Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A democratic deficit in the supercity III

DPF has an interesting post about another aspect of the proposed Auckland supercity's democratic deficit: unequal voting power. The proposed council has 10 members representing wards, but as DPF points out, they represent wildly different numbers of voters:

  • Rodney 54,000/1 = 54,000
  • Waitemata 261,000/2 = 130,500
  • Waitakere 198,000/2 = 99,000
  • Tamaki-makau-rau 397,000/2 = 198,500
  • Manukau 387,000/2 = 193,500
  • Hunua 72,000/1 = 72,000
So, the vote of someone in South Auckland is worth only half the vote of someone out west, and a quarter the vote of the farmers of Rodney. This is British levels of malapportionment. And its even worse for the Maori representatives:
But even more out of kilter is the proposal for there to be 3/23 seats reserved for Maori - two elected by voters on the Maori electoral roll, and one appointed by mana whenua. But many Maori do not go on the Maori roll - only about 60% do.

Now population of Auckland is around 1.37 million. 11% of that is Maori which is 0.15 million. However say 40% are on general roll and 60% on Maori roll. So 0.09 million on Maori roll and 1.28 million on general roll.

Three Maori Councillors for 90,000 persons on Maori roll is one per 30,000. Ten Ward Councillors for those on general roll of 1.28 million is one per 128,000.

I support Maori representation in local government just as I do for Parliament, but it has to be on the same population basis as everyone else (something the Electoral Act gets right).

Not only is this malapportionment unfair, it is also completely unnecessary. It doesn't take very long mucking around with a spreadsheet to work out that by ditching at-large election and varying the number of councillors per ward, you can get central Auckland to within a 1.5% tolerance even within the tiny council size the report insists upon:


That doesn't solve the problem of Maori representation, of course - the two alternatives (one councillor representing 90,000 voters or two representing 45,000 each) are both significantly unfair (neither does it solve the problem of the voters of the Auckland CBD not being within any ward). Doubling the size of the council to about 45 members (one councillor per 32000 voters in central Auckland) largely solves this, but requires wards to be further subdivided to give a manageable field size, and still leaves significant malapportionment in rural areas. Either way, the Royal Commission's proposal is simply untenable on democratic grounds.