Call For Local Voting Change


A local government specialist lecturer predicts that voter turnout in local body elections will continue to decline because of confusion over the “mishmash” of voting systems.

Associate Professor Christine Cheyne, who has researched public involvement in local authority planning and decision-making, says the only reasonable turnouts in this year’s elections were due to special factors, such as high-profile mayoral campaigns in Auckland and Christchurch, and where there were contentious local issues.

“It is likely that this will be a blip and will not be sustained,” says Dr Cheyne. “In many areas, election campaigns are not reaching enough people, particularly young people, Maori and many other ethnic communities, and there is generally poor understanding of the significance of local authority decisions.

“It’s coming up a decade since the Local Electoral Act 2001 was passed and the current system is not fostering local democracy. The representativeness of our councils and the legitimacy of decision-making are being compromised by the current mishmash of voting systems.

“It’s bizarre that proportional representation is mandated for district health board elections but is not considered important for council elections. It is unfortunate that STV [single transferrable voting] has been given poor press in some quarters resulting in voter misunderstanding or unease. Many voters want a more effective system of local elections and much can be done to ensure that it is much easier for people to exercise their democratic right to vote.”

Dr Cheyne, from the University’s School of People, Environment and Planning, says overall figures indicate that the number of people voting at city, district and regional council level will continue to decline.

While there had been a healthy turnout in some parts of New Zealand, it had been influenced by other factors such as a high-profile mayoral campaign, contentious issues or because of a traditionally high voter turnout in smaller, mainly rural councils.




  1. Matt says:

    Which university?

  2. karl says:

    STV in general elections will not increase voter participation. All it will result in is more people just not voting because it’s too hard to understand and rank for them.

    Run-off two-stage elections for major posts might work though, but still be a bit of a gimmick.

    Shifting away from a postal system, and maybe combining electiosn even more could work, but would have other disadvantages (like national themes overshadowing local ones).


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