Petitioners push to get vote on STV on ballots

Pablo Dennison. Photo: ODT files
Pablo Dennison. Photo: ODT files
If Dunedin dumps the STV system for electing the city council, it will not happen before the 2022 election.

A petition about whether the voting system should be replaced by first-past-the-post (FPP) has not attracted enough signatures to force a referendum ahead of the election.

However, petition organisers are pressing on with trying to generate enough support to have the question put on 2022 ballot papers, possibly resulting in a change for 2025 and 2028.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said he was encouraged there had not been a groundswell against retaining the single transferable vote (STV) system.

The system is regarded as proportional, and Mr Hawkins said it was more likely to result in people from under-represented groups being elected on to the council.

It also meant the mayor could argue he attracted support from most of the community to win the mayoralty contest.

Voters rank the candidates and as each one drops out of the race, votes are reallocated to those candidates who remain.

Petition committee chairman Pablo Dennison said STV was convoluted and people should have a choice about whether to keep it.

Simplicity was an argument in favour of FPP, he said. It was simply a matter of tallying the votes.

Mr Dennison said he felt a question about which system to use should be revisited automatically every second election.

The man who started the petition, Lyndon Weggery, said about 4500 signatures would be needed to trigger a referendum at the 2022 election and the organisers had just over half that so far.

Dunedin had a close STV mayoralty contest in 2019.

Cr Lee Vandervis was ahead after first preferences were counted, but Mr Hawkins won the day after a series of candidates had their votes reallocated.

Cr Vandervis said residents should be allowed to choose which system they wanted.

"My personal view is I favour a simple, transparent system, which STV is not."

He also felt not enough weight was given to first preferences.

Cr Vandervis did not accept the argument STV created better representation through fewer "wasted votes" and said it tended to favour candidates inclined to be inoffensive.

Cr Vandervis was not sure sentiment against Mr Hawkins was a big driver in people supporting the petition.

Mr Hawkins said he was not opposed to people using the democratic tools available to them and this included organising petitions to bring about referendums.

However, he continued to believe STV was a better system and said this did not rely on it seeming to enhance his chances.

FPP tended to favour the incumbent, he said.

Mr Hawkins said some people wanted to believe the 2019 election result might have been different under FPP.

But this depended on assumptions, such as that FPP would have resulted in the same field of candidates.

Mr Dennison said the petition organisers had only recently been allowed to collect signatures online.

Mr Weggery said he had once been a supporter of STV, but he had noticed dissatisfaction with the system.

It was good in theory, but people should be allowed to choose a simpler system, he said.

The council has used STV elections since 2004.



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Personally I'd like to see a return to councilors being responsible to local wards rather being this amophous blob of "governance".

Where can we sign? I am sure many more would be happy to sign if it was widely distributed.

Diversity? That's not what elections are about. If I were Hawkins, knowing that to get elected it took 13 times for votes to be redistributed to win, I wouldn't want to be mayor. But that's just me. There was no referendum that people wanted hawkins as mayor, it just happened when the votes were manipulated 13 times. He's not the best and brightest, just a random outcome at a time when the city needs real leadership. If 2 years of hawkins isn't a reason to end STV I don't know what is. People, we need real leadership. Walk the streets of your city and see what it has become under his leadership. Your witnessing the death of a city. Sign the petition against the STV.

More people did not want Van derVis as mayor. There is also a petition to retain STV. Be careful what you sign. The petition for FPP might as well be sponsored by Billy TK.

Wow, I was overseas during the last election and early voting had not been available prior to leaving NZ. I must say I was shocked on my return to find the current mayor in office, having heard that Vandervis had more votes. 13 times to redistribute votes to get a win, remarkable. Would like to know exactly how this is done. It has certainly not been a good decision for Otago. Very foolish decisions being made at ratepayers cost. Sadly I have no confidence whatever in our current council.

Despite being a keen watcher of council-related matters, I was completely unaware of this petition. Could it possibly be more widely promoted? STV tends, in my opinion, to promote mediocrity. The last election is a good example of that. More people gave their first choice to Vandervis than any other candidate. And he was definitely the candidate that was going to give the DCC a well-deserved shake-up! However, the STV system ensured that a bland, invisible candidate was elected instead. As a system, it needs to go.

Mediocrity? That's being very kind. STV allows the least qualified to get elected based upon the random allocation of votes. This isn't democracy and why bother to vote using this as the means?

I could not agree more; you are spot-on.

Where can i sign petition?

I had heard somewhere that there was going to be a petition, then heard nothing more about it till this article. I was keen to sign as soon as it was available. It never became available in anywhere I saw, nor were there notices around town saying where it was. Was it around the suburbs or only somewhere in the increasingly off-putting CBD? I know I'm not the only person who avoids it as much as possible because of parking difficulties, no way would I drive around several times to find a park then walk several blocks to see if the petition was in the library foyer which sometimes has (had) petitions.
To anyone organising a petition - use every means esp free such as Twitter and Facebook's various Dunedin pages to alert people and inform us where we can find a copy to sign.
We're not apathetic, we're left out of the loop.

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