Electoral System Poll

At the 2022 elections, voters decided which electoral system will be used for Hutt City Council elections in 2025 and 2028. The choices were first-past-the-post (FPP) or single transferable voting (STV).

The Local Electoral Act 2001 provides the two options for Councils to use. Hutt City Council decided in September 2020 to hold a poll during the 2022 local elections, to determine which system voters in Lower Hutt prefer.

Voters chose to continue using the first-past-the-post (FPP) system. See the results of the vote here.

Comparison of FPP and STV

General description
Voters have as many votes as there are vacancies. Candidates keep all the votes they receive.
Voters have one vote regardless of the number of vacancies. Candidates keep enough votes to be elected.
How do you vote?
You place a tick beside the candidate(s) you wish to vote for, up to the number of vacancies.
You rank the candidates, using 1, 2, 3 etc., for as few or as many candidates as you wish.
How are candidates elected?
If there is one vacancy: the candidate who receives the most votes is elected.
If there is more than one vacancy: the candidates with the most votes are elected, up to the number of vacancies. For example, if there are three vacancies, the three candidates with the most votes are elected.
Candidates need to reach a threshold of votes to be elected. This threshold is called the ‘quota’.
The quota is calculated by dividing the number of votes cast at the election, by the number of vacancies plus one.
For elections with one vacancy, a candidate needs an absolute majority to be elected. An absolute majority is just over half the votes.
If there is one vacancy:
  • any candidate who reaches an absolute majority (just over half) on the first count is elected
  • if no candidate is elected at the end of the first count, the candidate with the least votes is excluded and their votes are transferred to those voters’ second preferences
  • this process is repeated, if necessary, until one candidate achieves an absolute majority of votes.
If there is more than one vacancy:
  • any candidate(s) who reaches the quota on the first count is elected
  • in a second count, a proportion of the votes above the quota for the elected candidates is transferred to those voters’ second preferences. This is to allow more candidates to be elected
  • if all vacancies are still not filled, the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded and their votes are transferred to those voters’ second preferences
  • this process is repeated until there are enough successful candidates to fill all the vacancies.
How are votes counted?
Votes are entered into a computer during the voting period, and the computer produces the result after voting closes.
Votes could also be counted manually.
Votes are entered into a computer during the voting period, and the computer produces the result after voting closes.
For elections with one vacancy, votes could also be counted manually.
For elections with multiple vacancies, votes cannot be counted manually.
What are the key advantages of each system
FPP is more familiar for many voters because it has been the traditional system for local authority elections. FPP is also relatively simple.
In single-vacancy elections, STV guarantees the successful candidate will get a majority of votes by the end of the count.
In multi-vacancy elections, STV better reflects all voters’ true preferences, meaning it is likely to result in more diversity in the successful candidates. It also has the potential to provide proportional representation – see FAQs below for more information.

FPP & STV Frequently asked questions

In New Zealand, 15 councils (out of 78) have adopted STV for the 2022 elections. In the Wellington region, Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council, Kapiti Coast District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council all use STV. Previously, all DHB elections were also conducted using STV.

Internationally, STV is widely used in Australia, including for elections to the senate. It is used in Ireland for both parliamentary and local elections, for all local elections in Scotland, and also in Malta. In addition, Welsh councils have recently been given the option of adopting STV for the 2027 elections and beyond.

Under STV, election results better reflect the preferences of all voters. Votes are transferred under STV, so your vote almost always counts.

Under FPP, candidates keep all the votes given to them whether they are successful or not. This often results in a lot of wasted votes, either for popular candidates who don’t need all their votes in order to be elected, or for candidates who are not popular enough to be elected.

FPP can also result in candidates winning an election without a majority of votes. The winner of an election under FPP is simply those with the most votes – if a number of candidates receive, say, 25% of votes, then one with 26% would win.

FPP may also lead to voters deciding to vote ‘tactically’ to keep a particular candidate out, or to votes being split between two popular candidates. This would result in a third, less popular, candidate being elected. This means voters do not end up getting the candidate(s) they most prefer.

Transferring votes allows voters to vote for the candidate they truly prefer, without worrying about “wasting” their vote.

Because votes are transferred, if your first preference candidate doesn’t have enough votes to reach the threshold, your vote is transferred to your second preference candidate. Your vote almost always counts under STV.

Under FPP, if a candidate you vote for doesn’t get elected, your vote isn’t represented.

Our city is made up of many different communities – young people, Māori, Pasifika, cultural or ethnic groups, people with disabilities, and so on. Proportional representation is the idea that these communities are represented by elected members in roughly the same proportion as in the wider community. So if a particular group makes up around 10% of the city, then 10% of elected members would represent that group – under perfect proportional representation.

Under STV, elections at-large (i.e. across the whole city) or in large wards provide an opportunity for proportional representation.

With STV, voters are able to vote according to their true preferences to reflect these communities of interest, with a view to them being represented around the council table. In contrast, FPP is not a proportional representation system.

Lower Hutt voters have used STV in six DHB elections, so voters are familiar with using this electoral system.

In 2008 the Local Government Commission did some research around the introduction of STV in different elections. They found that 79% of voters who used STV in their election found the system easy to use and understand. 84% agreed that it was easy to fill in the form and rank the candidates.

The Local Government Commission also found that the main cause of informal votes is when voters need to use both FPP and STV in the same elections – for example, when they need to use STV for their DHB and FPP for their local council. When the systems across all elections happening at the same time are the same, informal voting decreases.

Yes. The Local Electoral Act 2001 describes how STV votes must be counted and requires certified counting programs to be used. There is only one counting program in New Zealand which is used by all STV elections across the country, and it has been independently certified.

Computer reports for each round of counting in all STV elections are available to the public.

The STV calculator produces results within minutes of the final inputting of votes. STV voting documents might take a bit longer to process and input than FPP documents if there are a large number of candidates that have been ranked on the voting paper. Early voting helps to reduce delays, as all voting papers can be processed as they are received.

Hutt City Council currently has 12 councillors, with 6 elected at-large (city-wide) and 6 elected from six wards. For a simple demonstration of how STV works, the example below uses 12 at-large councillors and doesn’t include wards.

If we assume 50% of voters cast a vote, then the number of votes required to be elected in this election would be 3000 votes (this is known as the quota).

The quota is calculated by dividing the number of votes cast by the number of vacancies plus one. In this election there are twelve vacancies for council, so the quota is number of votes cast divided by 13 (12+1).

Total number of people enrolled to vote in Lower Hutt: 78,700

Total number of voters, if there is 50% turnout: 39,350

Therefore, the quota to be elected: 3,027

This means a candidate needs roughly 3000 votes to be elected in Lower Hutt.

One of the benefits of STV is that different communities are more likely to be represented on council – this is known as proportional representation. If we consider that a candidate needs 3000 votes to be elected, and then look at community populations, we can see why:

CommunityPopulation number in Lower Hutt, over 18 years oldNumber of votes, if 50% of the population casts a vote
Young people (18-25 years) 9,000 4,500
Māori 15,200 7,600
Pasifika 9,300 4,650
Asian 12,700 6,350
Lower Hutt area/suburb  
Western 13,100 6,550
Petone/Harbour 15,300 7,650
Northern 12,900 6,450
Central 13,800 6,900
Eastern 14,400 7,200
Wainuiomata 15,100 7,550

This table shows that all the communities identified have enough voting power to elect a candidate that represents them. There are enough votes in each of these communities to meet the 3000 vote threshold to get a candidate onto council.