Dunedin Shows It's Not STV It's The Counting
11 October 2004
For Immediate release
Dunedin results show it's not STV it's the counting system
People who complain about the length of time taken to count STV election results should focus on the counting system applied - not STV in itself, according to former Wellington mayoral candidate, Timothy O'Brien.
Mr O'Brien says that by using the system of progressively dropping off the candidate with the least number of votes the system seems most likely to return the same result as an FPP election but just in a more elaborate and expensive way.
As an example points to the Dunedin mayoral and council elections the full iterations of which can be seen on the Dunedin City Council web-site at http://www.cityofdunedin.com/city/?page=election04_rsltdcc.
"What this show is that in the Mayoral election and the ward votes the people who had the top votes at the first count were exactly the same as the people who won after all of the iterations to reach the quota took place," Tim O'Brien says.
"In the case of the mayoralty not one position changed during the count and Mr Chin would have been the mayor under FPP as would every councillor elected.
"It's particularly ironic as Dunedin is being held up as an example where the count was particularly lengthy."
Tim O'Brien admitted that it's not possible to analyse yet if voter behaviour actually changed because of STV. But he believes that STV will be discredited if there isn't a full examination of results and whether other voting systems might have proved to have a different and more acceptable outcome.
"One thing I have noticed anecdotally is that most people believe STV was going to add up the second votes across the board. They don't realise that once a candidate is dropped off, their votes never return to them even if they are highly popular as a second choice.
"The current system has been chosen as the most fair: but the candidate drop-off system which is being applied does not fit with the spirit of STV as it was sold to those who voted for it."
Mr O'Brien says he used the Dunedin City results because they are the only STV council so far which has published the full iteration process so far.
"Papakura's results may reinforce this point though they have not published them in a way that is as simple to interpret," he said.
"It's also possible that in a tighter race more changes may take place. However such a race would also show the disadvantage to candidates who may have had a high second rating from supporters of higher first preference candidates but have missed beating the candidate in front of them by a small number of votes and therefore dropped off."
In the Wellington Region STV councils have not reported any voting numbers at all so far.
"As a candidate for the Wellington mayoralty, albeit an unsuccessful one who dropped off early, this is deeply frustrating as it is impossible to tell how much support you had at any stage," Tim says.
"The main point is that local councils or the Minister of Local Government should look seriously at both the philosophy and practical effects of the counting system before STV is discredited entirely."