SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR TO THE
INQUIRY INTO THE 2010 LOCAL AUTHORITY ELECTIONS
BY THE JUSTICE & ELECTORAL SELECT COMMITTEE
About the Submitter
- This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.
Management of Elections
- With the establishment of an Electoral Commission that manages all aspects of our national elections (including enrolments in the future), I believe it is timely to consider whether the Electoral Commission should be given authority over our local authority elections.
- Purely on a cost basis, I imagine there would be considerable savings as 70 odd TLAs all have their own systems, or pay an external provider for them.
- More importantly, the Electoral Commission would add extra integrity to the elections. By this, I do not mean there are serious problems at the moment, but current returning officers are often staff of local authorities whom naturally form working relationships with current Mayors and Councillors etc.
- I do not ask the Select Committee to agree immediately to place the Electoral Commission in charge of local authority elections, but to request the Government to seek advice about the pros and cons of doing so.
Making an informed decision
- It is of concern that turnout for local body elections is very low. Even worse, of those who do vote – few cast what most would consider to be highly informed votes.
- In making such a statement, I offer myself up as an example. I follow news and politics more than probably 99% of the population. But even I struggle with knowing who to vote for on my local District Health Board, or how to rank all the candidates in my local ward
- Many people get elected to office based either on their ability to write a nice 200 word blurb, or based on the spelling of their surname.
- That ballot papers be required to be in random order.
- Recognising that trying to select or rank dozens of candidates for multiple vacancies is difficult and off-putting, that the Local Government Commission be encouraged to move towards smaller wards – even one person wards. I think more people would vote, and have confidence in their choices, if they had to just pick one Councillor from their local neighbourhood (as well as a Mayor).
- The principle of smaller wards should also apply to Regional Councils and DHBs. Having their wards as TLAs, means that you ask voters to do the near impossible – intelligently rank 30 – 40 candidates, or even select 7+ persons.
- Having both STV and FPP in use at local body level is somewhat confusing. STV is excellent for single vacancy elections such as Mayoralties, but I find it very offputting for multiple vacancy elections due to the high number of candidates. If there was a move towards more single vacancy elections, then STV would be more widely supported I believe.
- That e-voting be trialled in the 2013 local body elections in a few areas. I believe e-voting could lift voter turnout, and also help with more informed voting as the online ballot could have links to (longer) blurbs on each candidate, or even candidate websites.