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Urgent STV Law Change Called For

Wednesday 13 October 2004

Urgent STV Law Change Called For

Local democracy a "dead duck" without government action

The government must urgently change the law on the STV "Meek" vote counting system, according to Dunedin City councillor and mayoral candidate Leah McBey. Nothing less than the integrity of our democracy is at stake, as is the confidence of the voting public.

The minute the public loses confidence in the voting system, we are dead ducks as far as democracy is concerned.

The government has to act decisively, it has to act urgently and it has to act now. Local Government Minister Chris Carter should sponsor an urgent amendment to the STV voting law to tidy this mess up.

He has been bemoaning the lack of public interest in local body elections. Guess what? If this system stays, the public will stop voting in droves. I am outraged at how the public has been played like fools over this election. The government has dumped a camel on us which is the worst of both voting systems.

We might as well have stuck with first past the post, which is what this election has turned out to be. Even worse, the public's confidence in the system has vanished. Who would ever have thought Dunedin's experience would invite comparisons with George W Bush's "win" in Florida?

Ratepayers have been calling me saying they believed their second preference vote counted and they can't understand why those votes were thrown out.

All the second preferences on Peter Chin and Malcolm Farry's voting papers were discarded. Since Peter Chin got 19,103 first preference votes and Malcolm Farry got 17,016 first preferences, 36,119 voters were unknowingly forced into a first past the post vote. That means 36,000 plus voters in Dunedin needn't have bothered ranking their candidates in order of preference because only their first choice was used. Who got those second preferences???

Instead, only the second preferences of Jimmy Knowles, Lee Vandervis, Teresa Stevenson and myself were counted. The 6000 plus voters who backed us first, had their second preferences counted. But the 36,000 who backed Mssrs Chin and Farry didn't.

Why should one group of voters get only one preference and the rest get two? There should be one rule for all voters and that is that ALL second preferences are used, then if that doesn't throw up a winner, ALL third preferences are used, until a winner emerges.

Leah McBey Chairperson Finance and Strategy Dunedin City Council


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