Vot­ing sys­tem un­der fire

Hamilton News - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Row­land

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.

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