In defence of STV

“or How I learned to stop living the past and learned to love the vote.”

This posting is in response to the submission of Jeremy Belcher and Calvin Oaten to the DCC Electoral Review Committee, in February 2005, in which they criticise “Meeks NZ STV” and put forward their own Belcher/Oaten Method, which they claim is better than STV in several ways. A comment from Mr Oaten (with a link to the submission) was posted by Elizabeth Kerr on 22 August.

In his submission, Mr Oaten attacks single-seat STV, on the basis that it is the second preference votes of the least successful candidates that determine the outcome, and that the second preference votes of the highest polling candidates play no part in determining the final result. He calls this a “travesty of representation”.

What he fails to understand is that, under STV (in both the single- and multi-seat cases), second and subsequent preferences are merely contingency choices only; they are not additional votes having the same value (the value of unity) as first-preference votes. The system is called the single transferable vote for a reason – everyone has just one vote, which is transferable if necessary. If second preferences given for all the candidates were taken into account, i.e. if each voter had two votes, of equal value, even though only one vacancy was being filled (that were then merely tallied and the candidate with the highest combined total of first and second preferences was declared the winner), many voters would discover, too late, that their second preferences had served only to help defeat the candidate they had actually voted for, being the candidate for whom they had given their first preference. Now that would be a travesty of representation.

Mr Oaten then launches into multi-seat STV, again not realising that second and subsequent preferences are contingency choices only, not additional votes. He is critical of the fact that, in a three-seat ward, voters do not have three votes (of equal value) under STV, completely overlooking the reason why – if voters had three votes, in a worst-case scenario, the largest minority grouping (perhaps comprising only 35% of all voters), could use their three votes to elect the three candidates they wanted, with the remaining 65% of voters getting nothing. Clearly, Mr Oaten wants STV to, in effect, be the system it replaced – multiple-FPP.

Mr Oaten proposes his Belcher-Oaten Method, that he claims would correct NZ STV’s deficiencies. It is, in fact, a clumsy version of multiple-FPP. In a 3-seat ward, he wants the first three preferences to have the same weight, being the value of unity. As previously stated, this would enable the largest minority grouping to use their three votes to elect the three candidates they want, with everyone else missing out. Taking his example of Cargill 2004 on page 6 of his paper, he has determined that the total number of first, second and third preferences is 5210 + 5178+ 5127 = 15,515. To him, this is the number of valid votes. His Quota formula (on page 5) is 15515 / 3 = 5171.67 times 4 (the number of vacancies, plus 1) divided by 10 (the number of candidates), i.e. 40%, which equals 2068.668, which he has rounded up to 2069.

If the required three candidates have not attained this quota, then the total number of fourth preferences are assigned to the candidates on a pro rata basis according to his formula (on page 7). For Teresa Stevenson, therefore, the calculation is 327 / 4927 = 0.0663689 times 327 = 21.702, which he has rounded up to 22. In other words, voters have multiple votes (value 1), equal to the number of vacancies, plus further votes, if necessary, assigned on a pro rata basis, i.e. at less than the value of unity (327 votes, that he now calls preference votes, become 22 votes).

He calls his method “Proportional STV that reveals the true will of the People”. Surely he jests. First, it is not STV – it is a multiple-vote system (not a single vote system), and no votes are transferred; preferences are merely tallied.

Second, it is not proportional representation, because it is essentially multiple-FPP (with additional pro rata votes beyond the nth preference in a n-seat ward). Taking his example, three people he dislikes, because they share “political, social, lifestyle, or cultural associations or sympathies” (page 4, fourth bullet point), being Stevenson, Doug Hall and Paul McMullen, fill the three seats. In Cargill 2004, under STV, the three winners each obtained 25% of the votes, meaning 75% of the total of votes were effective in helping to elect a candidate, and they were quite different from each other. Under the Belcher-Oaten Method, the three winners are politically / socially aligned (according to him), but are elected with a total of only 7216 votes (plus 217 pro rata votes [22 + 195]) out of a total of 15,515 votes (plus 217 pro rata votes), i.e. on only 46.51% of the total of votes!! This means his Quota formula has no rational electoral basis, which leads to a concomitant conclusion that his method is well short of being mathematically rigorous.

