80A decision for the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election cannot be rescinded after this day.LGA s4.20(6)
LGA s4.61(5)
Wed28/07/2021
70 to 56Between these days, the CEO of the local government is to give Statewide public notice of the closing date and time for elector enrolments.LGA s4.39(2)Sat to Sat7/08/2021 to 21/08/2021
56Last day for the local government's CEO to advise the Electoral Commissioner of the need to prepare an updated residents roll.LGA s4.40(1)Sat21/08/2021
56Advertising may begin for council nominations from 56 days, and no later than 45 days, before election day.LGA s4.47(1)Sat21/08/2021
50Close of Rolls – 5.00pmLGA 4.39(1)Fri27/08/2021
45Last day for advertisement to be placed calling for council nominations.LGA s4.47(1)Wed1/09/2021
44Nominations Open
First day for candidates to lodge completed nomination papers, in the prescribed form, with the Returning Officer. Nominations are open for 8 days.
LGA s4.49(a)Thu2/09/2021
38If a candidate's nomination is withdrawn not later than 4.00pm on this day, the candidate's deposit is to be refunded.LGA s4.50
Reg. 27(5)
Wed8/09/2021
37Close of Nominations – 4.00pmLGA 4.49(a)Thu9/09/2021
36Last day for the Electoral Commissioner to prepare an updated residents roll for the election. Last day for the local government's CEO to prepare an owners and occupiers roll.LGA s4.40(2)
LGA s4.41(1)
Fri10/09/2021
36Returning Officer to give Statewide public notice of the election as soon as practicable but no later than 19 days before election day.LGA s4.64(1)As soon as practicable
22The preparation of any consolidated roll (combined roll of residents, owners and occupiers) under regulation 18(1) is to be completed on or before this day.LGA s4.38(1)
Reg. 18(1)(2)
Fri24/09/2021
19Last day for the Returning Officer to give Statewide public notice of the election.LGA s4.64(1)Mon27/09/2021
4Close of absent voting and close of postal vote applications for 'voting in person' elections – 4.00pm.LGA s4.68(1)(c)
Reg. 37(3)(4)
Tue12/10/2021
1Close of early voting for 'voting in person' elections – 4.00pm.LGA s4.71(1)(e)
Reg. 59(2)
Fri15/10/2021
0Election Day
Close of poll – 6.00pm.
LGA s4.7
LGA s4.68(1)(e) 
Sat16/10/2021
2Election results declared and published.LGA s4.77As soon as practicable
2 to 14Report to Minister. The report relating to an election under section 4.79 is to be provided to the Minister within 14 days after the declaration of the result of the election. (See Online 'Form 20' at www.dlgc.wa.gov.au)LGA s4.79(1)(2)
Reg. 81
As soon as practicable
Within 28 days of result publicationAn invalidity complaint can be made to a Court of Disputed Returns, constituted by a magistrate, but can only be made within 28 days after notice is given of the result of the election.LGA s4.81(1)As applicable
Within 2 months of result declarationNewly elected members to make their declarations of office.LGA s2.29(1)(2)
LGA s2.32(c)
LGA s2.34(1)(c) 
As soon as practicable
Within 3 months of members making declarationsNewly elected members to lodge their Primary Returns with the local government's CEO.LGA s5.75(1)As soon as practicable
* All Act sections refer to the Local Government Act 1995.  All regulations refer to the Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.
Page reviewed 31 July 2019