The race to fill the vacant East Ward seat on Hamilton City Council looks to be wide open with 24 candidates registered to run for what could be a slim share of likely votes when postal ballots for the byelection go out in late July.
Nominations closed this week for the byelection which follows the death of East Ward councillor Margaret Forsyth in early May.
When she was elected as part of the new council in the 2019 local body elections, Hamilton voters were praised for their record 38.78 per cent voter turnout – the highest result since the city council election of 2004.
That East Ward result of 2019 saw 22,284 valid votes cast . These were shared by the 20 candidates seeking one of the six ward seats, with the highest polling 8342 votes and the lowest attracting only 375 ticks. Forsyth placed fourth with 7042 votes.
In the 2016 Hamilton City Council election voter turnout in the East Ward was only 35.4 per cent – and that was a decline of 3 per cent from 2013.
That 2016 voter turnout meant that of the 51,632 electors in the East Ward, only 18,284 actually voted. Mark Bunting attracted the most votes with 5206.
Of course, these were full elections. Byelections are known for attracting an even lower turnout.
The most recent was in 2018 to fill the Hamilton East seat left vacant by the death of councillor Philip Yeung.
Of the 55,369 registered Hamilton East electors in that year 12,846 valid votes were cast - a voter turnout of 23.2 per cent. That byelection was won by Ryan Hamilton with 1944 votes. The lowest of the 15 candidates attracted just 193 votes.
With 24 candidates going into this new byelection with a low voter turnout very likely, the vote split could fall in so many different ways that it will be difficult to pick the top three or four - let alone a clear favourite to fill the council vacancy.
The 24 candidates are: Anna Casey-Cox, Ritesh Chandra, Roshni Desai, Mark Donovan, Jack Gielen, Horiana Henderson, Michelle Houghton, Peter Humphreys, Pirihira Kaio, Lisa Lewis, Ross Macleod, Riki Manarangi, Christopher Manson, Colm McKeogh, Jennifer Myers, Daniel Pascoe, Emma Pike, Naomi Pocock , Donna Pokere-Phillips,Wiremu Puke, Anna Smart, Chris Van der Aa, Kat Waswo, Ada Xiao.
Brief profiles of the candidates and answers to five questions are online now at yourcityelections.co.nz/candidates. The questions are:
• What's your vision for Hamilton?
• What do you think is key in getting the balance right between 'looking after what we have' and being ready for our city's growth?
• What do you think is key for managing our city's growth?
• What's the one thing you'd do differently that would make Hamilton an even better place to live?
• How do you think we can get more people interested and engaged in Council?
Voting packs will start arriving in the mail from July 27. Voters are being urged to post their ballots by August 12 to guarantee they will arrive in time to be counted. There is no online voting.
Voting officially closes at midday on Wednesday August 18 and voting papers can be hand-delivered to the Hamilton City Council office in Garden Place and ballot box locations up until then. Visit yourcityelections.co.nz/vote for ballot box locations and information on casting a special vote. By law, voting papers received after midday cannot be counted.
The city council urges voters to take care when filling in their voting paper to ensure all instructions are followed. If not filled in correctly, the vote will not be counted.
Those not already enrolled to vote in local government elections can do so up to Tuesday August 17.
The byelection will be conducted using the FPP (First Past the Post) voting system. The STV (Single Transferable Vote) system, adopted by Hamilton City Council (in August 2020), will not come into effect until the 2022 local body election.
The results should be available by 5pm on August 18.