FIRST PAST THE POST (FPP)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why are we being asked about FPP and STV?

By September 2020, Hamilton City Council needs to decide which voting system we’ll use in the next local government election. We’re asking which voting system you think is best, so our Mayor and Councillors know the views of the community before making their decision.

Is the Council’s decision on whether to use FPP or STV final?

Not necessarily. Voters have the right to demand a poll on which voting system our city should use. A demand for a poll must have the support of 5% of voters from the 2019 election (5135 voters) by 21 February 2021. If a valid demand for a poll is received, the poll will be held before 21 May 2021 and the outcome (FPP or STV) will be binding for the 2022 and 2025 Hamilton elections. If there is no demand for a poll, then Council’s decision will apply for the 2022 elections.

What councils in New Zealand use FPP?

In the 2019 local government elections, 67 out of 78 local authorities used FPP, including Hamilton City Council.

How do I vote under FPP?

In an FPP election, you give a tick for the candidates you want to vote for. Voters get a vote for each of the positions to be filled. In Hamilton, you vote for the mayor and six councillors for the ward you live in. So, you give one vote to the candidate you want to be mayor and up to six votes to the candidates you want to be councillors.

How are results decided under FPP?

In the single-member election for mayor, the candidate with the most votes is the winner. For the multi-member election for councillors, the six highest-polling candidates in each ward are elected.

What are the advantages of FPP?

As Hamilton has always used FPP to vote for the city’s mayor and councillors, it would be a familiar system for voters to continue using. The counting process is easy to understand and the results easily show how many people voted for each candidate.

What are the disadvantages of FPP?

Under FPP, a mayor and/or councillors can be elected with small amounts of voter support. To be elected mayor, a candidate only needs to get more votes than the next highest-polling candidate. This can mean that more voters didn’t vote for the winning candidate than did vote for them. And votes for a candidate that aren’t needed for them to be elected can be seen as ‘wasted’.

What does it mean that votes can be ‘wasted’ under FPP?

Research on electoral systems labels any vote that does not help to elect a candidate as ‘wasted’. This is different to the typical meaning of something being a waste. For example, the votes for candidates who are not elected are described as ‘wasted’. Likewise, the surplus votes a candidate receives, over and above the number they need to be elected, are also said to be ‘wasted’. The FPP voting system produces more of this type of 'wasted' vote than STV.

What are the ways a vote might become invalid in an FPP election?

If you tick more candidates than the number of vacant positions e.g. if you tick more than one candidate for mayor. Or if you vote using numbers, as in an STV election.

Is voter turnout higher under FPP or STV elections?

It’s difficult to say if the voting system used affects voter turnout, as a number of variables impact participation e.g. the appeal of candidates, interest in council issues, perceptions of previous elected members.

If Hamilton City Council sticks with FPP, will that be the only system we use to vote in local government?

No. You’ll also be voting for the Waikato Regional Council and the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) on your voting paper. Waikato DHB must use STV and Waikato Regional Council can choose to use either system. Waikato Regional Council used FPP in 2019.

SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE (STV)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why are we being asked about FPP and STV?

By September 2020, Hamilton City Council needs to decide which voting system we’ll use in the next local government election. We’re asking which voting system you think is best, so our Mayor and Councillors know the views of the community before making their decision.

Is the Council’s decision on whether to use FPP or STV final?

Not necessarily. Voters have the right to demand a poll on which voting system our city should use. A demand for a poll must have the support of 5% of voters from the 2019 election (5135 voters) by 21 February 2021. If a valid demand for a poll is received, the poll will be held before 21 May 2021 and the outcome (FPP or STV) will be binding for the 2022 and 2025 Hamilton elections. If there is no demand for a poll, then the Council’s decision will apply for the 2022 elections.

What councils in New Zealand use STV?

In the 2019 local government elections, 11 out of 78 local authorities used STV: Dunedin City Council, Kaipara District Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, Marlborough District Council, New Plymouth District Council (1st time), Porirua City Council, Ruapehu District Council (1st time), Tauranga City Council (1st time), Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council.

All District Health Board elections must use STV.

How do I vote under STV?

In an STV election, you have one vote and rank the candidates in order of preference. Give a 1 to your favourite candidate, 2 to your second choice and so on. You can rank as many candidates as you like – you don’t need to rank them all. By ranking the candidates, parts of your vote may be shared between the candidates you support according to your preferences. If the candidate you most want to win gets more votes than they need to be elected, because a lot of other people voted for them too, part of your vote may be transferred to your next choice. The same thing happens if your top choice is really unpopular and doesn’t get enough votes to be elected – your vote for them will be transferred to your next preference until all positions are filled.

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 – a number based on the total number of valid votes and the number of vacant positions. 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. If voters didn’t give any second or subsequent preferences, those votes cannot be transferred and the quota is recalculated to exclude the non-transferable votes.

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

What are the advantages of STV?

Under STV, the election 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. As 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. Some Hamilton voters will have used STV to vote for District Health Board members before, so there is some knowledge and familiarity about how it works.

What are the disadvantages of STV?

Voting for our mayor and councillors under STV would be less familiar. The counting system is more complex.

Is the same process used to count the mayoral votes as the one used for councillors?

Yes, it’s the same process. But the quota the winning mayoral candidate needs to reach is an absolute majority – more than 50% of the votes.

How is the quota calculated under STV?

In an STV election, the quota is the number of votes a candidate needs to get elected. It is calculated from the total number of valid votes cast and the number of vacant positions. In the case of mayoral elections, the quota is an absolute majority (more than 50%).

Are there any ‘wasted’ votes under STV?

Research on electoral systems labels any vote that does not help to elect a candidate as ‘wasted’. This is different to the typical meaning of something being a waste. For example, the votes for candidates who are not elected are described as ‘wasted’. Sometimes the surplus votes a candidate receives, over and above the number they need to be elected, are also said to be ‘wasted’. Under STV there are still some ‘wasted’ votes, but the system is designed to minimise these. If a popular candidate does not need all the votes he or she receives, a share is transferred to their voters’ next preferences. On the other hand, if a candidate doesn’t receive enough votes to be elected, their votes can be transferred to their voters’ next preferences.

Do voters have to rank everyone?

No. You can rank as many or as few candidates as you wish, so your vote is still valid even if you only rank some candidates.

What are the ways a vote might become invalid in an STV election?

If you don’t rank anyone at all with a “1”. Or if you rank more than one person with a “1”. Or if you vote using ticks, as in an FPP election.

If you muck up the later numbers – like ranking two candidates with “3”s – your vote won’t be able to transfer after the 2nd preference to help other candidates, but your earlier preferences (1st and 2nd) will still count.

Is voter turnout higher under FPP or STV elections?

It’s difficult to say if the voting system used affects voter turnout, as a number of variables impact participation e.g. the appeal of candidates, interest in council issues, perceptions of previous elected members.

If Hamilton City Council switches to STV, will that be the only system we use to vote in local government elections?

Not necessarily. You’ll also be voting for the Waikato Regional Council and the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) on your voting paper. Waikato DHB must use STV and Waikato Regional Council can choose to use either system. Waikato Regional Council used FPP in 2019.