28 February 2024

Explained: How voting under STV will help your preferred candidate win

Voters in Hamilton will start getting their voting documents from today for City Council and Waikato Regional Council elections. But both these elections use a different voting system. 

For the first time, Hamilton voters will be using the Single Transferable Voting (STV) system to elect their Mayor and councillors. STV  was used previously for District Health Board elections in Hamilton.

Waikato Regional Council will, however, continue to use the First Past the Post (FPP) system wherein you tick the candidate you want to win.

As STV is a new system, it is important, therefore, for Hamilton voters to understand its working and how their vote (based upon ranking) will ensure win of their preferred candidate.

The STV system requires voters to use numbers (not a tick) to vote. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference – from your most favourite to least favourite. If you use your vote using ticks, your vote will become invalid.

For example, put “1” beside your most favourite candidate, write “2” beside your second choice, followed by “3” as your third choice, and so on. You can rank for as many or as few candidates as you like.

Example of STV voting (Image courtesy/stv.govt.nz)

Remember, you should not use the same number twice. In other words, you don’t give the same ranking to more than one candidate. If you do, your vote will be invalid.

Second thing to remember is you don’t skip a number. The numbers you use must be in sequence. If you make a mistake, your vote will be valid up to when you made the error – for example, if you rank 1, 2, 3 and 5 and miss out a “4”, only your first three preferences will be valid.

Under the STV system, if a popular candidate does not need all the votes they receive, a share is transferred to their voters’ next choice of candidate, thus minimizing vote ‘wastage’.

By ranking the candidates, parts of your vote may be proportionately shared with other candidates according to your preferences. For example, if your number ‘1’ candidate gets more votes than they need to be elected, part of your vote may be transferred to your next choice, ‘2’.

Similarly, if your top choice – no ‘1’, is really unpopular and doesn’t get enough votes from other voters to be elected, your vote will be transferred to your next preference.

These counting steps are repeated until all seats are filled. If voters didn’t give second or more preferences, those votes are called non-transferable and the quota is recalculated.

As compared to FPP, the election results are more likely to indicate accurate indication of a greater number of voters.

As a voter, power to elect your favourite candidate(s) is in your hand, rank wisely.

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