And I told them so…

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

It WAS a scan­dal all right – it’s still go­ing on! No, not that other one. I mean the way a clumsy vot­ing sys­tem, dif­fi­cult to cope with, has robbed thou­sands of Auck­lan­ders of their vote once again.

Stripped them of their right of choice from the can­di­date lists. Were you one of them?

You can tell me and I won’t tell any­one.

Do you now re­alise that you put a tick where you ac­tu­ally should have used a fig­ure?

Don’t think I’m blam­ing you you did. Not at all.

You’re in good com­pany. I re­mem­ber a for­mer chair of a health board who tripped over her vote ex­actly the same way – gave them ticks and not num­bers.

The prob­lem – and it’s a real worry – is the need to mesh two to­tally dif­fer­ent vot­ing sys­tems. And it’s been a wrecker in ev­ery three year lo­cal gov­ern­ment poll since it was in­tro­duced more than a decade ago. What’s the cru­cial dif­fer­ence? To vote for the may­oralty, coun­cil­lors, boards and trusts, you tick the name of your choice.

Hav­ing worked that out on the kitchen ta­ble, you are sud­denly switched to health boards where must you rate your pick with a fig­ure of first choice and oth­ers from one.

When you spell out the dif­fer­ence slowly, it doesn’t seem great.

if

But by my count it cost more than 60,000 Auck­lan­ders their vote for one of the 21 seats on the three dis­trict health boards this time.

In a sit­u­a­tion where 81 peo­ple were so con­cerned about the health sys­tem that they of­fered them­selves for one of 21 seats – seven seats for each of the three boards – the prob­lems of se­lect­ing can­di­dates had the added com­pli­ca­tion of an or­der of pref­er­ence, one, two, three, four, etc, from as many as 35 who were nom­i­nated.

This at a time when the vot­ing pub­lic clearly didn’t know as much as they needed to know about some can­di­dates – and not just those on the health board. All this pro­duces not ‘‘meshed vot­ing’’ but messed vot­ing .

That’s prob­lem one. Worry two is that the Gov­ern­ment ap­par­ently can’t see – or choose not to see – that the sys­tem isn’t work­ing.

So Wellington City Coun­cil uses this wretched sys­tem for all its votes – which means that vot­ers don’t have to switch from the de­mands of one sys­tem to another.

The fact that makes the sit­u­a­tion ridicu­lous was that the idea be­hind STV (Sin­gle Trans­fer­able Vot­ing) was that no vote would be lost and it would some­how give peo­ple from mi­nor­ity groups a bet­ter chance of elec­tion. Then there was early loud ap­plause be­cause ex­cess votes for a win­ning can­di­date could be ‘‘trans­ferred’’ – as the name im­plies, to another can­di­date, I pre­sume next in line on the voter’s score­sheet – which many vot­ers don’t know and might not agree with.

In­ter­est­ingly, a sam­ple STV vot­ing pa­per in­cluded in the guide to can­di­dates used names of fruit and veg­eta­bles for can­di­dates – Anaru Ap­ple scored num­ber one, Chris­tine Car­rot got two. Belinda Ba­nana three, etc.

But there was no le­mon – which is how I rate STV. What’s the re­sult? A glance at newly elected mem­bers in the fi­nal count at ei­ther the Waitem­ata or Auck­land dis­trict health boards shows no ev­i­dence that STV re­dressed any im­bal­ances for mi­nor­ity or eth­nic groups.

And in Coun­ties Manukau, a com­mu­nity seem­ingly dom­i­nated by Pa­cific Is­lan­ders, only the sev­enth and last elected name is ob­vi­ously Pa­cific – but hardly from a mi­nor­ity.

Sad­dest fea­ture is that so many vot­ers are be­ing set up to lose their vot­ing rights with­out them even know­ing they have lost them.

I felt gen­uinely sorry when peo­ple told me how they’d voted – then ca­su­ally dropped in the fact they’d ticked this name or that. Even mine!

It’s quite clear to me from this trav­esty that peo­ple who have care- fully ticked their way through lists of names for mayor, coun­cil, boards, com­mit­tees and trusts are lured into do­ing the same with the fi­nal bal­lot sheet for a health board. Tick­ing not num­ber­ing.

Then there are some who sim­ply look at the mass of names – most or all of them strangers – and they slip their votes into the mail with the health board sec­tion blank.

Is this ev­i­dence that more than 10,000 at each of Waitem­ata, Auck­land and 8944 in Coun­ties Manukau don’t un­der­stand how to vote us­ing STV?

How long will it take for the clear mes­sage to get through to the Wellington bu­reau­crats?

And how much quicker would re­ac­tion time be if STV was op­er­at­ing on the par­lia­men­tary vote? Would MPs in closely fought elec­torates look­ing at four fig­ures of in­for­mal votes and pondering just how dif­fer­ent the re­sult would be if ev­ery vote re­ally did count, stick with STV?

Not that the first past the post sys­tem is per­fect.

Look – with­out spe­cific com­ment – at the Auck­land may­oralty.

How do any of the 17 con­tenders feel about be­wil­der­ing fig­ures at the bot­tom of the mayoral re­sult: In­for­mal 1584 and blank votes re­ceived 7347?

What mes­sage were those blank non-vot­ers giv­ing the con­tenders – ‘‘I haven’t enough con­fi­dence in any of you to give you my vote.

‘‘This know!’’ In the mail­bag:

‘‘It is dif­fi­cult to find a fair and sat­is­fac­tory way to con­duct a mayoral elec­tion in Auck­land. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with a pop­u­la­tion close to one and a half mil­lion – one-third of the coun­try – is im­pos­si­ble for all but the very wealthy.

‘‘The in­cum­bent is well ahead of the game. He has the coun­cil bu­reau­cracy with nu­mer­ous spin doc­tors at his dis­posal.

‘‘The Her­ald added to this by pub­lish­ing a pho­to­graph of the mayor and Nick Smith at the open­ing of a hous­ing project.

‘‘What hap­pened to jour­nal­ism?

‘‘To level the play­ing field would need pub­lic fund­ing for ev­ery can­di­date no mat­ter how hope­less.

‘‘A bet­ter way would be for the elected coun­cil­lors to chose a mayor from their num­bers. Af­ter all, the mayor is pri­mar­ily ‘chair­man of the board’.

‘‘Online vot­ing will not solve the prob­lem added to postal vot­ing.

‘‘The only way for­ward is back­wards to polling sta­tion which will at­tract more elec­tor sup­port with the added ad­van­tage of ex­clud­ing those un­der the in­flu­ence of drink or drugs.

‘‘Com­pul­sory vot­ing is lu­di­crous. How to en­force it? Another bu­reau­cracy – elec­toral po­lice?

‘‘One can lead a horse to wa­ter but not make it drink.’’ – Michael

is my way of let­ting you

‘bal­ance’ in

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