The NSW Electoral Commission is continuing to count the votes after residents across the state finally headed to the polls after multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in NSW.
Results from the Muswellbrook, Upper Hunter and Singleton local government areas (LGAs) are being released on the NSW Electoral Commission's Virtual Tally Room as the count continues.
In the Upper Hunter Shire, around 10,000 registered voters were given a choice of 12 candidates for the nine-seat council.
In Muswellbrook, just over 11,600 eligible residents were tasked with electing a 12-seat council from 17 candidates while in Singleton, approximately 17,000 voters had the choice of 15 candidates for the town's nine-seat council as well as four candidates standing for mayor of Singleton.
The vote count began at 6pm on Saturday evening after the election period officially came to an end, although postal votes will continue to be received until Friday, December 17.
Council candidates across the Upper Hunter are now awaiting updates from the NSW Electoral Commission as counting continues.
In the Upper Hunter and Muswellbrook Shires, many candidates will have to wait until close to Christmas to know if they have been officially elected, with the distribution of preferences set to begin on Monday, December 20.
Results will be progressively declared by the Electoral Commission from Tuesday, December 21 until Thursday, December 23.
Upper Hunter Shire
As of midday on Tuesday, December 7, the results of only 4,510 ballots from voters in the Upper Hunter Shire had been released.
Of the votes counted so far in the Upper Hunter, three incumbent councillors had received the highest share of first preference votes.
Lee Watts was leading the tally with 1,082 votes followed by incumbent Mayor Maurice Collison (752) and Ron Campbell (496).
Votes from the pre-poll centres in Murrurundi, Scone and Muswellbrook had not yet been released at the time this newspaper went to print.
In the Muswellbrook LGA, the results of 7,269 votes had been released by 1pm on Tuesday, December 7.
Former councillor and NSW Labor candidate in the 2021 Upper Hunter by-election Jeffrey Drayton is currently leading the vote tally with 1,051 votes, followed by Rohit Mahajan on 841.
Incumbent councillor Steve Reynolds was in the third place position with 667 votes, followed by candidates Amanda Barry (637) and De-anne Douglas (601).
Incumbent Muswellbrook Mayor Rod Scholes was sitting just outside a quota position after receiving 489 votes as of 1pm Tuesday.
With plenty of votes still left to count in both the Upper Hunter and Muswellbrook Shires as of 1pm on Tuesday, December 7 and the distribution of preferences yet to commence, many candidates still cannot be certain whether or not they have been elected to council just yet.
Meanwhile in Singleton, four candidates are in the running for the directly elected mayoral position.
Incumbent Singleton Mayor Sue Moore was leading the tally as of 1pm Tuesday, receiving 38.5 per cent of the 6,362 first preference votes that had been counted so far.
Labor mayoral candidate Tony Jarrett was in second place with 24.11 per cent, closely followed by independent candidate Danny Thompson on 23.86 per cent.
Only 15 votes currently separate the two challengers to incumbent Sue Moore, however either candidate could still emerge victorious depending on preference flows.
The fourth mayoral candidate, Belinda Charlton, had received 13.53 per cent of the vote tally as of 1pm Tuesday.
Voters in Singleton also selected from a total of 15 candidates standing for election to the nine-seat council, including each of the four mayoral candidates who also stood for council seats.
On election day across the Upper Hunter, COVID restrictions meant typical fanfare of election day was largely missing in 2021.
Candidates were 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 were also absent from many polling places, which led to a relatively subdued and business-like atmosphere at many of the voting centres around Muswellbrook and the Upper Hunter.
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.
At the polling place in Scone High School, candidates Lee Watts and Tayah Clout greeted voters as they entered.
Ms Watts said it had been a strange atmosphere compared to previous elections she had participated in.
"It's a Saturday, people seem to want to get in and out this year," Ms Watts said of the election day mood.
Vote counting continues across NSW, with results being progressively updated by the NSW Electoral Commission on its website.
Successful candidates in the Upper Hunter and Muswellbrook will meet in 2022 to determine the next Mayor and Deputy Mayor of each Shire.