Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Council Elections: STV Q&A

125 Responses

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I once voted against a candidate I met at an election meeting who was speaking to someone after the meeting and said something like "what most people don't know about STV is ..." before launching into an entirely misleading description of the STV voting system. I do not expect people to understand it, I really don't. I don't even expect people to understand first past the post, but if you are going to explain it to people, I reckon you should be careful. Consider yourself warned, Judith Aitken!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Health Board elections are stupid

    They are. And weird. Until this week. In the hours of staying with my very-unwell son in public hospital I got to thinking thinks like: why have awful food in hospitals when good food can be cheaper, easier to serve and produce (answer: corporate contracted catering complete with Mission statement: "Designed To Piss You Off In Your 4.30am Hour Of Need"). Good food -- ie Vogel's rather than McBread; fresh fruit not canned doused in syrup -- will speed recovery by helping people want to eat so shorten hospital stays, and will cheer up everyone including the staff. And many other thinks were had about the place, the parking (oh fuck, the parking), the institution and the clientele.

    Hospitals are only important when you or yours are using them.
    That is why Health Board elections are important; and often I admit to at best giving the candidate bios a cursory glance, ranking those I know of and leaving the rest. Thus I hang my head in shame at having helped elect Aaron Keowan to the Canterbury DHB by only ranking five candidates last time. This year I will do better.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hebe,

    answer: corporate contracted catering

    even without Ryall's 'reheat and eat' proposals, yes

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16746 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hebe,

    That is why Health Board elections are important; and often I admit to at best giving the candidate bios a cursory glance, ranking those I know of and leaving the rest.

    I consider Health Boards are stupid because we shouldn't be holding boards responsible for this, we should be holding the Minister responsible. If people are getting bad food or are getting screwed over with car-parking costs, then the Minister shouldn't be able to say "that's a matter for the Board" and then take no responsibility.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I don't think it is a good idea to rank everyone. There are some candidates I don't want at all so not ranking them means they don't even get considered. For example, in a ward which is electing three people I might only put a 1 by the only candidate I like and don't rank the others.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2096 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    not ranking them means they don't even get considered

    not so

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16746 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    we shouldn't be holding boards responsible for this, we should be holding the Minister responsible

    and Board members have to pledge fealty to the Minister, not the people who elected them.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16746 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Nimmo, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Consider yourself warned, Judith Aitken!

    Not to mention that voting for Judith Aitken is just about the worst possible use of your vote even if you really like her - so many other people vote her #1 that by voting for her you are really just giving up 45% of your voting power (on 2010 results) so that other people can give up a tiny fraction more of theirs!

    Wellington • Since May 2009 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    getting screwed over with car-parking costs

    At a minimum here: the shakes took out the main parking building, the tunnel access underneath the very busy intersection, and contractors repairing huge swathes of the hospital of necessity have closed many parks for the public and staff. Frigging nightmare is the least I can say.

    If Parker or Sutton had been in my position at any time in the last two years, replacing the carpark building, or opening up some adjacent empty sections for relatives of acute cases would become a priority . God nows there are plenty of vacant bits of land everywhere in Christchurch!

    I had no way of knowing how long I needed to park, no change to pay for the machines (that otherwise only accept credit cards not eftpos). I admit to being disorganised for the first few hours, but most people are when you have to drop everything and go with your child and have no-one else at that half-hour for back-up. I could not leave the boy alone in AACU, writhing in pain while I searched for a change, a metered long-term parking spot (non-existent; max is two hours) and walked back.

    Am I pissed about this: hell yeah. It was a layer of stress that was crushing on top of everything else. And contributed negatively to the experience of patients, staff and families.

    The rider to this moan: The staff and medical care the boy received were Absolutely Awesomely Amazing though. The care was great -- even from the only Paediatric Registrar in the whole hospital on Tuesday (I have no idea why that was the case but he was excellent). And this is from someone who was reared in the private health system (my mother was a long-term hospital chief). We can't thank them all enough.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I don’t think it is a good idea to rank everyone. There are some candidates I don’t want at all so not ranking them means they don’t even get considered.

    They do still get considered, but based only on the votes of other people. Leaving people un-ranked means that, once the people you have ranked have been dealt with (either by being elected or by being excluded), you just have no more influence over the election. You consider the remaining people equally good.

