Council to study STV for elections

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 20/06/2014

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A new voting system for local government elections is being looked at for New Plymouth and it could have an impact on who is elected to the council.

Next month the council will debate whether to change the voting system for the 2016 election, and mayor Andrew Judd said there were interesting outcomes to consider.

The council uses the first past the post (FPP) system and while there had been no indication from the community of a desire to change, there was a belief the single transferable vote (STV) may better represent minorities.

Although it was unproved, Judd said he would ask his adviser, Greg Stephens, to look into it.

If selected, STV could mean Taranaki iwi members who put themselves forward for the election could have a better shot at being elected to the council.

In April the New Plymouth District Council voted against appointing iwi members with full voting rights to each of the standing committees.

At the time many argued that iwi members were unable to be elected to the council through the formal voting process because they did not have enough of a profile outside of their iwi.

Yesterday Judd said if there was an option that would be fairer to any minorities it would be considered. However, the discussion was just a preamble to next year's review of the council's governance structure.

"There's a bigger conversation coming," Judd said. "That's when we will be able to discuss Maori wards."

Under FPP electors place a tick next to the names of the candidates they are voting for and the candidates with the most votes win. But in the STV system voters use numbers to rank candidates in their order of preference and may rank as many as they wish.

A quota, determined from the number of valid votes and number of positions, is used to determine who is elected.

The council's manager of democratic services, Julie Straka, said one of the arguments in support of STV was it was a fairer system and candidates from ethnic and minority backgrounds had a better chance of being elected.

Votes not needed for a successful candidate to meet the quota filtered down to the lower polling candidates, effectively beefing up their final numbers.

Straka said whichever system was selected had to be understood by the voters so they could cast eligible votes.

"We use the STV system to elect the district health board, so voters do have an understanding.

"Although I would say there has been a higher rate of disallowed votes under that. You could call it voter error.

"First past the post is a straightforward system, it is easy to understand and it is familiar to most people."

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Dunedin, Kapiti Coast, Marlborough, Palmerston North City, Porirua and Wellington City councils all used STV in the 2013 election.

The issue will be debated at the council's policy meeting on July 29.

- Taranaki Daily News

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