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Maori fears justified if STV is not used in Ak

Media Statement
Electoral Reform Coalition

Maori fears justified if STV is not used to elect Auckland Council

The Electoral Reform Coalition has written to all members of the Select Committee on Auckland governance, urging them to adopt the Single Transferrable Vote method (STV) for Auckland's mayor, Council and local boards.

"Maori are absolutely justified in their fears that they will have no voice on the new Council, if Parliament votes to use traditional first past the post voting," says spokesperson Phil Saxby.

"The Council needs to be representative to have any legitimacy, but separate Maori seats are not necessary to achieve that," he says. "Maori are saying they want to be able to choose their representatives, and STV is ideal for the purpose. Its not divisive or exclusive - it allows every group in the community a fair chance of electing a Councillor."

The ERC, which successfully campaigned for STV in two Wellington City referendums, had provided figures that showed the Maori population was sufficient to elect about 3 Councillors if the new supercity was divided into 3 wards.

"The larger the wards, the more representative they can be," says Phil Saxby. "Also, STV would provide superior accountability as voters rank candidates by preference, and their votes are not lost - they are transferred to the next preferred candidate (if necessary). STV works, it would give Auckland a majority mayor and a representative council. Plus, its more satisfying to vote this way!"

Despite not being an "official" issue, the voting system received many comments in submissions, with 27% of submissioners criticising the defects of FPP voting. "The voting method used to elect the Council will be vital to its success, or otherwise. There is no bigger issue," says Phil Saxby.

The Maori Party, and all parties, should support the use of a modern and fair way of electing the new Auckland Council. Auckland deserves no less!


Electoral Reform Coalition Submission

Local Government (Auckland Council)
Bill 36-1 (2009)

Submission
Electoral Reform Coalition


To: Select Committee,
Auckland Governance Legislation
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

From: Electoral Reform Coalition
PO Box 14-002
Kilbirnie

Tena kotou katoa!

About us: The Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC) was formed in 1986 to promote proportional representation in New Zealand/Aotearoa. It campaigned successfully for the adoption of MMP for Parliament in 1993, and since then has supported several local campaigns to adopt the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for local government. Most recently, the Wellington branch of ERC campaigned successfully for the retention of STV in Wellington City. The ERC is being re-formed as a nation-wide body in response to the National Party’s policy to hold a referendum on MMP by 2011. A steering committee was established this year and it has approved the principles on which this submission is based. In particular, the committee endorses in general the submission from member Stephen Todd of Wellington.

Mr Todd played a significant role in pioneering the adoption of STV methods as part of the current local government legislation. Our committee also acknowledges its debt to a sister body, the UK Electoral Reform Society, of which Mr Todd is a member. Members of the Select Committee should note that three Wellington-region city councils: Kapiti, Porirua and Wellington City itself, representing the majority of the region’s population, are elected by STV.

A member of the steering committee would wish to appear before the committee to speak on this submission if possible.


Recommendations

We recommend—

• that Single Transferable Voting (STV) be used—

(a) to elect the Mayor and members of the governing body of the Auckland Council (clause 8); and

(b) the members of the ‘second-tier’ local boards (clause 12); and

(c) that the members of the governing body of the Auckland Council be elected from three or at most four electoral areas (clause 8(3)); and

(d) that the members of each local board be elected at-large within each local board area (clause 12(3) and (4)).


We do not wish to make submissions on the size of the governing body of the new Auckland Council, or on other matters in the bill, including the number of local boards and their powers, or the powers of the Mayor as provided in the Bill.

Our sole focus in the voting method to be used under any structure of representation that may arise from the re-organisation of local government in Auckland.

1. Fair Representation: the Single Transferable Vote

1.1 The Auckland Council Bill provides for the Mayor and members of the governing body of the Auckland Council and the members of the ‘second-tier’ local boards, to be elected by the First-Past-the-Post (FPP) electoral system.

1.2 Fair representation, and especially fair Maori representation, is demonstrably the issue of greatest public interest and controversy, once it is assumed that the concept of a single “super-city” is accepted. FPP is a ‘majoritarian’ system, which ensures that minorities, of whatever description, are either under-represented, or not represented at all.

1.3 The Single Transferable Vote method is a voting system that allows voters in multi-member wards or in a single district to rank candidates in order of preference. Votes are transferred if necessary to later preferences, but only if the first-preferred candidate has a surplus of votes above the quota, or has been eliminated from contention.


“STV is a proportional voting system. It seeks to achieve fair representation of all significant points of view. Instead of voting for a set number of candidates (for example, three candidates in a three-member ward), voters can rank as many candidates as they like, in order of preference. In the vote count, votes are redistributed until candidates achieve enough votes to get elected.”

from ERC Wellington branch STV leaflet, 2008


2. Multi-member districts (wards)

2.1 While STV can be used to elect one person, such as a mayor, STV should be used in multi-member districts so as to best achieve representation of the diversity of the voting population. Using STV in single-member districts would require candidates to obtain a majority vote – good for electing a mayor, but not for providing Council representation of the whole community.

2.2 Wards should be of at least 5 members (councillors) and preferably 7, to provide the most representative results. It is noteworthy that Dunedin City Council, which uses STV, plans to adopt a single ward for the main city area, with around 10-12 members. The very large size of Auckland City suggests that 3 or 4 wards or multi-member districts would be desirable.

• Large wards would provide long-term continuity for regions within the city, compared to single-member districts.
• The number of candidates in a ward would be less, compared to an at-large city election, resulting in a more voter-friendly, manageable contest and a less unwieldy election process and ballot paper.
• Large wards would allow smaller communities within them to gain representation by meeting a lower quota. The quota for a 7-member ward would be around 12.5% of the votes, an achievable target compared to the 25% quota in a 3-member ward.

2.3 The people of Auckland, particularly Māori, will not be fairly and equally represented on the Auckland Council or their local boards, by members they helped to elect, if FPP is used. The adoption of STV in multi-member electoral areas, would ensure that all significant groups within Auckland were fairly, equally and effectively represented on those bodies.

• Ethnic communities, or geographical districts within a ward, or any other community, would not need separate seats to obtain fair representation within an STV system.
• The Single Transferable Vote is the best way of providing fair representation to voters when choosing between candidates on their individual merits, as is the norm in local government elections even when contested by organised groups or parties.

3. Every Vote Counts

3.1 STV means that all votes are counted towards the final result, with votes being transferred as described above. As noted by Mr Todd in his submission, “in a 7-member ward/electoral area, 87.5% of the votes remaining in the election will contribute to the election of at least one candidate”. This is because STV does not seek a simple majority (or plurality) for one candidate and discard all the remaining votes. STV seeks to make all votes count, transferring them until all positions are filled.

3.2 STV is simple for voters (“as easy as 1,2,3!”). Voters need only vote for one candidate, if they have no other preferences. Later preferences cannot harm earlier preferences.

3.3 STV, being more representative than FPP systems, should encourage voters to feel their votes do count and the results have legitimacy. The debate about separate Maori representation shows clearly that the need for a voting system with accepted legitimacy is vital.

4. Conclusion

The ERC would like to thank members of the Select Committee for the opportunity to make this submission.


Phil Saxby
For Steering Committee
Electoral Reform Coalition

26 June 2009

ENDS

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