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Wellingtonians have confirmed – by a narrow margin - that single-transferable voting (STV) is to be the electoral system to be used for at least the next two Wellington City Council elections.
When polling closed at 12 noon today some 22,209 voters had chosen STV – 476 more than the 21,733 voters who chose the first-past-the-post (FPP) system.
The turnout translates to a 50.46% vote for STV and 49.37% vote for FPP.
A total of 132,762 voting papers were mailed out to registered voters in Wellington City on 5 September. Some 44,024 were returned – representing a turnout of 33.16%.
Wellington Electoral Officer Ross Bly described the participation rate in the postal-vote poll as disappointing. "However there are a number of factors that might have limited participation. The STV-versus-FPP debate admittedly doesn't create great excitement in the community."
Wellington's Acting Mayor, Ian McKinnon, thanked Wellingtonians who took the time to respond to the referendum – which was held under the Local Electoral Act 2001. The City Council has held two elections under STV.
He said the result "clearly confirmed that the community is deeply divided over whether STV or FPP is the better system in terms of fairly and effectively electing mayors and councils".
Cr McKinnon also believed the "current politically-active environment" may have affected the interest of some Wellingtonians and thus reduced the participation rate. "Alongside certain high-profile political stories in recent weeks, the General Election date was announced and there has also been a degree of focus on the US Presidential race - many people may be feeling somewhat fed-up with politics and political events!"
He added: "While I still believe that voters have generally found the FPP system easier to understand and apply, both of which are important considerations in any democracy, I am not personally worried about the decision, having successfully stood in two STV elections.
"However, my hope though is that STV supporters will be committed, alongside others interested in local body elections, to do everything possible to lift voter turnouts in 2010 – in 2007 the voter turnout was just 40%."
Mr Bly reported that registered voters in the Onslow-Western Ward have been most diligent – returning 36.34% of voting papers, followed in descending order by voters in the Northern, Eastern and Southern wards.
Central-city voters in the Lambton Ward performed worst – returning only 30.36% of papers.
In 2002 when the first referendum on voting systems was held, 52.16% of voters opted for STV and 47.55% opted for FPP. The turnout was 32.2%.
The chosen STV electoral system is where voters rank candidates in order of preference – 1, 2, 3 and so on - and is the system that's been in place since 2002. The FPP system is where voters place a tick beside preferred candidates and is the system that was in place before STV.
The final result of this month's poll will be declared on Tuesday 30 September.
Mr Bly says the result of the postal poll is binding and means the STV electoral system will be used in at least the 2010 and 2013 Council elections to elect the Mayor, City Councillors and community board members.