Election day voting is underway in Muswellbrook Shire as part of the 2021 NSW Local Government Elections on Saturday, December 4.
Weather conditions in Muswellbrook have been hot and sunny for much of t the day of voting, a welcome change from the heavy rain and flooding which affected much of the Upper Hunter a week ago.
Residents of Muswellbrook Shire will elect 12 councillors from the 17 candidates who nominated, with polls open from 8am to 6pm.
Four polling locations are available on election day in Muswellbrook Shire:
- MUSWELLBROOK: Stan Thiess Memorial Centre, Victoria Park, Hill Street, Muswellbrook
- MUSWELLBROOK: Muswellbrook Indoor Sport Centre, Rutherford Road, Muswellbrook
- DENMAN: Denman Memorial Hall, 30 Ogilvie Street, Denman
- SANDY HOLLOW: Sandy Hollow Public School, Golden Highway, Sandy Hollow
With COVID restrictions in place and a strong uptake in pre-polling, the typical fanfare of election day is missing in 2021.
Candidates are prohibited from handing out "tangible electoral material" such as how-to-vote cards on election day as part of the COVID safety measures.
The traditional sausage sizzles are also absent from many polling places in the Upper Hunter, leading to a relatively subdued and business-like atmosphere at many of the voting centres around Muswellbrook.
At the Denman Memorial Hall, first-time council candidate Amanda Barry said there had been a "steady trickle" of voters coming in throughout the day.
"I spoke to one of the volunteers inside and they said there had been nearly a thousand pre-poll votes already it hasn't been all that busy today because of that I think," Ms Barry said.
After polls close at 6pm, the ballot boxes will be opened and the votes will begin to be counted, but no matter the result residents of Muswellbrook will see quite a different council compared to the one elected in 2016.
Four members of the previous council elected in 2016 will not contest the 2021 election, including former Mayor Martin Rush who retired in July this year after serving as mayor since 2008.
Councillors Scott Bailey and Michelle Green both resigned in 2020, while current councillor Jason Foy did not nominate for re-election in 2021.
The highest vote-winners may know they have won a seat on Council by late Saturday evening, however with a preferential voting system in place many candidates will not know if they are likely to be elected until the distribution of preferences begins from Monday, December 20.
Results will then be progressively declared until Thursday, December 23.
Voters in Muswellbrook will also not find out who has been elected Mayor until 2022 as, unlike many other councils in the Lower Hunter, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Muswellbrook Council are elected by councillors.
Once the election results are finalised, the elected councillors will meet in 2022 to determine the next Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Muswellbrook.