Confusing voting systems turn off voters: Massey

New Zealanders aren't voting in local body elections because they're turned off by the "mishmash" of voting systems, a local government specialist says.

And figures indicated that the number of people voting in local elections would continue to decline, Massey University associate professor Christine Cheyne said.

"The representativeness of our councils and the legitimacy of decision-making are being compromised by the current mishmash of voting systems," Dr Cheyne said.

It was almost a decade since the introduction of the Local Electoral Act 2001 but the system was not fostering local democracy.

"It's bizarre that proportional representation is mandated for district health board elections but is not considered important for council elections," she said.

The STV (single transferrable voting) system had received "poor press", which resulted in voter misunderstanding or unease.

"Many voters want a more effective system of local elections and much can be done to ensure that it is much easier for people to exercise their democratic right to vote."

The only reasonable turnouts in this year's local elections were due to "special factors" such as high-profile mayoral campaigns, contentious issues or a traditionally high voter turnout in smaller councils.

Most election campaigns were not reaching enough people, particularly young people, Maori and other ethnic communities.

Dr Cheyne is from the university's school of people, environment and planning.



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