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Checking out the style: 2007 Waitakere election

Checking out the style:

2007 Waitakere election watch

Over the next year, Waitakere City Council will be examining what style of election it will use for the next Council elections in 2007.

The options include keeping the existing first past the post voting system (FPP) or changing to the single transferable vote (STV); keeping the existing ward system but changing the boundaries; adding new wards; doing away with wards; adding Maori wards; keeping or not keeping community boards and; whether or not councillors should be elected by ward or city-wide – or whether there should be a mixture of both.

Electoral officer Darryl Griffin says that the law requires the Council to make its decisions in time for the next elections – and some change seems inevitable.

“At the very least, the Council will have to re-adjust its ward boundaries because the current ratio of voters to councillors does not meet the new legal requirements.

So, the least the Council may need to do is move the boundaries until the ratios are right. But there are a lot of options to work through and at the other end of the scale, they have the choice to start with a clean sheet of paper and review communities of interest which is the key attribute to be valued for effective ward representation.”

Mr Griffin says that councillors will be working their way through the options at workshops and there will be opportunities for public discussion and input.

,“We haven’t got to that point yet because the Council is still gathering its information. Never the less the public will be entitled to petition for a review if they don’t like the decisions the Council has made.”

One choice the Council has to make is whether to stay with the first past the post voting system or change to single transferable vote which is now used for electing health boards and some councils.

Under first past the post voting system people vote for the candidate they like best and the ones that get the most votes, win.

Under single transferable vote, voters are asked to rank the candidates in order with their most preferred candidate ranked topped of the list and their least favourite at the bottom. At the end of the first vote count the candidates with the fewest votes are elimitated and the votes for them are redistributed to the remaining candidates. This goes on until all of the successful candidates achieve the “quota”.

The other new option that has to be considered is whether or not there is a case for separate Maori wards for people on the Maori electoral role.

“We have been doing some preliminary work with the Maori community to see if there is support for this option. If there is the Council will have to decide how to move forward,” says Mr Griffin.

In terms of reorganising the existing electoral system the Council has to look at whether the city should continue to have a ward system. If it chooses not to, Councillors will be elected city-wide in the same way the Mayor is now.

“However the Council does have the option of keeping the wards and having some councillors elected by ward and some elected city-wide,” says Mr Griffin.

The very low turnouts at the local elections is a matter of concern to many and instilling interest and encouraging people to take part in the democratic process is a key driver in evaluating any changes.

ENDS

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