July 2023 - You decide

The feedback period for this engagement has now ended. Thank you to everyone who shared their views. It was great to see the level of interest with 235 responses received on this this topic.

Your opinions will be considered by Council as part of their decision making process on the voting system for the 2025 election. Council’s decision will be made public on or before 19 September 2023.

What is this about?

Southland District Council would like you to help us decide which voting system we will use for the next local government elections in 2025.

We will be seeking your feedback from Monday 19 June to Friday 7 July.

All councils have the opportunity to choose between two voting systems: first past the post (FPP), and single transferable vote (STV). Currently Council uses FPP to elect the mayor, councillors and community board members.

What are the different systems?

First Past the Post

Under the FPP voting system you tick beside the name of the candidate you want to vote for and the candidate with the most votes wins. Where several positions are to be filled you get one vote for each vacancy, and candidates with the most votes are elected.

FPP is easy to understand and most people are familiar with it. It is used by the majority of local authorities around New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Single Transferable Vote

STV is known as a proportional voting system. It is sometimes used by companies to elect their board members and is used by 15 other local authorities in New Zealand. Under STV you rank candidates in order of preference, rather than simply picking your most preferred candidate for each vacancy.

By giving the number 1 to a candidate, you are saying that the candidate is your number one choice. By ranking candidates in your preferred order – 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on – you are also saying which other candidates you prefer if your top choice doesn't have enough support to get in, or if your top choice has already got enough votes to be elected.

STV has the advantage that once your preferred candidate has enough votes to be elected or is out of the reckoning, your vote can be transferred to the next most popular candidate and is therefore not wasted. Very few votes are wasted under STV.

Do you have questions?

We know this is an important decision to make and we want you to know what's at stake. Please take a look at the frequently asked questions below, for more information to help you decide.

Why are we asking you about the voting system?

Southland District Council needs to decide which voting system will be used for the 2025 election by September 2023. We are asking you which system you prefer so that we can consider the views of the community before making this decision.

Is the decision final?

Voters have the right to demand a poll on the voting system. If there is strong demand for this a poll will be held in 2024 and the system determined by that poll will be used for the 2025 and 2028 elections.

If there is no demand for a poll then our decision will apply for the 2025 and 2028 elections but can be changed again for the 2028 elections.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of FPP? 

The FPP system is already used by Southland District Council, as well as by our neighbours Gore District Council, Environment Southland and Invercargill City Council. It is a quite straight-forward voting process. The results can be announced soon after voting ends and show exactly how many people voted for each candidate. The main disadvantage of FPP is that it may not result in proportional representation since the results may not reflect the majority of the votes, only the largest group of voters, who may not be the majority.

There also may be “wasted” votes, which do not contribute to the election of a candidate. These can include “lost votes” for a losing candidate or party, and “excess votes” for winning candidates in excess of the minimum number of votes they needed to win.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of STV?

The STV voting system is a proportional voting system, therefore STV results are more likely to reflect the preferences of a greater number of voters. Because voters’ second, third and other preferences are taken into account the results are a more accurate indication of the total support each candidate has. Since STV maximises the number of votes that help to elect candidates there is also a higher probability of more voters being represented by someone they voted for. There are likely to be fewer “wasted” votes because every vote is as effective as possible. However, the STV voting system is less familiar to the community and can be difficult to understand.

How are votes counted under STV?

The votes are counted in stages. All first preference votes are counted first. To be elected, candidates must reach what’s called the quota, or minimum number of votes that guarantees election. The quota that must be reached in order for a candidate to be elected is calculated by dividing the total number of votes by the number of vacant positions plus one. For the mayoral election the candidate needs to reach an absolute majority – more than 50% of the votes, which is the same as under the FPP system.

When a candidate reaches the quota and is elected, a portion of the surplus votes go to their voters’ second choices. If no other candidates reach the quota and there are positions still to be filled, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are transferred according to voters’ second choices. These steps are repeated until all of the positions are filled.

All of the vote counting is done by computer using specialist software. The Department of Internal Affairs developed the program (called the STV calculator) and it has been independently audited and certified, as required by law.

What elections will the system be used for?

The voting system that we decide on will be used for the 2025 election to elect the mayor, councillors and community board members, and any subsequent by-elections. The same system will be used for the 2028 elections unless it is changed again by Council.

We want your input!

Southland District Council needs to decide by September 2023 which voting system will be used for the 2025 election; FPP or STV. You can help us to make that decision.