Voting system under fire
Hamilton’s electoral ward system is not fit for purpose, according to a group of unsuccessful candidates from the April city council by-election.
“I am very tired of not being able to vote for my ideal candidate because they live on the other side of the city,” resident Judy Mcdonald said.
“Most of the significant matters that affect Hamilton and its future are not connected by what side of the river you live on.”
She spoke to councillors at last week’s council meeting saying she felt restricted in only being able to vote for candidates in her ward, and wanted a city-wide election.
A group of five former candidates and other concerned residents made verbal submissions at the meeting, with just under 12 months to go before Hamilton’s next local body election.
The council is undertaking a representation review with a decision to be made on November 1.
The current electoral system is that six councillors are elected from the east, and six from the west side of the river, with a citywide vote for mayor.
Some of the public submitters asked for council to change to a three-ward system, while others asked for a city-wide election for all council seats.
Ms Mcdonald said that if council was to change to a city-wide election, then the advertising budgets should be changed.
Currently the amount of money a candidate can spend is based on population of the ward.
“We could improve the situation by setting a much lower limit on advertisement budgets.”
“I think the amount of money that can be spent is a huge issue. It leaves people on anything but a level playing field.”
Another Hamilton resident, Kelli Pike also supported a citywide election, abolishing the ward system.
She said that she personally wouldn’t vote for people just because they lived next door to her.
“If mayor Andrew lived next door to me, I wouldn’t vote for him,” Ms Pike said.
Former by-election candidate Deborah Fisher said the current system was not fair on lower income areas, and did not represent the spread of Hamilton.
She said that there are more active voters in the northern suburbs, because those on higher incomes participate more during the election.
“People are most likely to vote for people from their community because they reflect their communities,” Ms Fisher said.
“In the 2016 elections, seven councillors were elected from one third of the city.”
“The suburbs to the north and the suburbs to the south are different communities. Just ask anyone living in them.”
Councillor Angela O’leary asked how a three-ward system would help give better representation to the other communities, if people living outside of those wards could still stand for them.
Ms Fisher said that people are more likely to vote for someone in their neighbourhood, rather than elsewhere.