The issue of residential qualification in participating in council election is becoming a major topic of discussion. The major problem lies in what is stated in one part in section 17 of the Local Government Act and then defined in another subsection. In short, section 17(1)(c) simply states that,
“a person qualifies to be elected or nominated as a member of the Council if he or she is ordinarily resident in the Local Government Area in which he or she seeks election;”
However the Act proceeds to define what is meant by ordinarily resident in section 17(2) as follows:
“(2) For the purposes of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section, a person shall be deemed to be ordinarily resident in a Local Government Area if, within the four years prior to the holding of the elections or his or her nomination to the Council, he or she has lived in the area for an aggregate period of not less than twelve months.”
It is evident from this that the Local Government Act envisages Local government elections to take place every four years and within those four years any person thinking of standing as councillor should stay in the local government area for a total of twelve months.
Many people have questioned whether family homes situated in a local government area could not be taken as places of permanent residence by family members who have taken residence in other areas. Those who hold this view should go to the courts for interpretation or call for electoral reform to eliminate any ambiguity of interpretation. It is also important to know that mayoral candidates or candidates for chairpersonship do not have to abide by such residential qualifications.