“I don’t know that I would want to campaign again as it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. It was full on and there was so much work and pressure. I was naive about what was involved and the implications for my family.”
– Councillor elected for the first time in 2020
The VEC produced a handbook for candidates who intend to stand which covered nominating, election campaign material and election compliance. The 60-page booklet used in 2020 contains numerous sections from the Local Government Act 2020 with explanations of complex topics such as authorisation of electoral material and electoral offences.
There have been considerable efforts by the VEC to explain the election process simply but there is still room for improvement. During the 2020 local government elections, we found many candidates who contacted us had either not read or had not retained information from the candidate booklet.
Candidates come from a range of backgrounds, including different levels of education, community engagement and different cultural backgrounds. They may have a very basic understanding of democratic processes or come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The language and design of the booklet needs to be made as accessible as possible to be able to be understood by as many candidates as possible.
Simplifying the text and using other means of communication, such as images, video and infographics, could also help drive down the number of complaints or queries received by the VEC.
For example, the booklet should contain images and examples of authorisations for social media so that candidates can see exactly what they are expected to do when they post-election material on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
If candidates understand the rules and processes of the election process, there will be less confusion and less need to call the VEC to ask for advice and help.
Inspectorate will consult with the VEC and have input into the electoral candidate handbook to ensure candidates receive simple information about:
- the rules and laws candidates need to follow
- how election material should be authorised
- what constitutes a misleading or deceptive matter
- the Inspectorate’s role in electoral matters.