Local elections 2019

What exactly is STV? And how does it differ from FPP?
Stratford Press editor Ilona Hanne explains.

Are you voting with STV or FPP in this year's Local Government elections?

More importantly - do you know what that means and how each system works?

Voters all across the Taranaki region will be voting for their Health Board Candidates using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, and for their Taranaki Regional Councillors using the First Past the Post system (FPP).

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When it comes to their District Council candidates and mayors however, voters will be using different systems depending on which District Council they are voting for.

While South Taranaki District Council and Stratford District Council are using FPP again this year, New Plymouth District Council has brought STV in this year for the first time.

In a nutshell, that means while your candidates in South Taranaki and Stratford are calling for your tick against their name, their New Plymouth counterparts are instead appealing to be your number one or number two.

So how do the systems differ and how do they work?
FPP is a tick, and you have as many votes as there are vacancies:

In an FPP system you tick the candidates you want to represent you - with a total number of ticks allowed for the total number of vacancies.

So if you are a Stratford Rural Ward voter, you can only give your tick to four candidates in the Rural Ward.

When voting for the mayor, you can only tick one candidate as there is only one vacancy for mayor.

If you were to tick more candidates than you are allowed to, your vote would be invalid as it will be impossible for the electoral officer to work out which candidates you preferred.

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STV ranks candidates and isn't limited by the number of vacancies:

Under the STV system you order your candidates by preference.

You are not limited to the number of vacancies - you can rank them all if you want.

You can rank just one by putting a number 1 by your choice, or you can rank them going down, so giving one candidate a number 1, then another a number 2 and so on.

You can rank more candidates than there are vacancies, but your numbers MUST follow an unbroken sequence.

So if you ranked candidates with number 1, 2, 3, 4 all your votes would be valid.

However, if you ranked candidates with number 1, 2 and 4, having left out a number 3, then your votes would only be valid for 1 and 2. After that, the electoral officer would not be able to determine your preferences after that.

To get elected, candidates need to reach a quota of the votes.

What is meant by "quota" in the Single Transferable Vote system?

The Department of Internal Affairs defines it as the number of votes needed to get elected.

In the case of single vacancy elections, such as a mayoralty, the quota is referred to as an absolute majority.

The quota is calculated by the STV computer software, based on the total number of votes and the number of vacant positions. The process treats all candidates the same by giving them a "keep value".

This "keep value" in the election results will show which candidate did best.

Here is an example:
If the "quota" (or number of votes needed to be elected) is 100 and the candidate gets only 100 votes, they keep all those 100 votes. So they have a keep value of 1 (100 per cent).

But if a candidate receives 200 votes, that person still needs only 100 votes to be elected. The others can be distributed to other candidates.

In this case the candidates' "keep value" would be 0.5 (50 per cent), because they only need 50 per cent of their votes to be elected.

In other words, the most popular candidates in an STV election will have the lowest "keep value".

How are the votes distributed to other candidates if my number one candidate has enough votes?

Through the ranking system.

If your "number one" candidate has more than enough votes, your vote would then be transferred to your number two candidate.
If they also have enough votes, then it would be transferred to your number three, and so on.

What if no candidate reaches the quota?

If no candidate reaches the quota then the lowest polling candidate will be eliminated. Their votes will then be transferred to their voters' next preferences.

So, under STV should I rank every candidate or just the ones I want to be elected?

There is no rule on this. You CAN rank every candidate, or you can just rank some.
The more candidates you rank, the more you are helping - which is good if you want to help them but not if you don't.

Giving a ranking, even a low one, to a candidate, means potentially giving part of your vote to them, and it could help them. So if you really don't want a candidate, then don't rank them at all.

Which system is better?
You tell us!
Which system do you prefer and why - write to us - editor@stratfordpress.co.nz or PO Box 300, Stratford 4332.