Restrictions surrounding how-to-vote cards failed some of Shoalhaven's disadvantaged residents according to future councillor Liza Butler.
The Australian Labor Party candidate, who has been elected from Ward Three according to the ABC, said the COVID restrictions prohibiting how-to-vote cards being handed out at or within 100m of polling booths left many in the dark.
This was especially true for members of the Shoalhaven community who are illiterate, something Ms Butler said the NSW Electoral Commission failed to consider.
"They haven't been taken into account at all," she told the Register.
"I used to work at Centrelink and there are also so many people in the community who can't read or write and they've gotten through life by just memorising things and they hide it very well.
"Those people actually need that piece of paper. They know who they want to vote for, they're not stupid, but they need to copy it.
"They can put '1' there, '2' here. People who can't read or write would have been really lost."
"If they had a phone they were alright but there were a lot of older people who have hidden it for years and years who don't have a phone on them."
That confusion could be seen across the electorate with informal votes sitting at 14 per cent (Ward One), 12.2 per cent (Ward Two) and 12.7 per cent (Ward Three) at 11am on December 7.
That's up from 5.25 per cent (Ward One), 7.03 per cent (Ward Two) and 5.18 per cent (Ward Three) at the last election in 2016.
The mayoral informal rate is also up, sitting at 5.7 per cent compared to 3.89 per cent in 2016.
Ms Butler, who is running as part of a 12-person Labor ticket across all three wards, firmly pointed the finger at the lack of how-to-vote cards.
"People, especially the elderly who didn't have a phone to take a photo, found it really difficult to memorise the cards," she said.
"The feedback from people scrutineering for the Labor team is saying that a lot of people voted above and below the line.
"There was a clear intent of who they wanted to vote for but they voted everywhere. Without the how-to-votes, people were really lost."
Findley leads the way
Four days on from the election and the race for Shoalhaven Mayor has played out how many predicted.
The two heavyweights, most recent Mayor Amanda Findley and Mayor from 2008-2012, Paul Green, are locked in a duel for the top job.
Ms Findley has 32.9 per cent of the vote as of 11am December 7, whilst Mr Green isn't far behind on 28.1 per cent.
It's a contest full of experience with another former Mayor, Greg Watson, sitting in third with 14.9 per cent of the vote.
Mr Watson is one-third of a Shoalhaven Independents Group (SIG) block running to head up council.
Across the wards several future councillors have been all but confirmed by ABC chief election analyst Antony Green.
In Ward One, Tonia Gray (Greens) and John Wells (SIG) will sit on the new council.
Across in Ward Two it's a similar story with Dr Evan Christen (Greens) and Greg Watson (SIG) elected.
All four seats in Ward Three have been called with Amanda Findley (Greens), Mark Kitchener and Patricia White (SIG) as well as Liza Butler (ALP) to serve in the upcoming term.
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