Consequently, third, far from revealing the true will of the people, his method grotesquely distorts that will. He simply hasn’t clicked to the fact that the 987 voters who gave a second preference, and the 876 voters who gave a third preference, to McMullen (for example), would have, in many cases, helped to defeat their most preferred candidate, such as Paul Hudson or Michael Guest. Although it would be transparent, it is hardly fair, accurate or democratic. And once those voters see what they’ve done (because of the transparency), they’ll never express second or subsequent preferences again, and then we’ll be back to FPP – actually, we would have, by default, a close approximation of the Single NON-Transferable Vote in a multi-seat ward (a system, previously used in Japan, that produces unequal representation, or no representation at all, for voters).

Mr Oaten states that the first preferences of the highest polling candidates are never looked at (page 3, paragraph immediately above the table, and in a posting dated 22 August (at 11.35 a.m.)). That is simply not true. For example, once Stevenson attained the quota, her keep value was recalculated (at iteration 3) as 0.98857…, and was recalculated as the count progressed. Her final keep value was 0.66775… That means, at the conclusion of the count, she had kept 66.78% of all her votes, and the remaining 33.22% had been transferred to the second and subsequent preferences on her votes (both her first-preference votes, and those votes she acquired along the way), to help elect other candidates.

I suspect Mr Oaten laments the fact that, in Cargill in 2004, he was excluded from the count at the same time Stevenson was elected (at iteration 2), which meant he was unable to benefit from any second preferences given for him on her 1,313 papers. But, at iteration 3, Alan McDonald only received 104 papers from her (value 1.89 votes), Steve Young only received 156 papers from her (value 1.78 votes) and even Jo Galer and Nicola Holman only received 202 and 200 papers, respectively, from her (value 2.31 votes and 2.28 votes, respectively). The simple fact of the matter is, Mr Oaten was always destined for an early exit, because only 142 people (out of 5,210) voted for him. Not even the Belcher-Oaten Method would have saved him.

In conclusion, I commend the DCC for creating the 11-seat Central Ward. What this means is that any candidate who receives one-twelfth (8.33%) of all votes cast [45% of (say) 65,000 electors = 29,250 x 0.833 = (say) 2,400 votes] will be elected. Any group of voters, comprising 8.33% of all voters, will elect a candidate to represent them, regardless of who larger groups of voters may want.

Click here for a paper that explains how single-seat STV works, and the rationale behind the system. (PDF)

Click here to see a paper that describes multi-seat STV, and the rationale hehind the system. (PDF)

Click here to see a paper that describes how single transferable votes are counted, and how individual voters can work out how their vote was used. (PDF)

Click here to see a paper that explains STV to voters (PDF).

Click here to see a paper that reconstructs in meticulous detail how the votes cast in the Cargill Ward in 2004 were counted. (PDF)

Click here to see the guide prepared for the Department of Internal Affairs, the Society of Local Government Managers Electoral Working Party and Local Government New Zealand (PDF)

Author: Steve.

Posted by Paul Le Comte


Filed under Inspiration, Other, Politics

34 responses to “In defence of STV

  1. Richard

    Thanks, Steve (and Paul).

    The most literate and clear explanation I have read yet of how STV actually works.

    But – and it is a BIG but – I still have reservations about a counting system that needs a computer to do the count.

    Hopefully, no power cuts – or a repeat of 6 years ago.

  2. ANYTHING proportional that prevents the repeat of 1978 & 1981 general elections in which the voice of the people was denied is fine by me.


    National 680,991 votes = 51 seats
    Labour 691,976 votes = 40 seats
    Social Credit 274,756 votes = 1 seat.

