Newcastle, Port Stephens, Maitland and Dungog residents all went to the polls on September 9 for local government elections.
Fairfax Media’s roving reporters were on the streets to report on every democracy dog and sizzling sausage.
10.30PM – That is a wrap!
After a long day of sausage sandwiches and chasing candidates we are calling it a wrap for the night.
Where do we stand in each region?
Newcastle – Nuatali Nelmes has claimed the victory for mayor
Port Stephens – Ryan Palmer looks to be the new mayor, but is yet to claim the win
Maitland – Loretta Baker is in front. It could come down to preferences, which means a final call will be made in coming days.
Dungog – Counting continues.
Thanks for joining us tonight and make sure you follow our wrap-up coverage on Sunday.
9.55PM – Dungog council so far
Here is how the vote stands in Dungog. Remember Dungog residents are electing a new council, but not a mayor.
Top three from each ward:
John Connors - Independent – 26.9%
Tracy Norman – Independent – 16.67%
Jan Lyon – Country Labor Party – 15.50%
Steve Low – Independent – 24.36%
Greg Riley – Independent – 23.51%
Digby Rayward – Independent – 19.42%
Glenn Wall – Independent – 31.26%
Robert Booth – Independent – 18.98%
Lisa Turner – Country Labor Party – 14.26%
9.40PM – No one wants to concede defeat in Port Stephens
Independent Ryan Palmer is clearly in the lead in Port Stephens with 31 per cent of the vote. Despite the figures it seems no one is ready to admit defeat just yet.
9.23PM – Wait we have an update!
Loretta Baker remains in the lead for Maitland mayor with 31.92 per cent of the vote so far.
Se has outgoing mayor Cr Peter Blackmore with her tonight for support.
9.20PM- What’s going on in Maitland?
The count in Maitland has stalled with Loretta Baker in front of Philip Penfold in the mayoral race. Figures have not been updated since 8.48pm online though, so it might not be time for a victory lap just yet!
9PM – Newcastle looks wrapped up for tonight
Independent lord mayoral candidate Kath Elliott has conceded defeat.
8.50PM – Back in Port Stephens
Family and friends have packed the Dingle residence at Medowie to follow the count. A tired but satisfied Geoff Dingle said with 10,000 votes counted, it was still early days.
"It was far more respectful at the polls today than it was last time, it went well," he said.
"Ryan's in front for now but it's a long way to go. Labor will go gang busters in the west but we saw that at the pre-poll."
Cr Dingle's biggest fan, wife Libby, said she was proud of the campaign they had run.
"I think we're doing tremendously well up against what people are saying has been a $100,000 campaign," she said.
"A lot of the people here tonight are those that Geoff has helped over the years and they've turned out in support."
8.35PM – Nuatali Nelmes claims the Newcastle mayoral chains
8.18PM – Ever wondered what the candidates get up to on election night?
Nuatali Nelmes arrives at her election party. The Nelmes camp have called it a victory in the Newcastle mayoral race!
We will try and get a clearer feed across to you soon.
8.10PM – Newcastle race continues
Labor's Nuatali Nelmes has a tight grip on the mayoral chains at the moment - ahead of her two major rivals by a significant margin.
The incumbent lord mayor has attracted 45.9 per cent of the first preference votes, with 28,961 counted so far, ahead of independent Kath Elliott (18.96 per cent) and Therese Doyle (12.94 per cent).
Suspended Liberal Party candidate David Compton has drawn 11 per cent of first preference votes so far, ahead of independents Ron Brown (3.9 per cent) and Rod Holding (4.9 per cent) and Socialist Alliance candidate Steve O'Brien (1.96 per cent).
After a slow start, Ms Elliott has bounced back into the race - likely to be the candidate best positioned to challenge Ms Nelmes.
In 2012, Jeff McCloy won the lord mayoral race with 50.95 per cent, while Ms Nelmes, who came in second place, attracted 34.58 per cent.
This election's number of informal votes (5.7 per cent) is tracking slightly higher than 2012 (5.3 per cent), but close to being on par.
7.50PM – The odds are ever in your favour…
Independent mayoral candidate for Port Stephens Steve Tucker expects Ryan Palmer to poll especially well tonight. But he's far from conceding yet.
"The west ward is where I'm going to need to pick up votes and the same goes for Ryan," Cr Tucker said.
"I had some feedback from people in the west that they wanted to vote for Ryan but they didn't know if he had the experience. Im not knocking him and a few of us have said this; if he wins he'll have our support.
"I don't think the same could be said for Des [Maslen]."
Cr Tucker's number two Ben Niland also felt Mr Palmer had the odds with him.
"I think Ryan's in the box seat. There's Good numbers coming through."
7.40PM – Who preferenced who?
The first numbers have rolled in for Maitland’s mayoral election, with Labor’s Loretta Baker shooting out to an early lead.
