Local government elections play an important role in Western Australia's democratic system. Ordinary local government elections are held on the third Saturday in October every two years. The last local government elections were held in October 2017. The majority of local governments conduct postal voting elections and contract the
Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) to run their elections. Local governments that conduct in-person elections receive support from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC), with a small number contracting the WAEC. The WAEC appoints returning officers for the elections it conducts.
Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all electors are strongly encouraged to vote.
Under the first past the post system, electors indicate the candidate, or candidates, of their choice by placing a tick in the box opposite the names of the chosen persons - up to the number of vacancies to be filled. The result of an election will be determined by counting the number of votes received by each candidate in the count. In cases where there is a single vacancy, the candidate with the most votes will be elected, while in cases where there is more than one vacancy candidates will be elected in order according to the number of votes received by each.
A local government may run either a postal election or an in-person election. Where a voting in-person election system is in place, electors may apply for a postal vote, absent vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.
The election conducted in each local government is under the control of a returning officer. The Local Government Act 1995 (the Act) provides that the council's chief executive officer is the returning officer for every voting in-person election unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function. The electoral commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in-person elections conducted by the WAEC. A list of returning officers is available on the
WAEC website. For all other elections, contact the relevant local government for more information.
If the office of an elected councillor, 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.
The Act provides for elections to be held for other reasons, such as after a restructure of districts or wards; after the reinstatement of council following suspension; after all offices become vacant; or after council is dismissed. Extraordinary and other elections are advertised under local government notices in The West Australian newspaper. The advertisements give 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.