    How can 1.4 million people be represented by 1 seat?


    National 698,508 votes = 47 seats
    Labour 702,630 votes = 43 seats

    further Social Credit 372,056 = 2 Seats

    I defy anyone to find the democratic representation in that system, I’d love to have a beer with you, because your imagination is so wild there will be plenty of laughs at the pub.

  3. Steve

    I agree with you [Elizabeth]. Rural voters have no say in the election of 78.6% of those who will make decisions affecting them.

    The problem is that councillors and the Local Government Commission are bound by the Local Electoral Act 2001, which still talks about providing effective representation of communites of interest from an FPP perspective. “Communites of interest” is basically interpreted as “suburbs” or areas with natural boundaries, etc.

    Although, clearly, the Local Government Commission is starting to get to grips with STV (witness the Central Ward), they still don’t realise that, under STV, the expression “communities of interest” means far more than just suburbs; it can mean anything people want it to mean, including race, gender, political philosophy, those for and those against local issues, etc., etc.

    Rural voters would probably have howled with dismay if the Local Government Commission had determined the Dunedin Council would be elected at-large, saying their local representation will be taken from them by city voters.

    In actual fact, bearing in mind that STV is a system of proportional representation, if all 14 councillors were elected at-large, there are sufficient voters in the Mosgiel-Taieri ward to ensure that they elect 2 councillors, and there are sufficient voters in the WC-Chalmers ward to ensure that they elect 1 councillor. All they would need do is rank-order their own candidates 1, 2, 3, etc. (in other words, vote cohesively for their own candidates) before rank-ordering other candidates (if they so wish). Their votes will accumulate upon the 2 most favoured M-T candidates, and upon the most favoured WC-C candidate, respectively, to elect those 3 candidates, and there would be nothing that city voters could do about it.

    Hopefully, once rural voters see what they’re missing out on, and come to realise that the election of all 14 councillors at-large under STV will not harm their interests (providing they don’t let it harm their interests), they will support it the next time council representation is reviewed.

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Steve, Margaret here :D
      Been enjoying your discussion and arguments, rather brilliant to say the least. Easy to understand, completely rational.
      Congratulations on the quality of your communications. 5 out of 5 stars.

  4. Steve

    My sincere apologies, Elizabeth. I had just been talking to a Margaret and didn’t make the mental switch soon enough.

  5. Steve

    Thanks for that, Richard.

    The count must be performed by computer, because, under NZ STV, all the valid votes are re-counted, over and over again, using the new keep values of those candidates who have attained the current quota, until the required number of candidates attain the quota, and computers are the only way a timely result can be produced. It is not because the count is so complicated that a computer *must* be used. In fact, the count is basically just simple arithmetic.

    One of the reasons why I prepared the “Cargill 2004 Count” paper was to show local government and associated personnel that the STV Calculator was programmed absolutely correctly, following “The Great NZ Post Disaster of 2004”, which STV most unfairly took the hit for (see the STV Calculator report for Cargill 2004, at the link below, and compare the figures with the “Count” paper. You will see that the Calculator is correct, right to the last one-billionth of a vote). The problem that ocurred in 2004 did not, and has not, occurred with other contractors (of which NZ Post is no longer one) so that, or some other sort of disaster, is extremely unlikely ever to occur again – 2007 went off without a hitch.

    There are fail-safe systems in place to protect data in the event of a power failure, so that is not a concern, either.

    (I have improved the layout of the STV Calculator report, and corrected Doug Hall’s final keep value. Unfortunately, the Calculator was programmed to give *all* excluded candidates a final keep value of 0.0, when the final keep value of the runner-up candidate is always 1.0 (because his or her votes are not transferred.)

  6. Further to that,

    sure I do miss my Hillman Imp, where I could fix the thing myself, but there is no way I wouldn’t be driving my Subaru without its onboard computer these days. I know the computer works, and the car is better – that is all I need to know about it.

