Electoral System Review



The Local Electoral Act 2001 (LEA) 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 2019 triennial election must be made by 12 September 2017.

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 LEA).


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

 Relate to:

  • 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 eight local authories in the 2016 elections and mandated for District Health Board (as required by the LEA 2001)

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 achieves:

  • 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.graphic to show how votes are counted under STV

The disadvantages of STV

Relate to:

  • 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.


Council's Decision

At its meeting on 9 August Council made the decision to publicly notify the right to demand a poll on the elctoral system to be used. 


A demand for a poll to change the electoral system can be made at any time, however to be effective for the 2019 triennial election, a valid demand must be received by Council by 28 February 2018. 

Under section 30 of the LEA, 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 28 February 2018, then the poll must be held by 21 May 2018 and the outcome will not apply until the 2019 election.

 If a valid demand for a poll is received after 28 February 2018, a poll must be held after 21 May 2018 and the outcome will not apply until the 2022 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?

Email: elections@codc.govt.nz

Page reviewed: 22 Aug 2017 10:19am