    If there are some candidates you "don't want at all", then you should rank everyone else above them. You really really should. I would not make this claim without being absolutely certain.

    Leaving people unranked will never help anyone you rank. If there is someone you really do not want to see elected, ranking everyone else above them is the best make to make sure they aren't. There are no negatives to this strategy, but if you get down to the last two candidates for the last position and one is someone you "don't want at all", and the other is someone you merely don't want, your failure to rank Don't Want over Don'tWant AtAll means Don'tWant AtAll is more likely to be elected.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Hebe,

    The staff and medical care the boy received were Absolutely Awesomely Amazing though.

    Seconded. Our wee lad lost a bit more weight than anticipated after birth due to feeding issues, and it ended up being a week before we got him home from National Women's. The medical staff were, with only one real exception, utterly wonderful; and that one exception was more her being overly take-charge and bossy than poor care, but not getting to give his first bath was kinda shit. Supportive, attentive, caring, helpful. And after hearing some pretty awful stories (plural) from others in our ante natal class who were bullied by Birth Care staff to try and enforce breastfeeding (hours trying, mother and infant wrecked, and finally able to nag a few mils of formula) we were glad that we were forced by circumstance to remain at Auckland Hospital. For all the shit that gets thrown at them, and the abysmal treatment of the public healthcare sector by the present regime, the people within it truly care about their patients and about providing quality care.

    Our only complaint was the average food, but it was still edible and recognisable (possibly due to being for maternity patients). I certainly can't see Ryall's proposals improving it.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Health board elections would be less stupid if the boards were actually independent and had the ability to set the amount of tax they needed to operate.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Health board elections would be less stupid if the boards were actually independent and had the ability to set the amount of tax they needed to operate.

    Yes. In such circumstances I believe they would be required.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Thanks that's a great explanation - I want to expand on why you should cast more than one vote in a multi-representative election :

    - suppose the person you choose first is really popular - they get 3 times the number of first round votes they need to get elected - that means only 1/3 of your single vote sticks to them and the other 2/3 goes to your second choice, if you don't choose anyone else as second you waste 2/3 of your vote.

    - equally suppose you choose someone who is completely unlikely to be elected - you know that they wont get elected - you can safely rank them first knowing that your vote will eventually be distributed to your second or third or even 23rd choice and make a difference

    Choosing someone who wont get elected knowing your vote can be safely transfered to someone else is a great way to make a political point about a minority party/person/issue - first round vote tallies are published and your point can be made - maybe even enough people will feel they can take a chance on a minority candidate knowing that they can't "throw away their vote" that that person might get elected

    There's a down side of course - Dunedin's central ward last time had 40 candidates for 11 seats - ranking 40 names is hard - I'm glad that this year they've decided to not put them in alphabetical order.

    Also last time there was talk of a recount, there were just a few votes in that last seat - from memory the cost for an STV election was quoted at $70k (it would mean keying in all the ballots again - unlike a traditional election STV just can't be counted by poll workers) - if you ask for a recount and don't succeed you pay - to make matters worse there's no effective means to be a scrutineer at a Dunedin STV election - the ballots are counted in Christchurch over a period of weeks prior to the announcement - you'd have to go up there and live for a month.

    What this means practically is that we have to depend on the accuracy and independence of the people doing the data entry - probably we should periodically double count random ballots to get some idea of the real world error rate and allow free recounts for results that fall within the statistical margins

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2173 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    BTW this analysis (by James who posts here) is an excellent description of the STV vote counting process (including a cool graph) in that particular Dunedin election- you can see how low polling candidates drop out during counting and what happens as their votes are redistributed

    Notice how the top curve of the line (which represents the number of votes needed to be elected) slowly trends down towards the end - that's because some voters did not rank enough candidates and their vote (or some portion of it) was not counted - you can assume that the difference - about 250 from the start until the end times 11 candidates means that about 2700 votes were lost this way (many of them will be fractions of votes from many more than 270 voters) that's out of ~30k votes cast - an additional 2500 votes were left with the last candidate who didn't get elected meaning that ~5200 votes, around 17% didn't end up with an elected candidate - not too bad I guess 83% got someone they voted for

    More importantly though remember to list at least all the candidates you think you can live with even if you don't think they can get elected, if you don;t some of your vote (or all of it) may be wasted

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2173 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    The huge problem with STV is that it is complicated compared with FPP. At least the present MMP system, flawed as it is, is understood by most voters. To me anything that could deter voters from doing the deed is to be avoided given the abysmally low turn-outs in the llast 15 years in local body and national elections.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Christopher Nimmo,

    Not to mention that voting for Judith Aitken is just about the worst possible use of your vote even if you really like her – so many other people vote her #1 that by voting for her you are really just giving up 45% of your voting power (on 2010 results) so that other people can give up a tiny fraction more of theirs!

