Social media drives doubling of council election complaints

Complaints to the Inspectorate about the 2020 local government elections doubled compared to 2016.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 at 12:00 am

Thursday 24 June

The Local Government Inspectorate’s comprehensive report into the 2020 council elections details the numbers and trends of complaints we received before, during and after the election period.

Complaints to the Local Government Inspectorate about council elections in 2020 more than doubled compared to the previous general elections, with 848 formal complaints in 2020 compared to 409 in 2016.

The Inspectorate averages 500 formal complaints a year but this rises to about 36 a day during the election period, about which we issued 139 warnings and provided advice or achieved voluntary compliance in 23 cases.

Chief Municipal Inspector Michael Stefanovic AM said: “The council election period is generally a vibrant time for local government in Victoria but the pandemic and the resulting restrictions on movement created unprecedented conditions that impacted candidates, election officials and the Inspectorate staff.” 

A third of all complaints were related to social media usage by candidates, community members and ratepayer groups. Social media complaints tripled, rising from 78 complaints in 2016 to 266 last year.

A total of 639 of complaints were from candidates lodging complaints against other candidates, while 67 complaints were about organised groups, such as ratepayer associations and community groups.

Mr Stefanovic said: “Our report makes eight recommendations to improve the transparency, accountability and integrity of council election process. This includes the recommendation to amend the Local Government Act 2020 to encompass social media or online activity in relation to electoral material and campaigning.” 

The report is available on our reports page.

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