  7. Russell Garbutt


    Where did all the Hillman Imps go to? There used to be a lot around in Dunedin and I haven’t seen one for years.

    Steve, one question about STV that has occurred to me and I haven’t seen addressed. Why shouldn’t a voter be able to vote “against” a candidate? I can’t see why a voter, when faced with a number of candidates that they are very opposed to, shouldn’t have the option of rating however many they wish in a minus way.

    That is a very different thing to just ignoring them or rating others. Would the STV system, and the method of counting be able to handle such an option? I’m assuming that a voter could not mix up positive and negative counts on the same paper.

  8. Calvin Oaten

    Steve; I thank you for all your trouble. But to me, and I suspect the great unwashed, not possessed of a qualified knowledge of computers, it proves that the STV system is not a voting system but a contrivance.
    Democracy was well served by the simple one [person] one vote principle. For eleven [people] eleven votes. All equally weighted. The problem is when we decide to split the populous into separate rooms (wards) we take away the popular vote principle. Worse, the case you mention of the national voting imbalance produced, was not the system, but rather the political meddling which put uneven numbers of people into each room. In fact, the rooms are all in the same house, so what’s the point?
    What we have here now is a computer arbitrarily deciding on our behalf how much we must like each of our choices, when in fact that is not the point. We don’t have to like them, we just have to have faith in their ability. The point is, are we to have the right to vote for as few or as many as we wish on an equally weighted basis or not? If not – and we don’t – then that simply is not democracy.
    One electorate, a simple tick for one’s choices, and the result will be a true reflection of the masses for better or worse. What we have is a contradiction of democracy concealed by the opaqueness of the process as far as the people are concerned.

    {In the interests of democracy, Calvin, we have made two edits in gender neutral language. Although we could have substituted with ‘Hillman Imps’. -Eds}

  9. “Democracy was well served by the simple one [person] one vote principle”

    You really still are hanging in there with the defence of the 1978 & 1981 election results. How can getting less votes but significantly more seats be democratic.

    The numbers are there for all to see. Social Credit 1/4 million votes = 1 seat?

    • Elizabeth

      Hate to say it, but this time of night all the best one-liners are at Twitter
      (joining Twitter is free – now this blog is connected to Twitter, Facebook, THE WORLD…)

  10. Richard


    You pretty much have it right. The “giant step” to a totally ‘at large’ election this year was just too big a leap.

    My firm belief is that it will occur in 2013 providing, of course, that council (or electors) require a review. As you know, reviews are only statutorily required every 6 years.

    The key for the rural areas is the retention of community boards which work well in these well-defined areas of a city that we must always remember encompasses 3,350 square kilometres.

    It might have happened earlier if STV had been available and better understood and, of course, if we had not had the scandalous gerrymander in 1998 when the Commission overturned the Council decision after Mayor Turner – with the support of Cr Stevenson and both ironically advocates of STV – scuppered her own Council decision before the hearing. If that was not enough, we endured an action replay next time round.

    • Elizabeth

      I don’t believe the DCC community boards have enough weight or resources to competently deal with the council itself in all its machinations; we see this again and again.

      The power ratios between boards and council are somewhat askew and always have been.

      To that extent I believe the community boards are put upon, not listened to sufficiently well, and in some cases are underperforming, or are hellishly under-briefed to comfortably and appropriately undertake the council’s “consultation” processes (more recent instances boggle the mind).

      Council must empower the boards to step up to the task of long term council community planning, and be more vocal for their communities in the tasks they perform… We need ACTIVE AGENCY in the districts.

  11. Richard

    The Boards play a very, very important role in the districts they serve. How active they are generally depends on the Chair and the very good ones know “how to work the traps”.

    The Boards also have access to Council Committees as of right and to Council with the agreement of the Mayor. I have never known a refusal.

