After a week of vote-counting, I thought it would be a good time to look at how turnout looks compared to the last round of council elections in 2016-17.
Shortly before the election I posted about turnout levels at the 2012 and 2016-17 elections. Turnout rates went down slightly in 2016-17 from 82.7% to 79.7% in contested wards.
As of Friday evening, the turnout rate in contested wards has reached 79.5% in 2021. So I expect it will exceed the 2016-17 level, but probably won’t reach the 2012 level.
Next up, this map compares turnout for councils which were entirely contested in both 2016-17 and 2021.
If you just compare these areas, the turnout is currently 0.1% below the 2016-17 level.
56 councils have a higher turnout, with 53 others having a lower turnout (so far).
Kiama and Waverley have the biggest turnout increase, both up 8%, while Fairfield is still 13.5% below it’s 2016 turnout. Fairfield is using a private election provider who is yet to start reporting postal votes, so that will explain part of it. Fairfield also didn’t have access to iVote, which may lead to a decline in turnout, but Penrith was in the same boat and is only 1.8% below it’s 2016 turnout.
A majority of councils are currently within 2% of their 2016-17 turnout, with just 15 councils more than 3% below their previous turnout.
It’s a bit early to make calls about the final level of turnout, because not all votes have been reported. I originally started making these calculations to get a sense of how many votes might have been outstanding in some of the close races. I think you can say at this point that, with the exception of Fairfield’s postal votes, most jurisdictions have counted most major vote categories, with just straggler postal votes yet to report, although there are some small booths still missing from some counts.
If there were concerns about turnout dropping due to COVID-19, that doesn’t appear to be the case. It does seem likely that there has been a shift away from election day to postals, pre-poll and iVote but I’ll wait for final data before analysing that trend.