To stay with the ticks or change to the numbers - that's the choice Whangarei District Council is facing as it reviews its electoral system.

The decision will determine how the public elects councillors in the next two elections.

Councillors will make the decision and a public poll would be needed to change it.

Currently the council uses the first past the post (FPP) system where voters cast one vote for each spot which needs to be filled.

The candidate, or candidates, with the highest number of votes, are elected. It is the most common system and the simplest to understand.

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Single transferable vote (STV) is the alternative. It is used by all district health boards, some local governments and some companies to elect board members.

Under STV, voters rank the candidates in order of preference - they place a '1' next to their top pick, '2' next to their second option, and so on.

They do not have to give every candidate a number but must use consecutive numbers.

Candidates need to reach a quota to be elected.

The quota is calculated by dividing the total number of votes cast by the number of vacancies that need filling - with a small fraction added to avoid an equality.

Once a candidate reaches the quota, their surplus votes are transferred to the voter's second preferences.

Under the Local Election Act the council has the option to review its electoral system every three years.

Whangarei councillors took part in a briefing on August 16 by electoral officer Dale Ofsoske.

The briefing outlined the process which the council can take to change its electoral system.

Firstly, the council can choose which system it wants and publically declare that decision.

If it does decide to change it, it must give public notice by September 19 of the right of electors to demand a poll. A poll would be required to change that decision.

The demand for a poll must be made by at least 5 per cent of enrolled voters, which in Whangarei is 2892 people.

Alternatively, council can decide to hold a poll regardless of whether it has been demanded or not.

The outcome would be binding for at least the next two elections.

An item will be included in the August 31 council meeting agenda, with the options presented to the councillors to select from.

The council's decision on which system, or to hold a poll, must be made by September 12, however the public's demand for a poll and the poll itself can happen after this date.