There was a strong push to delay the vote, but the government last month confirmed it would go ahead and has since been adamant not to let COVID-19 get in the way.

On Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews said the new campaigning advice would make the elections as normal as possible.

He said contingencies would likely be made to ensure that there are no disruptions.

To abide by social distancing, the Victorian Electoral Commission is also pushing for a temporary new cap on the number of scrutineers each candidate can have when counting begins on October 24.


Candidates are normally allowed one scrutineer for each election official.

“However, if candidates choose to have more than one scrutineer present our ability to maintain occupancy limits and social distancing requirements will be seriously impacted,” a VEC spokeswoman said.

“In terms of scrutineer numbers, we have sought specific and short-term regulatory relief in order meet health and safety directives, which will allow election managers to cap the number of scrutineers permitted to oversee the count in each election office.

“Guidelines are now being prepared for election managers on how to apply the scrutineer cap. There are a number of variables to consider such as the size of the venue, the number of staff involved and the number of candidates on the ballot paper.”

The VEC may also roll out extra shifts for staff to reduce the number of people in a venue at any given time.

Gloves will be available to all staff handling mail, masks will be mandatory and offices will be cleaned more often.

The Kingston candidate managed to get some flyers out at the end of stage three rules.Credit:Eddie Jim

Alison van den Dungen has 5000 leaflets stacked up in her Mentone home, waiting to be distributed in letterboxes for her campaign to join Kingston City Council.


“I managed to get my flyers right at the very end of stage three … I got to maybe a third of my ward, and then stage four restrictions came in,” the independent, first-time candidate said.

“So I’ve been sitting here with about 5000 flyers in my study, then basically just increased my social presence.”

Relying on social media has caused its own problems. Women candidates say they have been taken aback by online bullying since launching their campaigns on social media.

Currently, women represent 38 per cent of local councillors and the government is pushing for gender equality in local government by 2025.

Socialist councillor at the City of Yarra, Bridgid O’Brien, fears all that work could be undone by COVID-19.

“We’ve fought so hard.”

By Wednesday afternoon, 61 per cent of candidates registered for mandatory training with Local Government Victoria were men and 36 per cent were women.


Of the 2402 people to register for the course – which is open until September 22 – 866 were women and 1476 were men. Listing gender is an optional response.

Tarneit resident Mehak Sheikh, a first-time independent candidate in Wyndham, has held off going to the printers while campaigning advice changed.

“It’s been constantly back and forth. Should we print, should we not? Not having a decision means that budgeting is quite challenging,” Ms Sheikh said.

“There’s quite a ripple effect of not having clarity. Do we fundraise? How do we do that? … Do we spend time creating these posters or do we try and reinvest elsewhere?”


Lesley Pianella, an independent running in City of Port Phillip for the first time, designed leaflets when she decided to run and is still deciding whether she’ll bother printing them.

But she thinks she could benefit from the reliance on social media, compared to older candidates.

“There’s two sides to it. I think it actually could give rise to new, younger people being able to campaign online better than maybe some other people would.”

In regional Victoria, which is currently under stage three rules, council candidates are already allowed to do letterbox drops, hand out leaflets or put up posters.

They are banned from holding community events, doorknocking or attending meetings.

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Rachel is a city reporter for The Age.


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