    Council staff e.g. Transportation Planning, Roading regularly attend Boards.

    Essentially what the Boards do is up to them. Their role is not prescribed as in many other places.

    And while some individuals and boards have, from time time, canvassed having more specific powers powers, (and I have been involved with boards in two reviews of ‘the charter’), the outscome has been to stay with things as they are.

  12. Steve

    Hello, Russell—

    To me, voting should be conducted in a positive spirit. The aim is to find representatives to carry out the “people’s business”, not to frustrate that process by enabling disaffected persons to cast negative – I would go as far as to say, wrecking – votes. As Professor Hayward says (and which I say, too, in my ‘STV explained’ paper, using different words), if you don’t like some of the candidates, don’t rank them. Also, why on earth would a voter prefer to forego the opportunity to cast a positive vote for their most-preferred candidate, in order to cast a negative vote for the candidate they dislike the most?

    I imagine your system would work by having two columns, one where people vote in the normal (positive) way, by ranking one or more of the candidates, and the other, alternative, column, where people would put a ‘1’ (only)* – a unique first preference – against the candidate they dislike. (As you say, they would have to choose which column they were going to vote in.) That way, the total of ‘negative’ unique first preferences for each candidate would be subtracted from their ‘positive’ first preferences, and the total of valid votes would be reduced, accordingly.

    And there we have the reason why your suggestion cannot work. Who is going to be disenfranchised, by having their vote withdrawn from the count, merely because someone else cast a negative vote for the candidate he or she cast a positive vote for?

    Alternatively, if a candidate receives the same number of positive and negative votes, or more negative votes than positive votes, the candidate could then immediately be excluded from the count and his or her votes transferred to the second preferences on them. But, again, which voters are going to be adversely affected, by having their most-preferred candidate excluded from the count earlier than would otherwise have occurred (if at all), merely because other voters cast negative votes for that candidate?

    In my view, STV is far and away the best electoral system yet devised, and we in New Zealand are very lucky to have the best, most modern, computer-compatible version of it. But we need to remember we are dealing with *public* elections here, not a private election to elect a committee in (say) the University of Otago’s Applied Mathematics Department. Let’s give it a chance to bed in, to let the people get used to it, before trying to further “improve” it.

    Personally, I don’t believe electoral systems should be played about with, or literally bent out of shape, merely to accommodate the disaffected among us (who only constitute a tiny minority, in any event). Having said that, however, I do acknowledge that there are many people “out there” who don’t vote, because they see no point in doing so (“The politicians will do what they want, anyway”), or who cast a ‘protest’ vote by defacing their voting document, or by deliberately casting an informal vote. In my view, such disaffected people should be able to participate in the electoral process, in a manner that enables them to feel they’ve “had their say”.

    My solution is to provide voters with the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option. The NOTA option enables people to express a “positive abstention”. My paper explaining this option is at the link below. Although it is written from the point of view of private elections, it is equally applicable to public elections. I realise it’s not quite what you have suggested, but you might think it’s a pretty good compromise. And it could easily be accommodated within the existing STV computer program.

    * You couldn’t allow voters to rank-order two or more of the candidates in the negative column, because it would surely be impossible to write a computer program that processes positive preferences in accordance with the election rules, while at the same time processes negative preferences. We would very quickly end up in a real muddle.

    Click to access ron_nota.pdf

  13. James

    A related thought: with most types of mathematical modelling, there is always a chance of ‘over-fitting’, where the applied model fits too well a certain scenario. Applied to voting systems, this would occur when the undesirable election outcomes are pored over to find a ‘fairer’ or ‘better’ solution. The problem with over-fitting is that that solution is tailored to a specific election, and may not work nearly as well next time round.

  14. Steve

    Hello, Calvin—

    If you have read the material that Paul posted for me last Thursday night, and you remain an FPP supporter, then so be it. However, I would like to respond to one or two of your comments.

