And I told them so…
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.
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