Warkworth voting anniversary message relayed to London

A breakfast in the Warkworth Town Hall on December 17 will mark the bicentennial of the first use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in 1819.

A video of the event will be sent to the London meeting of the Royal Statistical Society.

Joining the breakfast via video link will be Professor Janine Hayward and Dr Andy Asquith, both proponents of preference voting in New Zealand.

Warkworth Town Hall Talks organiser Cimino Cole conceived the talk to “gently nudge” reformers in the United Kingdom to suitably mark the important milestone, and to draw local attention to the need to progress the reform started ahead of the 2004 local body election, when eight local authorities adopted the STV system.

“This year, 11 councils used the system, but 70 didn’t, leaving their voters to struggle between first-past-the-post and STV, which is used for all the district health boards,” Cimino said.

New Zealander Stephen Todd played a pivotal role in “taming” STV so that it could be computer-counted, leading to its successful inclusion in the Local Electoral Act 2001.
Cimino says he is particularly concerned about the Auckland region.

“Our mayor was elected with the support of less than 17 per cent of registered voters, in what was essentially a two-horse race. If the contest had been a three-way, all bets would’ve been off as to whether the winner was the most preferred candidate.

“Although preference voting is critically important, I hope that the STV bicentennial breakfast will also discuss the issue of the steady global decline in voter turnout.

“The old Auckland City Council introduced Kids Voting, but it is still only being experienced by a small minority of school students. Robust studies show that the younger a person is when they first vote, the greater the chance that they become life-long voters.

“Or to quote Dr Asquith, the Local Government Commission produced research in 2010 that showed first-time voters who do not participate in either of the first two elections for which they are eligible, will never vote.”

The December 17 bicentennial breakfast is free, with doors opening at 7.30am for an 8am start.