Queensland Government

Local government elections are coming up on 28 March 2020, with candidate nominations expected to open on 22 February 2020. For a list of proposed key election dates visit the Electoral Commission of Queensland website.

Check your eligibility

All candidates must meet the mandatory eligibility requirements as set out in the Local Government Act 2009, sections 152 and 153.

The information below is provided as a guide. If you are in any doubt on your eligibility to be a councillor or require additional information you should seek independent legal advice.

Answer the questions below to find out if you are eligible to nominate:

Note: an Australian citizen who holds dual citizenship with another country is eligible to be a councillor or mayor.

Nomination process

Once you have determined you are eligible to nominate for councillor or mayor you will have to nominate as a candidate. Candidates can nominate for either mayor or councillor - but not both.

The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) manages the candidate nomination process. Factsheets and handbooks to provide information and assist candidates navigate the nomination process will be published on the ECQ website from late 2019. 

The Notice of Election will be published in newspapers, on social media and on the ECQ website in early 2020. The nomination period commences after the Notice of Election is issued and nominations are open for approximately two weeks. Nominations can be lodged with the returning officer, who will be the ECQ representative in your local government area or at the ECQ head office in Brisbane. Nominations must be lodged before midday on the last day of the nomination period.

If you are planning to nominate as a candidate, you should contact the ECQ as soon as possible to obtain the latest information about your obligations. You should also familiarise yourself with the Local Government Electoral Act 2011.

You may need to discuss your intent to nominate with members of your family, your community and others well in advance of formal nomination.

Mandatory training

If you make the decision to nominate for election as a councillor or mayor in the 2020 local government election, it is mandatory to undertake the So you want to be a councillor? free training course with the department before submitting your nomination to the Electoral Commission of Queensland.

The cost

A $250 deposit must be paid at the time of nomination. The deposit can be paid by cash, cheque or electronic funds transfer. This deposit is refunded to candidates who are successfully elected or those who receive more than 4% of the vote. The Local Government Electoral Act 2011 provides the details your nomination and the process to follow.

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
  • a member of a political party.

If you are nominating as an individual candidate you will need endorsement from six electors who live within your local government area (for undivided councils) or six electors who live within your division or ward of the local government area that you are contesting (for divided councils).

If you are nominating as a member of a group of candidates (i.e. not a political party) to contest the election as a team, your group must appoint an agent and register by 20 January 2020 or before you start conducting any group campaigning activity, whichever is earlier.

In Queensland, political parties can endorse candidates to contest local government elections. If you intend to run as a political party candidate, you will need to be endorsed and nominated by the registered agent of the registered political party.

Note: you can choose to stand for election as a councillor or as mayor - but not for both. Dual candidacy is not permitted.

For detailed information about these provisions, refer to the Local Government Electoral Act 2011.

Who to contact to nominate as a candidate

The returning officer for your local government area is responsible for managing the nomination process and ensuring the proper conduct of the election. The locations and contact details for returning officers will be made available when the Notice of Election is published in early 2020. In the meantime, you can contact the ECQ for more information.

The election campaign

After nominating for the local government election, you are expected to conduct your campaign in a way that maintains the public's trust and confidence in the democratic election process. You are expected to adhere to the principles of section 4 of the Local Government Act 2009.

Whether you are running as an independent, with a group or a political party, you will need to develop a campaign strategy to:

  • manage the campaign process
  • plan and budget for costs
  • keep records of all expenses, and donations and gifts received
  • coordinate timeframes for activities and media opportunities.

Your campaign bank account

As a candidate, you will be 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 the group’s campaign donations and expenditure. Only one account is required for a group of candidates.

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.
  • 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 on all campaign donations and electoral expenditure.

You are required to disclose donations that you have received to the Electoral Commission of Queensland.

Disclosure period:

  • 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.
  • New disclosure obligations for sitting councillors and local government election candidates commence on 20 January 2020. To transition to the new laws, all sitting councillors and announced candidates must lodge one-off ‘transitional disclosure returns’ within 14 calendar days of the new laws commencing.
  • These transitional disclosure returns must contain details of:
    • all campaign donations of $500 or more (cumulative) received from the start of the disclosure period that applies to you, up until 19 January 2020
    • all campaign expenditure incurred for the period commencing 01 May 2019, up until 19 January 2020.
  • The returns must be lodged via the ECQ’s Electronic Disclosure System between 20 January 2020 and 3 February 2020. Refer to the ECQ website for more information.

Points to consider:

  • Starting from 20 January 2020, you will be required to disclose any donations and expenditure in the ECQ’s Electronic Disclosure System (EDS) within 7 business days.
  • Starting from 19 March 2020 (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 or 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.

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

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 (i.e. after ECQ publishes the Notice of Election in early 2020):

  • 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.

Although the above advertising requirements only apply during the official election period, other laws such as defamation laws may also apply before and during the official election period.

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.

Social media

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 (i.e. after ECQ publishes the Notice of Election in early 2020):

  • 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.

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.

How-to-vote cards

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.

More information

Contact the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) or visit their website for more information about the election process.

In the lead-up to the 2020 local government elections, the ECQ will publish 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 in the periods before, during and after polling day.