Election campaign requirements
Electoral Commission of Queensland
The Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) is the independent authority set up to ensure impartial and democratic elections in Queensland, including local government elections.
The ECQ is responsible for:
- appointing a returning officer for each local government area who is responsible for the conduct of the election for that area, from taking candidate nominations to counting the votes and formally declaring the successful candidates
- managing the electoral roll for voters
- managing candidates’ disclosures of donations and expenditure
- reviewing complaints about candidate conduct during the elections.
All candidates for election as a councillor or mayor at a local government election or by-election must complete So you want to be a councillor? training before submitting their nomination, even if you have completed the training before.
View the resources below for more information about what it’s like being a councillor and what you need to know to run for election:
- So you want to be a councillor in 2020? fact sheet (PDF, 295KB)
- Ready for council elections in 2020? fact sheet (PDF, 70KB)
- Campaign donations and expenditure fact sheet (PDF, 91KB)
- Campaigning as a group fact sheet (PDF, 89KB)
For more information on elections and candidate obligations contact the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
Do you need party endorsement or sponsorship to be a councillor or mayor?
In Queensland, you can nominate as:
- an individual
- a member of a group of candidates
- an endorsed representative of a political party.
The election campaign
As a candidate, you are expected to conduct your campaign in a way that maintains the public's trust and confidence in the democratic election process.
Whether you are running as an independent or with a group or a political party, you need a campaign strategy to:
- manage the campaign process
- plan and budget for costs
- keep records of all expenses and all donations received
- coordinate timeframes for activities and media opportunities.
Your campaign bank account
As a candidate, you are required to maintain a dedicated bank account for your campaign donations and expenses. Groups of candidates are also required to maintain a dedicated bank account for donations and expenditure.
Points to consider:
- Credit cards cannot be used for electoral expenses.
- A debit card attached to the account may be used to pay for campaign expenditure.
- Should any election expenses require payment in cash, you may withdraw the minimum amount required to cover the expenditure. You must keep receipts for all transactions made in cash.
- Only one account is required for a group of candidates.
- A sub-account linked to another account is acceptable, as long as it is a dedicated account used only for electoral donations and expenditure. A sub-account must function as a normal account, i.e. it must be able to receive funds and expend funds directly and not via another account.
- The account may be in the name of an individual or an organisation or entity, or it may be held jointly in your name as well as another person’s name, as long as it is a dedicated account used only for electoral donations and expenditure.
Donations and expenditure disclosures
All donations and expenditure must be transacted via the dedicated campaign account, and there are limitations on how funds remaining in the account are disbursed after the campaign has concluded.
It is important that you keep accurate records of all campaign donations and electoral expenditure.
You are required to disclose donations that you have received to the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
Points to consider:
- You are required to disclose any donations and expenditure in the ECQ’s Electronic Disclosure System (EDS) within 7 business days.
- In the last seven business days before the election, you will be required to disclose any donations and expenditure within 1 business day.
- You must disclose donations from family members and companies you own.
- Disclosure obligations apply to donations of gifts or gifts-in-kind totalling $500 or more. Any goods or services that are provided to a campaign for free, or for less than their normal cost, must be disclosed at their full value (i.e. what they would normally cost).
- You must notify your donors that they have an obligation to disclose their donations of $500 or more. You can notify your community about their obligation to disclose their donations on a web site, through social media platforms or using flyers.
- Basic hospitality, for example tea and coffee or light refreshments received by a candidate at events, is not considered a campaign donation.
- If you have previously been a candidate for a local government election within the past five years, your disclosure period starts 30 days after your last election or by-election.
- If you are a first-time candidate, your disclosure period starts on the day you first publicly announce you intend to be a candidate.
- The disclosure period for all candidates ends 30 days after the election.
- The returns must be lodged via the ECQ’s Electronic Disclosure System. Refer to the ECQ website for more information.
Ban on political donations from property developers
Queensland law bans political donations from property developers and industry bodies which have property developers as the majority of their members. It is illegal to make or accept these prohibited donations. It is also against the law to solicit someone to donate on behalf of a prohibited donor.
Advertising material for your campaign may include billboards and signs, newspaper or radio advertisements, advertisements online, handbills (pamphlets) or other election material designed to influence voting decisions.
Any election advertising must comply with the Local Government Electoral Act 2011 if undertaken during the election period:
- Advertisements must contain the name and address of the person who authorised them. However, this requirement does not apply to car stickers, t-shirts, lapel buttons, lapel badges, pens, pencils or balloons
- Advertisements must not mislead voters about the ways of voting or represent a ballot paper in a way that is likely to lead to voters casting an informal vote.
- Advertisements must not contain false statements of fact about the character or conduct of other candidates.
Other laws such as defamation laws may also apply before and during the official election period.
In promoting your candidature, it is important that you comply with the relevant local council’s laws on advertising and signage for elections.
For more information check with your local council about their laws on advertising.
Anyone wishing to make a complaint about advertising that misleads voters or contains false statements of fact about other candidates should refer the matter to the Queensland Police Service.
It is important to follow best-practice guidelines when posting election material on social media pages as part of your campaign.
Election material includes anything able to or intended to influence an elector about voting at an election, or affect the result of an election.
Posts on social media must comply with the Local Government Electoral Act 2011 if they are posted during the election period:
- If you post any election material on social media, your account must state the name and address of the person who authorised the account. For example, you can put your authorisation in the bio section of your account profile. If you post any videos, images, or other material that can be downloaded or distributed it is recommended that those include the same authorisations directly on those items.
- You must not post any statements about other candidates that you know are false.
- You must not mislead voters about the ways of voting, or represent a ballot paper in a way that could cause a voter to cast an informal vote.
The above applies regardless of whether you are posting on your personal or official social media account.
For further details, a social media guide (PDF, 2.3MB) to help candidates and sitting councillors in managing their social media pages has been created by the Office of the Independent Assessor and the Local Government Association of Queensland.
Dealing with the media
Dealing with the media and promoting your candidature are important aspects of your campaign. This may include, for example:
- issuing media releases
- attending public functions where the media is present
- engaging in radio, television and print interviews
- using advertising to promote yourself.
You should make sure that your how-to-vote cards:
- state the name and address of the person who authorised the card
- are in the approved format
- are prepared well ahead of the election
- are given to the returning officer at least seven days before you intend to distribute them (e.g. seven business days before pre-polling begins).
For more information and advice on how-to-vote cards contact the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
Contact the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) or visit their website for more information about the election process.
The ECQ has published a range of factsheets and handbooks to help candidates navigate the election process and to provide information about the responsibilities and reporting obligations of candidates.
Last updated: 09 Nov 2021