Getting Trumped?

21 September 2016

Imagine if our local body elections, which are to be held in the next month, had the candidates and politics Americans are currently immersed in. Who would you vote for?

Irrespective of your political beliefs, Trump has shaken conservative America. We have some  parallels here in New Zealand (albeit not in size) when you look back to when Tim Shadbolt was voted in as Mayor of Invercargill in 1993. Who would have thought the conservative farmers of Southland would have given him their vote! But they did and Shadbolt has been Mayor for over 20 years now.

And Trump is getting people to the polls with predictions that turnout could be as high as 140 million voters, a record number of people voting for their President, despite both candidates being amongst the most disliked of all times (voter dissatisfaction percentages for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in the low 40’s, numbers not seen since Hillary’s Bill went head to head with Bush Senior in 1992).

This year Auckland is looking for a new mayor after Len Brown decided to move right along. There are plenty of candidates, including some strong contenders in there, but the same is not true for the wards, some of which have struggled to attract enough candidates to actually need an election.  Wellington hasn’t so many mayoral candidates but enough to give voters some good choices, and generally fares pretty well in the wards with a reasonable stack of candidates, (apart from Tawa which has six for six!).  So now it’s about the voting with October 8th being Election day and the closing date for special votes.

Getting people voting is not be the responsibility of the local authorities.  We all need to take responsibility for encouraging friends and family to participate in this process of democracy as the people who make decisions on our behalf at local level, are just as important as those at national level. 

Did you know that the role of Mayor is for the duration of the term and the incumbent cannot be kicked out – remember Rob Ford, former Mayor of Toronto!

In some cases our Mayors actions have more impact than those of our Prime Minister. So we should know and be informed of who we are voting for.

But irrespective of how or who we vote for, the vital fact we should all understand is that voting in local body elections is different to voting at a general election.

Where you live determines the voting system for your local body elections.  And in some regions there are two different types of voting systems used in the same election campaign. These are STV (Single Transferable Vote), or FPP (First Passed the Post).  So it’s important to understand how each process work.

  • STV – Single Transferable Vote - The Wellington mayor and councillors are voted in on a STV system. This gives you the opportunity to cast your vote and rate candidates in order of your preference.  For instance if there are three candidates standing for Mayor, you have the opportunity to rate them as follows; –

1= your first choice, 2 = second choice,  3 = your last choice.  It’s vital under the STV system to rate all of the candidates, and not just give one a preference of 1, because a ranking system is used to determine the winner. Your second choice could still win if others voted them highly.

  • FPP – First Past the Post - In Auckland the mayor is voted in using the FPP system.  This means the candidate who wins the majority of votes is declared the winner. The voting paper asks you to put a tick beside the name of the person you vote to represent you.

However the STV and FPP systems are both used in Auckland body elections. The FPP electoral system is used for the Mayor, Auckland Council and the five licensing trusts, but the STV electoral system is used for the three district health boards. Check out this link for more information.

It’s confusing to have so many voting systems in one small country, especially when one sounds like a sexually transmitted vote, but at least we are given the opportunity to vote for people to represent us. And I know it’s still not online, but getting to your local voting booth is the price you pay for participating in democracy.  Not voting means you don’t really have the right to criticise those who have stood up and offered to represent you. 

So whether it rains or shines, you should get out and vote.

Book it in your diary – Saturday 8th October 2016

At Alpha we encourage our staff to make the most of their chances to participate in this wonderful democracy.  Some are newly arrived and can’t, and many of these speak to us about why they left their home countries where voting is either not possible or not transparent.  Tell us why you think you should vote, or if you’re not planning to, why not.