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Lower Voting Turnout Likely

Mon, 20 Sep 2004

Lower Voting Turnout Likely

After a visit to a retirement village at the week end I am concerned that postal voting this year is causing great confusion. In one envelope delivered to residents there were voting papers for five distinct election, and varying numbers of votes required for each position. People told me that the choices offered in the voting papers were so confusing that they had given up and thrown the papers in the bin. This could lead to even lower voter participation than the 40% or so in previous elections.

The confusion arises from the fact that in most cities there are five elections being held at the same time. In the Birkenhead/Northcote area voters face a multplicity of choices..

In the ballot for mayor voters choose one out of five candidates listed. For the local community board the voter can vote for four candidates out of a list of eight. For the council the choice is five from a list of eighteen For the ARC the choice is two out of fourteen. That is a total of twelve selections to be made from lists totalling forty-five. Voters do not have to use all their votes. And the winners in all those four elections are decided on a first past the post system.

On top of that the voting papers also include a list of 36 candidates for the District Health Board. In this election voters are asked to rank as many candidates as they wish in order of preference.

An unexplained formula then works out which seven candidates from the 36 are elected. This is the Single Transferable Vote system, STV - which advertising tells us means Simple To Vote.

There is nothing simple about voting in this year's election - where confusion seems to reign supreme. This must be changed before the next local body elections.

True democracy demands that the election process is simple, understandable and accessible to all.


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