15 councils using voting system which ranks candidates

Source: 1News

A record number of councils will be using a system which has voters rank candidates in the local government elections in October.

Fifteen councils will use the Single Transferable Voting (STV) system which many say is fairer, though a bit more complicated.

Political Scientist Jack Vowles says STV is a superior means of voting. "If you actually want to get a wider range of preferences from your voters then STV will deliver that".

"Perhaps the main advantage of STV, as some would see it, is that you would no longer get the phenomenon of a minority mayor. That is say a mayor that might be elected on 25% of the vote from a very crowded field".

Vowles says there is some evidence that slightly less people participate in STV elections, perhaps because it's more complex, but the difference is minimal.

How it works

The majority of councils will still use First Past the Post, which mean the person with the most votes wins.

Under STV voters rank their preferred candidate with a 1, their second with a 2 and so on. Voters don't have to rank all candidates.

But it's how the votes are calculated that's a bit more complicated, though the overall idea is that votes aren't wasted.

For example, if your first option ends up not having nearly enough votes to win, your vote would transfer to your second option.

In another example, if you vote for a really popular candidate they may have more votes than they need to win. So you, and everyone else who voted for them, would have your vote split and some of the vote would be transferred to your second choice.

Rather than being counted by hand, votes are calculated using specially developed computer software.

The argument for STV

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins is the first to admit he is a benefactor of STV.

"So on first preference votes I had roughly 400 fewer votes than the highest polling candidate. And after the iterations ran through the gap was about 3000".

That means under First Past the Post he likely wouldn't have been elected Mayor.

"The main benefits of STV are that you end up with political leadership that has broad support from the community who has elected them," Hawkins says.

In Dunedin the city council is elected by STV and the regional council by First Past the Post, which Hawkins says is confusing for voters. "It certainly would be helpful for it to be the same everywhere".

Councils using STV

Four councils will be using STV for the first time in the Local Government elections in October, including Nelson.

As well as that, Nelson has some significant changes to the council's wards that are being introduced, so a lot of work is being done to prepare voters

Nelson's Deputy Electoral Officer Devorah Nícuarta-Smith says community outreach has begun sooner than previous elections. At the moment the focus is on candidates, but that will soon switch to the public.

"We're really aware that we need to bring the community with us. So we're in the process at the moment of preparing a whole lot of information. It will be available in plain English and translated into a number of other languages".

Nelson City Council is also planning public meetings so people have the opportunity to ask questions.

Full list of councils using STV in the 2022 Local Govt Elections:

Dunedin City Council

Far North District Council (first time)

Gisborne District Council (first time)

Hamilton City Council (first time)

Kaipara District Council

Kapiti Coast District Council

Marlborough District Council

Nelson City Council (first time)

New Plymouth District Council

Palmerston North City Council

Porirua City Council

Ruapehu District Council

Tauranga City Council

Wellington City Council

Greater Wellington Regional Council