Lowdown on STV system of voting for 2022 local election

Hamilton city joins Ruapehu to ditch First Past the Post

Danielle Zollickhofer





Local Government Elections 2022

Hamilton City Council will use a new voting system for this year’s local election, the Single Transferable Vote (STV), only the second council in Waikato to do so. It is believed to increase representation and add to more diversity in local government, but how does it work? First up, we will still be using postal voting with your voting papers sent to you between September 16 and 21, provided you are enrolled. Most Waikato councils use the First Past the Post (FPP) system where voters tick the box next to their preferred candidates, but the STV system is just as easy. With STV, instead of ticking boxes, you rank the candidates in order of your preference. So, you write “1” next to the name of your favourite candidate, “2” next to your second favourite candidate and so on. You can vote for as many or as few candidates as you like. If you make a mistake on your voting paper and miss a number, there is no reason to panic. Your vote still counts up to where you made the error. For example, if you miss out on ranking your fourth favourite candidate and jump straight to 5, your first three preferences will still be valid. You don’t even have to rank every candidate if you don’t want to, for your vote to be counted there just needs to be a 1. Through ranking the candidates, you are saying which other candidates you prefer in case your top choice doesn’t have enough support to get in or the candidate doesn’t need all the votes they received to be elected. When it comes to counting the votes, the FFP system is straightforward: The candidate with the highest number of votes wins. Meanwhile, counting the votes is a bit more tricky with STV. Firstly, the vote counters add up all first-preference votes for every candidate. To get elected, candidates must reach a certain number of votes, called a quota, which depends on the number of votes and positions available. If a candidate is elected, they keep only the proportion of the vote they need to reach the quota. The surplus part of each vote is transferred to the voter’s second preference. Then the votes are tallied again. If another candidate reaches the quota or gets more votes than they need to be elected, the surplus part of each vote for that candidate will be transferred to the voter’s third preference. If no more candidates have enough votes to reach the quota, the candidate with the lowest amount of votes is removed and all votes for that candidate are transferred to those voters’ next preferences. This process is repeated until enough candidates are elected to fill the available positions. Through STV, surplus votes are not “wasted” but can help other candidates to get elected. In the example above, the voter is saying: “The candidate I most want to represent me on the council is Sam Jones. He’s my No.1 choice. But if he gets more votes than the quota, then I want part of my vote to be transferred to my second choice, Ngaire Smith, and maybe this will help to get her elected. Or, if Sam has so little support that he can’t be elected, transfer my vote to Ngaire.” Ruapehu District Council already uses STV, but it will be Hamilton’s first time this year. All other Waikato councils use the FFP system.