    STV is no contrivance. It has been used in Tasmania for more than 100 years (Tasmanians wouldn’t dream of using anything else); to elect the parliaments in Ireland and Malta for 90 years; is used to elect the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Australian Senate, all local councils in Tasmania, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and to elect the upper house in several Australian states. Single-seat STV is used to elect the Australian House of Representatives, and the British are having a referendum next 5 May, on whether it should be used to elect the House of Commons.

    I share your lack of a qualified knowledge of computers, but you and I don’t need to have such knowledge to have confidence in them. Every time we fly, we put our faith in computers. As I have gone to great pains to demonstrate, the STV Calculator gives the correct result; it cannot fail to do so, because it has been programmed correctly. All the computer does is obviate the need for the short-cuts that are necessary when the votes are counted manually. For example, with manual counting, when a candidate attains the quota, only the votes in the parcel of votes that put him or her up over the quota are looked at. Under NZ STV, all relevant votes are looked at, and transferred.

    Democracy was *not* well-served by the simple one person, one vote principal, because each elector’s individual vote was not of the same value. The value of a vote was influenced by who cast it, and where the person who cast it lived. Votes cast for the National Party candidates in Dunedin North and Dunedin South in 2008 were worthless, as were the votes comprising the majorities of the two Labour Party candidates, in that none of those votes helped to elect anyone.

    Were the 11-seat Central Ward to be elected by FPP, it would not be eleven people, eleven votes. It would be *one* person, eleven votes. Take the Party Vote cast for Labour in the two Dunedin electorates in 2008 – a total of 32,016 votes out 70,272 valid votes cast (45.56%). Those 45% of voters could use their 11 votes each, to elect 11 Labour or Labour-like candidates onto Council, and the other 55% of voters would get nothing. That is not democracy. Even if it were 8 – 3, it would still be unfair. As Graham Bush, former professor of Local Government at Auckland University said, nearly 20 years ago now, “If there’s one thing worse than single-seat FPP, it’s multi-seat FPP.” How very, very, true.

    Giving people as many votes as there are vacancies to be filled, means some people obtain multiple-representation, some people obtain some representation, and some people obtain no representation at all, in that their vote did not help to elect anyone. That is not fair. That is not democracy. Unlike FPP, STV, being based on the principal of one person, one vote, one *value*, overcomes such inequities.

    Yes, the STV Calculator reports leave a lot to be desired; far more information should be given, but, even in this day and age of greater transparency, officialdom is still terrified of providing greater local electoral information. There are many people who, like you and I, want information such as the various preferences given for each candidate, the number of actual papers that transferred from one candidate to another, etc. But, the important thing is, we know the STV Calculator produces the correct results, and that’s what really matters.

  15. Steve

    Yes, James, that is exactly what the Belcher-Oaten Method was all about.

  16. Calvin Oaten

    Steve, thanks for that. I would have to say you have lost me, but I bow to your saying the STV calculator produces the correct result. I still look at the anomalies which seemed unexplainable in 2004, exacerbated by the unwillingness of ‘ElectionsNZ’ – the contractors – to release the information for verification. It left a very suspicious taste in the mouth of lot of people. However, like debating religion, it is probably best left. The proof might be in the outcome in October with the enlarged ward with eleven to come through. I am not convinced the local situation can be compared with the national one. No more than the council poll can be compared with the mayoral poll.

  17. Steve

    Hello, Calvin—

    Yes, I think it can reasonably be said that we have both had our say. Visitors to this site now have enough information to reach their own conclusions as to the merits of STV vis-à-vis FPP.

    However, I didn’t mean to confuse the issue with my reference to the 2008 general election results in Dunedin. I assumed readers would follow what I was getting at, so I should explain.

    What I was trying to get across was, that in Dunedin, Labour voters make up the largest minority group of voters and that, if they voted the same way in the Central Ward as they voted at the 2008 general election, they could use their 11 votes each to capture all 11 seats.