Cr Baker, who is in the running to become the city’s first female mayor, holds 38.16% per cent of the primary vote with 2,878 votes counted.
The next closest is Independent Philip Penfold, with 22.13% of the vote.
Counting has taken place for polling booths at Ashtonfield, Millers Forest and Woodberry.
It’s worth remembering that Labor and the Liberals have preferenced each other in third place.
Labor’s second preference will go to the Greens, while the Liberals have placed Brian Burke’s Independent Team second.
7.35PM – Off and racing in Port Stephens
Early figures out of Port Stephens have Ryan Palmer in the lead of the mayoral race with 36 per cent of the progressive vote. Sally Dover sits behind on 17 per cent, followed closely by Geoff Dingle on 16 per cent.
These are early figures and will no doubt change as the night progresses.
7.30PM – Technical difficulties in Maitland
Annnnnd looks like the progressive results website for Maitland council, who are conducting their own election, has crashed.— Lachie Leeming (@LeemingLachie) September 9, 2017
After an earlier website crash in Maitland it seems we have some numbers. Loretta Baker was in the lead with 38.16 per cent of the primary vote at that time.
7.25PM – Numbers! Finally, some numbers!
With about 5 per cent of the Newcastle vote counted Labor's Nuatali Nelmes is ahead with 43 per cent of the primary vote.
Independent Kath Elliott and Therese Doyle are fighting it out for second place with 18 and 17.5 per cent respectively.
Early numbers of course, but these results are from a mix of booths in Waratah, Hamilton, Tighes Hill, Shortland and New Lambton.
I don't think that this can be *good news* for the Newcastle Independents.
To give a tiny bit of context - Nelmes won the largest of those booths - St Thereses in New Lambton - with 39.7 per cent of the vote. Against Jeff McCloy in 2012 she didn't win a single booth in New Lambton.
7.20PM – It will all come down to how the numbers fall
Uncertainty reigns over the Dungog council elections, with it unclear when the nine councillors will be decided.
Returning officer Colin Norman said it was hard to predict a possible time for results to come in, with counting underway across the three wards as of 7pm.
Mr Norman said the final distribution of preferences and a final declaration of results will be made by Thursday, but depending on how the numbers fall, councillor positions could be locked in by tonight.
Results for the two referendum questions and four poll questions have not yet been updated.
7.15PM – Newcastle numbers
7PM – Counting has commenced
6.55PM – Let’s lighten the mood for a moment
Forget about the democracy sausage, we are all about the democracy dogs this year. Meet some of the polling booth pooches spotted around town on September 9. Take a look.
6.47PM – Back to Port Stephens
Mayoral hopeful Sally Dover reported mixed voter feedback at the polling booths today.
"We look forward to seeing the results later," she said.
6.40PM- Fact or fiction?
I'm told the count at one polling booth in Wallsend has Labor's Nuatali Nelmes with more than 50% of the primary vote.— Michael McGowan (@mmcgowan569) September 9, 2017
6.35PM – "I think we can all agree on that"
The Greens' mayoral and Ward Two candidate says many voters had expressed anger about the Newcastle Supercars race, during her conversations with them on election day.
Therese Doyle also said she believed many voters had "illusions" about the independent and Liberal candidates vying for spots on Newcastle City Council.
"[The independents] have promised better council services and reduced rates," she said.
"If the Libs and the independents get control [of council] that will prove to be a cruel hoax."
Independent mayoral candidate Kath Elliott also appeared as a candidate in Ward Two.
"We were pleased with the response we received today and we hope this is reflected in the results," she said.
"We have worked very hard and we appreciate everyone who voted for us today."
Labor candidate Carol Duncan said: "the overwhelming message has been about ensuring transparency and honesty for the wellbeing of our community".
"I think we can all agree on that," she said.
Liberal candidate Brad Luke described the day as "magnificent" and said he hoped it would be "a wonderful night for Newcastle's future".
6.30PM – We have figures
Some initial results from Port Stephens! The first absentee vote from Stockton looks like this:
Des Maslen 20
Ryan Palmer 12
Geoff Dingle 8
Steve Tucker 3
Peter Kafer 1
Sally Dover 11
6.25PM – Let them eat cake
Let them eat cake, Marie Antoinette reportedly replied to the gripes of the poor.
However, there was certainly no disdain for the common class today with Maitland’s own Marie a perfect participant in the democratic process.
Helen Hopcroft has donned the costume of the historical French figure since May this year in an attempt to boost the profile of Maitland’s historical past and potential future.
She’ll continue wearing it every day until May 2018.
The irony of her voting today wasn’t lost on the artist and PhD creative writing candidate.
“The French revolution happened because people didn’t have a voice in the democratic process,” she smiled.
6.15PM – Radio silence
We should start to see numbers roll in about 6.30pm, but for now it is a waiting game.
