Electoral System Review
The Local Electoral Act 2001 (the Act) governs the conduct of local government elections in New Zealand. All local authorities have the opportunity to review their electoral system two years before the next triennial election. This review is optional for Council, but any decision to use a different electoral system for the 2022 triennial election must be made by 12 September 2020.
If the electoral system is changed from the electoral system used at the last election, this will be in effect for the next two triennial elections subject to any further resolution of Council or poll of electors to change it (section 27 of the Act).
The Electoral Systems
The two systems available to Council are:
First Past the Post system (FPP) - Council's current electoral system
Central Otago District Council currently uses the FPP electoral system, which is in line with the majority of local authorities in the country. Electors vote by ticking their preferred candidate(s). The candidate(s) receiving the highest number of votes is declared elected.
The advantages of FPP
- The simplicity of the process including the ways the votes are cast, counted and announced.
The disadvantages of FPP
- the results of the election, including the generally 'less representative' nature of FPP councils
- the obstacles to minority candidate election
- the number of wasted votes.
The Single Transferable Voting system (STV)
The second option permitted is the Single Transferable Vote system (STV).
This option was used by 11 local authorities in the 2019 elections and mandated for District Health Boards (as required by the Act).
Under this system, electors rank candidates in their order of preference.
The number of votes needed for a candidate to be elected (called the quota) depends on the number of positions to be filled and the number of valid votes cast.
The necessary number of candidates to fill all vacancies is achieved by:
- The counting of first preferences
- A transfer of a proportion of votes received by any candidate where the number of votes for that candidate is in excess of the quota
- The exclusion of the lowest polling candidates and the transfer of these votes in accordance with the voters' second preferences
The perceived advantages and disadvantages of the STV electoral systems are as follows:
The advantages of STV
The STV system potentially achives:
- broad proportionality (in multi-member wards/constituencies)
- majority outcomes in single-member elections
- more equitable minority representation
- a reduction in the number of wasted votes.
The disadvantages of STV
- the public being less familiar with the system and possibly finding it harder to understand
- matters of process such as the way votes are cast and counted (for example perceived complexity may discourage some voters)
- the information conveyed in election results.
More information on the Single Transferable Voting system can be found on the STV website.
At its 3 June 2020 meeting Council made the decision to publicly notify the right to demand a poll on the electoral system.
A demand for a poll to change the electoral system can be made at any time, however to be effective for the 2022 triennial election, a valid demand must be received by Council by 21 February 2021.
Under section 30 of the Act in order to be valid, a demand for a poll must be signed by at least 5% of electors enrolled as eligible to vote at the previous triennial election of Council.
If a valid demand for a poll is received by Council or Council itself resolves to hold a poll on the electoral system by 21 February 2021, then the poll must be held by 21 May 2021and the outcome will not apply until the 2022 election.
If a valid demand for a poll is received after 21 February 2021, a poll must be held after 21 May 2021 and the outcome will apply from the 2025 election.
If the electoral system to be used by Council is changed as the result of a public poll, then the change is effective for the next two triennial elections.
Have a query? Want to give feedback on the topic of electoral systems? Want more information or advice about demanding a poll?