    The figures in 2008 were: Total combined valid Party Votes numbered 70,272, of which Labour received 32,016 (45.56%), National 22,434 (31.92%), Greens 8,192 (11.66%), Others 7,630 (10.86%).

    Let’s say the two Dunedin electorates roughly equate to the newly-created Central Ward. Let’s also say that, among the 39 candidates standing in the ward, 11 are Labour, 11 are Citizens & Ratepayers, 11 are Greens, and the remaining six are centre-right Independents.

    If everyone voted cohesively for the candidates of the groupings they supported in 2008, then, under the multiple-FPP system, the 11 Labour candidates would each receive 32,016 votes, the 11 C & R candidates would each receive 22,434 votes, the 11 Green candidates would each receive 8,192 votes, and the remaining 7,630 electors would spread their 11 votes each among the remaining 6 candidates. The 11 Labour candidates are elected, even though only 45% of the electors supported them. The remaining 55% of voters receive nothing.

    Of course, this is an extreme example and would never happen in practice, but it does demonstrate how unfair and undemocratic the multiple-FPP system can be, which is what I was trying to do in my previous post. The more vacancies being filled together under FPP, the more potentially unstable the outcome (given that the inequities of the system are not intentionally brought about by voters, they are simply a product of the system).

    Most of the councillors could come from the better-off parts of the city; female voters could use their slightly greater voting power (say, 50.6% to 49.4%) to elect 11 women to council (or 9, or 8). The list of inequities (that are impossible under STV, unless a huge majority of voters specifically vote for them, in which case they would not *be* inequities) goes on, but I’ll leave it at that.

  18. Jeremy Belcher

    Hi Steve and Calvin,
    Thanks for the robust discussion of STV (which, by the way, comes in different forms in different parts of the world – they don’t all use the Meeks Method), and thanks for supplying a number of pdf files on STV for us to digest.
    I’m just back from the field (on Cape York, Aussie) so will take some time out to get familiar with it all and see whether there’s anything left to add or put forth.
    Cheers guys!

  19. Steve

    You’re quite right, Jeremy, NZ is in fact the only jurisdiction which uses Meek’s method for public elections.

    Back in the late-90s, local electoral officers would not support an STV Option being legislated for, because the thought of spending several days shifting voting documents from one pile to another filled them with dread. (Bear in mind that STV was unknown in NZ, being used off and on in Christchurch between 1917 and 1933, only.)

    Once it became clear that STV ballots would be processed by computer, SOLGM (Society of Local Government Managers) decided there was no longer a reason to oppose the STV Option when the Local Electoral Act 2001 was being drafted. Of course, once it was clear that computers would be used, Meek’s method became the logical method to adopt. Why computerise hand-counting rules when Meek’s method does away with the short-cuts that such rules necessitate?

    In the computer age, only NZ and Scotland have adopted STV for public elections. Scotland chose very good hand-counting rules (but UK returning officers are familiar with STV and have no fear of it).

  20. Richard


    I think I may have been the only person from Dunedin to appear before the Select Committee that enquired into the 2004 debacle. At Alexandra Park Raceway in Auckland, of all places!

    Whatever, Rod Donald responded rather ‘enthusiastically’ when the question of FPP vs STV was discussed (or questioned). He quite ‘proudly’ took credit for the tweak that was made to the STV model to give us a NZ (or Kiwi) model. Nothing ‘meek’ about Rob!

    As I remember his explanation: “If you want to vote FPP, you just vote for one candidate. You do not have to mark every candidate.” I recall he also added that STV gave you the option of transferring your vote to as few or as many candidates as you wished saying that if you limited your choices to (say) the four candidates required, it was just the same as using your four votes under FPP. And so on.

