In 2016, we completed a candidate eligibility review by auditing 10 per cent of the nominations and checking their criminal history. Of the 210 candidates we reviewed, we found two candidates that were ineligible to nominate and they were removed from their respective ballots.
However, in 2020, criminal history was only able to be obtained where there was reasonable evidence to indicate that a candidate had a criminal record. The short timeframe between the closure of the nomination period and the printing of the ballot papers means it is not viable to check all candidates for eligibility and intervene where required. The system relies on candidates understanding the eligibility criteria and then correctly completing the nomination form. The process is vulnerable to candidates misunderstanding the criteria or having an intention to deceive.
In line with the same arguments made in our 2016 elections report, we need to consider whether to place an extra burden on candidates who wish to nominate for elections to prove that they are eligible.8 This could be done by asking a candidate when they nominate for election to produce a police and bankruptcy check.
Council elections are held on a fixed date and known four years in advance, with the nomination period open for a five-day window just prior to the election period. Police and bankruptcy checks are valid for six months and can usually be obtained by a potential candidate within two days of application.
There is little risk that an eligible and genuine candidate would be prevented from nominating if this requirement was in place. In terms of the greater effort or additional hurdle that is required by the nominating candidate, that is a question of balance between the importance of the office of councillor and the steps required to nominate.
Regulation 24 of the Local Government Electoral Regulations should be amended to require candidates to provide a financial records check providing proof of no current or past bankruptcies, a police clearance certificate and a 100-point identification check when nominating for election.
8. See pages 14-15 of our report Protecting integrity: 2016 council elections