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Voters can choose local authority electoral system

21 February 2003 Media Statement

Voters can choose local authority electoral system

Voters for at least 10 Councils around the country will be able to decide in the next few months which electoral system they want used for their 2004 local body elections.

Polls are being held to determine whether the FPP (First Past the Post) system is retained or replaced with STV (Single Transferable Vote).

Local Government Minister Chris Carter said the Government was supporting local authorities in providing objective information for voters about their choices.

“It’s important that people are provided with objective information about the two options they’re voting on and we’re supporting councils in providing material that is clear and readily understood. More detailed information is available on the website www.stv.govt.nz or by contacting local electoral officers,” Mr Carter said.

Funding for public education about the electoral systems people could
choose from was proposed by the Green Party and set aside in the 2002/3
budget, he said.

In the coming months polls are scheduled in Banks Peninsula, Carterton, Christchurch, Dunedin, Horowhenua, Masterton, Nelson, Tararua, Thames and Waipa. Banks Peninsula leads the way with its poll date set for 8 March. The others will take place in April and May. Polls may also take place in other regions.

Local authorities had until September 2002 to tell their communities if they would be using the STV option or sticking with FPP in the 2004 elections. If local communities disagreed with the choice, by securing support from five percent of people on the electoral roll they have been able to ensure a binding poll is held.

Under STV voters rank candidates in order of preference rather than simply picking a single candidate for each vacancy, as happens under FPP.

In FPP elections if there is one vacancy the candidate with the most votes is elected. If there are two vacancies the two highest polling candidates are elected, and so on.

In STV elections a “quota” of votes is worked out based on the total number of votes and the number of vacancies. A candidate who reaches this quota is elected. If that candidate has more votes than are needed to reach the quota the “extra” votes are allocated to the second choice candidates of those who voted for the successful candidate. If those candidates reach the quota and there are still “extra” votes, they are allocated to third choice candidates, and so on.

If insufficient candidates reach the quota after the first preferences are allocated, and after any surplus votes are transferred, then the candidate who received the fewest votes is eliminated and each vote for that candidate is transferred to the voter’s second preference. The process is repeated until enough candidates reach the quota to fill the vacancies.

The STV voting system will be used for all District Health Board (DHB) elections in 2004, held at the same time as local authority elections. This means that all people voting in local authority elections in 2004 will use STV to vote for DHB candidates, regardless of whether their city, district or regional council adopts STV or remains with FPP.

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