Election losers out of pocket

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 18/12/2013

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Failed candidates in October's Palmerston North City Council elections are shocked at being refused a refund of their $200 deposit, and a politics expert says the STV voting system could be to blame for leaving more of them out of pocket.

Nearly one-third of the candidates in the council and mayoral elections lost the deposits they paid when lodging nominations because they did not reach the voting threshold.

Electoral officer John Annabell said nine people fell short of the goal. In past elections, only a handful of candidates have missed out.

The threshold is there to discourage frivolous nominations. But the shift from First Past the Post to a single transferrable vote election appears to have treated people more harshly.

The old rule was that candidates needed to achieve one-quarter of the number of votes that went to the lowest-polling successful candidate.

Under STV, they have to achieve 25 per cent of the quota at the time the calculator identifies the final candidate to be elected.

Their performance is judged at the point they are eliminated from the calculations, after which they cannot pick up any more transferring votes. This could effectively deprive candidates of some support.

Unsuccessful candidate Marilyn Korte said the outcome was "shocking".

"This is just a joke. I know the rule is there to discourage people just being ridiculous, but I was deadly serious."

Mrs Korte declared spending $2948 on her campaign. She said it was important that people who were upset about issues in the city, such as the parking system and the state of Broadway Ave, should stand up and have a go at fixing things.

Mrs Korte finished in 27th place, out of 33 candidates vying for 15 council seats. She had 192 votes at the time she was eliminated.

Candidates needed 297 votes to achieve 25 per cent of Cr Billy Meehan's tally of 1186 when he became the last candidate to be elected. The last candidate to get his money back, Dion Martin, said the system seemed unfairly harsh.

"I don't disagree with there being a bar to discourage real outsiders. But unless you are absolutely hopeless, you should not lose out. People should be able to have a go. That's democracy."

University of Otago Associate Professor in Politics Janine Hayward said 13 candidates lost their deposits in Dunedin's central ward, which had similar numbers to Palmerston North City.

It was possible STV had produced harsher results, but that could vary between elections depending on voting patterns. "It possibly needs to be reconsidered in light of how STV works. Given the need to get more people involved in local government, we don't really want unnecessary obstacles."

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The council candidates who lost their deposits were Elizabeth Paine, James Pettengill, Marilyn Korte, David Poppelwell, Rihari Reiri, Russell Johnson, Charles Turner, Allen Smith and Ange Hartshorne, and mayoral contenders Ross Barber, Grant Seton and Gary Philip.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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