6PM – Polls are closed
5.55PM – Dungog residents had more on their plate than just voting for councillors today
Alongside the council elections, Dungog locals were also asked two referendum questions and four poll questions to help shape their town’s future.
The result of the referendum will come into effect for Dungog’s next election, while the poll questions will be used to gauge the public’s appetite towards a possible merger.
On the election front, 1533 of Dungog’s 5535 pre-poll voted, according to returning officer Colin Norman.
There are 20 candidates vying for nine positions across the three wards. The elections hopefully bring to an end a tumultuous period for Dungog Council, during which five councillors (including the mayor) and the general manager, Craig Deasey, all resigned.
5.50PM- I promised Port Stephens election hijinks, so here they are
Mr MacKenzie says he was "harassed" by the man, and "thrown around like a rag doll".
It's one of two Port Stephens election incidents that the police are now involved in.
A little detail I didn't include in the copy: Mr MacKenzie says he was handing out how to vote cards for four candidates, but, for whatever reason, wouldn't tell me who. I'm sure all you Port Stephens politics junkies will have a few theories.
5.40PM – Positive reception at the ballot box
Newcastle City Council Ward Three candidates say they have had a positive reception from voters on their way to the ballot box today.
But it appears that some voters have been confused about what they were there to have a say about.
Greens Ward Three candidate Thomas Levick said he had encountered several people who thought today's vote was either about same sex marriage or for a state election.
Despite that, Mr Levick said he felt "optimistic" and was eager to see the results as they came to hand.
"In terms of policies, [people were asking about] community consultation, there were a few people talking about cost of living - like families," he said.
Labor Ward Three candidate Declan Clausen said he had received "lots of positive feedback".
"At a number of our booths we have had to rush out extra how-to-vote [cards]," he said.
"It shows the campaign we've been running... has been really effective to make sure everyone is enfranchised."
Independent candidate Andrea Rufo said his afternoon had been busy, with large numbers coming out to vote.
"Feedback has been positive and all we can hope for is that it translates into votes," he said.
5.30PM – Too close to pick in Maitland?
Too close to pick seems to be the popular theme of Maitland’s council election this year, with six high-profile candidates jostling to fill the void left by retiring mayor of 22 years, Cr Peter Blackmore.
While a busy day for candidates and volunteers, many voters opted to have their say early, with a whopping 14,500 residents (about 30 per cent of the Maitland council area’s population) pre-poll voting instead.
The tightness of Maitland’s mayoral race means we probably won’t see a result until Tuesday, at the earliest.
However, returning officer Kevin Short is confident that Maitland’s new mayor will officially be announced on Wednesday, with councillor votes to be decided after that.
5.15PM – Port Stephens
The barbecues were lit early this morning for the 'democracy sausages' and we have just entered the last hour of voting.
If you're queued-up, what's the feeling where you are? You can tweet us @portexaminer.
The count should be underway about 6.30pm and we'll bring you regular updates throughout the night, taking you behind the scenes with the mayoral candidates as the tally progresses.
5PM – WELCOME TO THE BLOG
Welcome to the live council election blog!
We're about an hour off polls closing so if you haven't voted yet, scamper down to your closest polling booth and do it. There might even still be a cold sausage lying around.
From now until 10pm the Fairfax Media’s got you covered for all the updates coming out of the Hunter where council elections are being held in Newcastle, Maitland, Port Stephens and Dungog.
I'll be roaming around Newcastle with my colleague Nick Bielby. Sam Norris is in Port Stephens and Lachie Leeming is making trouble in Dungog. Jess Brown will have you covered from HQ.
We'll bring you the results as they come in, all the celebrations (and commiserations) from the election parties, and hopefully a few interviews with some of the candidates.
A few things to watch: All the talk in the last 24 hours has been about the support the Newcastle Independents have received from the Liberal Party. You might remember that a few weeks ago the Liberals disendorsed their mayoral candidate David Compton, and today the Herald revealed that the party's volunteers would be handing out for Kath Elliott. It'll be interesting to see whether that extra support from the conservatives gives the Independents a boost or if it turns some voters off.
I'm going to be paying close attention to what's going on in Ward 2. In 2012 Brad Luke, the Liberal Party's candidate, received a huge vote that nearly saw him bring in a fourth Liberal councillor. But that was in 2012. Post the 2011 election which saw a hugely unpopular Labor government booted from office, and before the Operation Spicer inquiry that saw a whole bunch of Liberal MPs from the Hunter resign. It's important because there are three other high-profile candidates running in the second ward - Carol Duncan for Labor, Therese Doyle for the Greens, And Ms Elliott for the independents. If Cr Luke doesn't pull the numbers he did last time, it opens that ward right up.
Also, in the last 24 hours there's been some hijinks up in Port Stephens (it wouldn't be an election in Port Stephens without them) which I'll be able to tell you about in just a little bit.
Anyway stick with us. We should have some early results right on 6pm, which we'll bring to you as soon as possible.
Want more information about the regions?