Council elections 2020 have shown Indian Victorians are now eager to make a contribution in areas of society in their adopted home. With more than 130 of them contesting elections, it is evident they want to partake in the decision building processes that affect them directly. Hume council is no exception.
With multiple candidates in many councils – facing each other, thus targeting each single vote with passion and fierceness of a fighter, elections are sure to put them into a pressure cooker situation.
Temperature in Hume council is even hotter; it has had volcanic eruption.
With 11 candidates in the ring – even the ring master is feeling the heat. One candidate’s friend Jagdeep Singh wrote to Bharat Times alleging breaches of election rules had been committed. He raised the issue of former Mayor Cr Carly Moore using two versions of How to Vote (HTV) card to maximize her votes in two communities.
Cr Moore has Ravinder Kaur’s name at No. 2 position in one and Chandra Bamunusinghe’s name at No. 2 position in the other.
Mr Singh claims that this was designed to maximise Indian and Sri Lankan community votes. He also claims that the information was “misleading” and hence in violation of the rules governing council elections.
Cr Carly Moore confirmed to Bharat Times that she does “have two versions of my How to Vote (HTV) card”.
However, she also noted that “at least seven other candidates in the Hume election that have different types of HTV Cards. This is actually quite a common practise. I am aware of one State election campaign in 2018 that had five versions of a HTV,” the former mayor of Hume said.
Explaining her position, Cr Moore added: “I have immense respect for both Chandra Bamunasinghe and Ravinder Kaur. And as such, I wanted to support both candidates. Instead of choosing which candidate to preference at number 2, I decided to support both of my friends by printing two versions.
“Chandra and Ravinder also had this difficult decision and did the same”.
Cr Moore told Bharat Times she was not required to register the How to vote (HTV) cards because this council election was a postal and not attendance voting election.
On the specific question of having more than one HTV cards, she categorically stated, “you CAN register several HTV versions.”
To support her friends Chandra and Ravinder, Ms Moore added, “… they are working extremely hard to chase every vote for themselves. They are making lots of phone calls, are active on social media with their own policies and platforms”.
Carly who in 2016 election got the highest vote 6351 or 18.11% and was the first elected candidate ahead of Drew Jessop 3637 or 10.37% second elected, and Joseph Haweil 2495 or 7.12% third elected candidate.
Citing her highest vote in 2016, Cr Moore says neither she is using, nor does she need to use any dummy candidates.
“The use of dummy candidates is disgraceful and I will 100% defend my reputation from ANYONE who makes any imputation that this is the case in this matter… For clarification, in the 2016 election, I received the highest primary vote of 18.11% and I was the first elected candidate for one of the four positions.
“Dummy candidates have been historically used for candidates that struggle to get elected. Clearly, this was not the case for me previously”.
Bharat Times contacted Chandra Bamunusinghe and Ravinder Kaur for comment.
Clarifying her position, Ravinder Kaur told Bharat Times she was serious to get herself elected to the council. She insisted she was not there merely to support someone else.
“I am running a serious campaign to represent Aitken Ward on Hume City Council because I believe I can make a difference for our community.
“My plans for our community include a community hospital, a freeze on rates, and scholarships for local students… I am not contesting the election to support any other campaign, and if given the privilege of being elected I look forward to delivering on my positive plans”, Ms Kaur concluded.
Chandra Bamunusinghe, who has been a councillor (2012-2016) did not respond until going to print.
Confirming Cr Moore’s position on using different HTV cards, Hume Council Election Manager Gordon McFarlane told Bharat Times that there had been no breach.
Mr McFarlane confirmed that it was common practice for candidates to use different HTV cards to get maximum support from different communities.
Cr Moore reiterated she has broken no law, and says she is hurt at being ‘unfairly targeted’.
“I am also unsure why the focus has been on myself. I am a working mum with four children. I feel I have been deliberately targeted.
“There is a husband and wife who are running in the same ward. I can’t understand why I am being accused of running dummy candidates when a sitting councillor is actually running her husband as well”, Cr Moore told Bharat Times.
Meanwhile, a complaint lodged by Jagdeep Singh with VEC has been referred to the Local Government Inspectorate, the agency which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting breaches of the Act.
The VEC in its response to Jagdeep Singh, noted that Jagdeep’s correspondence points to “an issue around electoral material which may be misleading or deceptive in the casting of the vote and relates to a requirement under the Local Government Act 2020”.
Thus, whether an election is conducted by postal voting or attendance voting, both cases are governed by the same Local Government Act 2020, where the law is clear – there cannot be any misleading or deceptive information in a candidate’s election material.
Whether the inquiry by an Inspector of Municipal Administration leads to a different view to that of Hume Council Election Manager remains to be seen.