    It would seem that most voters ‘twigged to it” although whether by accident or design is anyone’s guess. I suspect the former although I might claim that the voters in Hills were alerted to it all in ‘The Guide To STV Voting’ forming the back page of my householder reports in 2004 and again in 2007. This time I have put it up on my website. (It is still a work in progress but you are most welcome to drop by at

    There are still many people I know (including those at ONE News) who confuse it with the Aussie preferential system used for electing their Federal House of Representatives. There you HAVE to list your preference for EVERY candidate. Something quite different. As most posting here realise!

    As always, vote early, vote often!

  21. Jeremy Belcher

    Hi Richard,
    Yep well we certainly know how God voted when it came to Rod Donald’s continued “enthusiasm” for all things Earthly :)
    I went at once to church (I stood outside; not wanting to invite the same sort of Judgment from the “Big Guy Upstairs”) and gave thanks.

  22. Steve

    Hi, Richard—

    “saying that if you limited your choices to (say) the four candidates required, it was just the same as using your four votes under FPP.”

    Not quite the same, because later preferences are not votes having the same value as the first-preference – they are contingency choices only. People should rank-order as many, or as few, candidates as they wish (or can), regardless of the number of vacancies. If some Central Ward voters can only rank-order eight candidates, because they are supremely indifferent to the remaining 31, that’s fine. There will be plenty of other voters whose preference-orderings will determine who will fill the remaining seats. Everyone happy.

    Your Guide to STV voting looks good; simple and easy to follow.

  23. Richard

    I thought at the time that Rod was being, shall I say, ‘a bit blase’ about it all but he seemed to be the authority and everyone else just listened to the exchange!

    Hopefully everyone is happy, Steve! Sometime we must discuss the Parliamentary Electoral System and e.g. if an STV with multi-member constituencies might work. I have never analysed it but recall Mike Sheppard, then local Socred Chairman, writing an article for the ODT (or Evening Star) saying if we had had it in 1978, I would have been one of three Dunedin MP’s elected. So, that interested me even although looking back, it might not have been the right outcome for me personally!

    And I do not know anyone who has – locally anyway – discussed this so would appreciate your take on it sometime. But maybe not right now, when we get to that debate! So, hopefully, it can be put on the list of ‘Coming Attractions’.


    PS: Hi Jeremy. How’s “the coffee”? You are in the place where voting ‘rorts’ used to be quite the thing!

  24. Jeremy Belcher

    Yes, and I even have my own coffee tree out the back of the place I’m at here in Mareeba. Aussie is a little busy at the moment sorting out who’s actually going to govern the country – it’s most amusing to watch. I quite like the blatancy here – everyone is much more open about the various skulduggery that goes on – it’s quite refreshing to have such “open dishonesty”; Australians being too impatient to worry about tarting themselves up in a veneer of respectability, and thus it’s much easier to see what’s what and who’s who.
    Of course the weather’s nicer too, though I’m told it’s a nice day over there in Dunedin today…

  25. Richard

    Yes, the lawns need their first cut, some lush growth. And, as you know, “I never let the grass grow under my feet!”

  26. Peter

    Hi there, Jeremy

    Being Australian myself I’d agree with your assessment of how Aussies’ play politics. They do it pretty roughly over there with little sentiment evident. The one saving grace is you don’t get the same two-faced deceit you get here where you’re stabbed in the back and not in the front!

  27. Jeremy Belcher

    Hi Peter,
    Yep, I quite agree.

  28. Steve

    Hi, Richard—

    Yes, I have much to say about parliament being elected by STV – and it’s all good. Be happy to discuss it, perhaps at this site, next year.

    The 1986 Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System produced two maps of multimember STV electorates (at pages 115 and 116) – 18 in the NI, 6 in the SI; average of 5 MPs each, total 120 MPs. Electorate No. 23 took in Dunedin and North Otago, and extended across to take in Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea.

    First of all, at next year’s general election, we need a majority of electors voting to change to another voting system (in Part A), and we need STV to get more votes than any of the other alternative voting systems – FPP, PV or SM (in Part B).

    But, as you suggest, more about that closer to the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s