Sunday, May 14, 2006

Hamilton rejects STV

Hamilton voters have voted 60-40 to reject STV and retain the bloc-vote in electing local councillors. It's a disappointing decision - STV is a superior system and gives a far fairer result - but hardly surprising given the problems processing STV results in the 2004 local-body elections. Electionz and Datamail's incompetance has poisoned people against the better system, and as a result we'll be seeing unrepresentative local councils for a long time to come.

[Hat-tip: DPF]


STV is clearly better in principle, and I like the fact that it doesn't allow political parties to draw up candidate lists. But it doesn't scale well. In local council elections, where you can have thirty or forty names on the list, only one or two of which are remotely familiar, it reduces to selecting people on the basis of a blurb in the pamphlet which came with the paper. It's hard enough for even an informed voter to select a single person you'd most like elected without having to rank them.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/14/2006 05:04:00 PM

I think pretty much any electoral system needs some form of districting, if only to ensure a manageable number of candidates for voters. This interferes with the fairness of the system, but its an acceptable tradeoff.

DHB elections show the problems of STV without districting. Last time, I had to choose (I think) 7 people from a list of about 40 candidates. I didn't know any of them, and so in the end selected off the blurb. I understand that it was even worse in wellington...

Palmerston North is set to have the worst of both worlds - they council plans to abolish its wards and elect about 12 people at large from across the entire city by the FPP bloc vote (meaning you vote for 12 people). So the name recognition effect (already significant in local body politics) will be magnified, campaigning costs will be increased limiting the number of people who can mount an effective campaign, and a plurality will be able to sweep all the seats. But the incumbents - the pricks who drew up the plan - will be happy.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/14/2006 07:01:00 PM

No I/S you'll have had to choose 40 people out of 40.

Or you can just rank one (or two or three or whatever if you want).

I'd have said DHB elections show the porblems with DHB elections. We shouldn't be electing people whose job it is to help the government implement its health policy.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 5/14/2006 08:45:00 PM

Graeme: theoretically, but there's no need to rank every candidate, and anyone who pretends otherwise is trying to sell you something (usually an inferior election system).

As for the idea of DHBs in general, I agree, they're effectively powerless and their only prpose is to be a blame sink for central government. If we're going to elect people, we should give them the authority to fulfil their mandate, rather than crippling them like that. Unfortunately, I can't really see politicians doing this, because it would mean people questioning health policy (and health funding) all the time...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/14/2006 10:46:00 PM

DHB's aren't truely chosen via STV anyway. 4 of the 11 are directly appointed, meaning only 2 of 7 elected need side with ministerial appointees to pass things.
It's nothing but a veneer of democratic accountabiliy for an anonymous board that has no real influence. Someone for the minister to blame when health policy yet again fails to deliver results.

Posted by tussock : 5/14/2006 11:29:00 PM

STV public elections are usually carried out in districts with relatively small numbers of representatives. Examples are 3 or 4 seats in the new Scottish local government system, 3-5 in the Republic of Ireland, 5 in Tasmania and Malta and 6 in Northern Ireland elections.

I would say 9 or 10 seats, in an STV system which (unlike the Australian Senate version) does not require every candidate to be ranked to make the vote valid, is about the highest easily manageable number of places to be filled from a single district.

I would suggest that 5 or 6 member STV districts are probably the right trade off between manageable numbers of candidates and reasonably proportional results.

If higher district magnitudes (and consequently greater proportionality) is required, then a party list system or (given that New Zealanders are now familiar with it) a MMP system would probably be preferable to STV.

I see no justification for using large district magnitudes and bloc voting. That would probably produce a more unfair result than first past the post elections. Even English local government does not usually have more than three seats in a ward using such a system.

No doubt, whatever electoral system is used, few voters would have detailed knowledge of the individual candidates, so most will vote purely on party lines.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/15/2006 11:29:00 AM