Local government elections are a vital part of Western Australia's democratic system.

Under the Local Government Act 1995 (Act), Ordinary local elections are held every two years on the third Saturday in October. Council members are elected for a term of up to four years.

The most recent Ordinary elections were held in October 2019, and the next elections will be held on 16 October 2021.

The Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) is the lead State agency for electoral services in WA. The WAEC also plays a key role in local elections.

Ahead of a local election, each local council will determine whether the local election will be conducted by in-person or postal voting. If the election will be by postal voting, the WAEC must conduct the election on behalf of the local government.

The majority of local governments elect to hold postal voting elections conducted by the WAEC.

If the election will be by in-person voting, then either the local government or the WAEC may conduct the election. This is determined by the local council. 


Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all local electors are strongly encouraged to vote.

First past the post

Local government elections are conducted using the ‘first past the post’ system. This means the result of an election is determined by simply counting the number of votes received by each candidate and the candidates with the most votes win until all vacancies are filled.

Where there is a single vacancy, the candidate with the most votes will be elected; where there is more than one vacancy, candidates will be elected in order according to the number of votes received by each.

In-person and postal voting

Where an in-person election is held, electors may apply for a postal vote, absentee vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.

Returning officers

The conduct of each local election is managed by a returning officer.

The Electoral Commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in-person elections conducted by the WAEC. A list of these returning officers is available on the WAEC website.

If the local government decides to conduct the election, the Chief Executive Officer of the local government is the returning officer, unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function..

For these elections, please contact the relevant local government for more information.

Extraordinary elections

If the office of an elected council member, mayor or president becomes vacant due to the death or resignation of a member, or another reason listed in the Act, an Extraordinary election must be held within four months of the vacancy occurring.

The filling of extraordinary vacancies that occur after the third Saturday in January and up until the third Saturday in July in an election year can be deferred if approved by the electoral commissioner under the Act.

Other elections

The Act provides for elections to be held in certain circumstances, such as:

  • a restructure of districts or wards
  • the reinstatement of a council following suspension
  • all offices become vacant
  • a council is dismissed.

Public notices

Public notice of local elections are published in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The notices provide details about enrolling to vote, nominating to be a candidate in the elections, the ways in which a vote can be cast and the date of the election.

Returning Officer Manual

Local government elections are an important means by which council members are held accountable for their performance as community representatives. Local governments play a key role in supporting the integrity of the election process.

Elections must be conducted to the highest standards of fairness and propriety to maintain public confidence in the democratic process. It is the returning officer’s responsibility to ensure those standards are achieved. 

The Returning Officer Manual is an important resource for returning officers.

Presiding/Electoral Officer Manual

The presiding officer, also known as an electoral officer, is pivotal to the smooth running of an election. 

Presiding and electoral officers must act lawfully, professionally, impartially and with fairness, honesty and integrity and follow procedures correctly. The manner in which a presiding or electoral officer carries out their functions is under scrutiny on an election day.

The Presiding Officer Manual is an important resource for presiding and electoral officers.

Download the manuals

Visit www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/local-government/local-governments/council-elections to download the 2021 manuals.

Key election milestones