Voter turnout still low

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

Come on peo­ple, get those vot­ing pa­pers in. With just days to go till vot­ing closes in the lo­cal body elec­tions, the num­bers are pre­dictably limp, with less than 40 per cent of Porirua res­i­dents ex­pected to have their say.

As Kapi-Mana News went to press on Mon­day, 6454 of 34,873 vot­ers ( 18.51 per cent) were recorded as hav­ing re­turned their pa­pers, com­pared with 18.24 per cent in 2007 and 22.56 per cent in 2004 at the same stage. Nearly 20 per cent of vot­ers in the north­ern and western wards posted their bal­lot, and 16.5 per cent had in the east.

There is al­ways voter ap­a­thy to­wards lo­cal body elec­tions. Fig­ures show Maori, Pa­cific and young peo­ple are the least in­ter­ested. There are many the­o­ries be­hind it – peo­ple sim­ply don’t care; that by not vot­ing you ac­cept the sta­tus quo; that the sin­gle trans­fer­able vote (STV) sys­tem is too con­fus­ing; that three weeks is too long a vot­ing pe­riod. If peo­ple don’t be­lieve their vote makes a dif­fer­ence, look to 2007 when Liz Kelly was elected by three votes.

‘‘The biggest threat for us as a coun­cil is if peo­ple do noth­ing,’’ says may­oral can­di­date Nick Leggett.

‘‘If too few peo­ple vote you can take the city in the wrong di­rec­tion. Lo­cal coun­cils are a multi-mil­lion dol­lar busi­ness and can have much more im­pact on peo­ple’s daily lives than cen­tral govern­ment.’’

Gre­gory For­tuin, raised in South Africa with no right to vote, says it is im­por­tant res­i­dents make their voices heard.

‘‘If it’s ap­a­thy, I think you should have your right to vote taken away. You must ap­pre­ci­ate how valu­able hav­ing your say is.’’

Mr Leggett sup­ports the STV sys­tem – where can­di­dates are ranked in pref­er­en­tial or­der – say­ing it has led to a more rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil than FPP could achieve, but sev­eral of his op­po­nents are call­ing for a re­view.

Deputy mayor Litea Ah Hoi, who is also gun­ning for the top job, hates STV.

‘‘I’ve never sup­ported it and don’t buy the rea­sons given to have it.

‘‘If it’s so suc­cess­ful then why isn’t the whole coun­try us­ing it? Peo­ple don’t un­der­stand STV and it leads to large num­bers of in­valid votes be­cause peo­ple have to use a combo of this and FPP.’’

Rus­sell Mar­shall says he wants STV re­viewed whether he or not he is elected. While Brian Collins finds STV ‘‘per­fectly ac­cept­able’’, he says vot­ers should not feel obliged to rank all the can­di­dates.

‘‘Put a ‘1’ next to the per­son you want to get in, and don’t do any­thing else.’’

Six au­thor­i­ties in New Zealand use STV – Dunedin City, Kaipara District, Kapiti Coast District, Marl­bor­ough District, Welling­ton City and Porirua City coun­cils.

It has been in use by PCC since 2004.

All Porirua may­oral can­di­dates agreed there needed to be a deeper look at voter turnout and how the process could be made eas­ier.

PCC’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and demo­cratic ser­vices man­ager Mike Chap­man con­firmed the Lo­cal Elec­toral Act trig­gers a re­view of the STV sys­tem, and it would likely be within the next 12 months.

Votes must be re­ceived by mid­day this Satur­day.

Re­sults for the may­oralty are likely to be known that day (you can check via but ward re­sults may take longer.

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