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Victorian council ballots safe despite lick-and-tick envelopes

The Victorian Electoral Commission has assured voters that council ballots are safe despite lick-and-stick envelopes being used during a pandemic.Voting has started to elect 76 new local governments across the state after ballot packs were mailed to enrolled voters last week.But the enclosed return envelope raised the eyebrows for some, with constituents required to use…

The Victorian Electoral Commission has assured voters that council ballots are safe despite lick-and-stick envelopes being used during a pandemic.

Voting has started to elect 76 new local governments across the state after ballot packs were mailed to enrolled voters last week.

But the enclosed return envelope raised the eyebrows for some, with constituents required to use the lick-and-tick method to seal their ballot and send it back.

When asked about the envelopes, the Victorian Electoral Commission assured NCA NewsWire they were safe to use during the coronavirus pandemic for both voters and its staff.

“The VEC has closely monitored the advice from the Victorian chief health officer in developing our COVIDSafe election plan, and we are prioritising the health and safety of our staff, voters, candidates and scrutineers,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Mail delivered to the VEC by Australia Post usually takes a day or two to be delivered and is mostly processed by machines when in transit.

“This lowers the risk of transmission of coronavirus through handling of mail items such as ballot paper envelopes.

“As a result, using lick-and-stick envelopes is safe for voters and for our staff who will be extracting votes following the close of voting.”

The VEC spokeswoman said votes hand-delivered to election offices would go into a special ballot box to be quarantined for 24 hours prior to being handled by staff.

Earlier this year there were calls from candidates and constituents to delay the council elections because of the pandemic, but the state government announced in August it would go ahead as planned on October 24.

Local Government Minister Shaun Leane said at the time the decision was not made lightly and was based on the best public health advice.

“The chief health officer has advised that October represents a period when risk is likely to be substantially lower than at present, and there are no compelling public health grounds for the elections to be delayed,” Mr Leane said.

“The chief health officer has also worked closely with the VEC and is satisfied that appropriate physical distancing, cleaning and hygiene and workforce planning have all been considered and integrated into the VEC’s COVIDSafe plans.”

The council elections for 76 of 79 Victorian local governments are all being held by post, with Casey, Whittlesea and South Gippsland Shire councils not holding an election as they are under administration.

Ballot papers need to be returned by 6pm on October 23 for the vote to count.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

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