    Good point - though I had to read it a few times to work out what you meant. Hence, to maximise the effect of your own vote, you shouldn't rank anyone who is easily going to get in, above anyone else who you would like to see elected. Because, as you pointed out, that just means part of your vote goes towards electing them, and only the rest carries over to your next candidate.

    It is interesting how the entire vote of failed candidates get carried over to your next choice, but only a fraction of overly successful candidates gets transferred. Also, after each step the calculation has to be re-done both because drop-outs (who didn't rank enough candidates) means the quotas get lower, and because re-allocations to people already elected, require that the proportions carried forward be re-calculated.

    I do like STV. Although complicated, it does seem so much fairer than any other system.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 420 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hebe,

    The huge problem with STV is that it is complicated compared with FPP.

    Vote for your favourite candidate with a 1. And your second favourite candidate with a 2. Rank as many candidates you like. You don't have to rank them all if you don't want to.

    You do not need to know any more than that.

    For people who want a little bit more, you can add: if there's someone you really don't want, rank them last, and rank everyone else above them.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I understand (polsci major back when Nigel Roberts was a lecturer) the system. I understand the advantages and disadvantages. But two ticks are easy; and easy is appealing in a busy world. I think poll turnouts would go through the floor if the voting process is captured by theorists, to the detriment of our democratic system.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    we have to depend on the accuracy and independence of the people doing the data entry

    Given the esteem with which the Electoral Commission is regarded both nationally and internationally, I think we're probably OK to have that dependence. I'd be more concerned if it was the appointed overlords of ECan who where running the regional elections.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Todd,

    Papers that I have written, explaining how STV works, can be accessed at the end of the post here - http://dunedinstadium.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/in-defence-of-stv-2/.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Todd, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    While it is perfectly valid to vote, simply by placing a unique first preference beside the name of the candidate you most wish to see elected, by doing so, you are, as Graeme has already pointed out, risking your vote being wasted, in whole or in part.

    A classic example of votes being wasted (in whole) was seen at the 2010 Wellington City mayoral election, at which Celia Wade-Brown came from behind to defeat the incumbent, Kerry Prendergast. At the end of the count, 3,783 votes (7.09% of the 53,369 valid votes cast) had dropped out of the count; had become non-transferable. In other words, astonishingly (to me, at least), those 3,783 voters declined the opportunity to indicate a preference between the two *main* candidates; the only two candidates with a chance of winning.

    Given that Celia won the election by just 176 votes, had 177+ of those voters carried on and indicated a final preference for Kerry over Celia, Kerry would have retained the mayoralty.

    At iteration 4, when the third-placed candidate, Jack Yan, was excluded from the count, his 7,426 votes were distributed 1,806 to Kerry, 3,459 to Celia, and 2,161 went to the total of non-transferable votes. It seems to me that the great majority of the sort of people who would have supported Jack (generally speaking: young, educated, switched-on, socially/politically aware), would have had a preference for one or other of the last two remaining candidates, even if they didn't particularly like either of them. Yet, amazingly, 29.10% of them chose not to express that preference.

    Given that the preferences for the previously-excluded candidates transferred about 2 to 1 to Celia, it is probable that about 700 of those 2,161 voters would have preferred Kerry to Celia, but didn't say so. As I say, if 177+ *had* said so, Kerry would have hung on, to win. By not saying so, those 700 or so voters allowed their lesser-preferred candidate (of the remaining two) to come through and snatch the prize.

    That is why it is important for voters to express as many preferences for the candidates as they are able. The more preferences that are expressed, the more likely it is for voters to have a direct effect on the final outcome.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I hate STV voting for health boards because it's often a huge list of people with often relatively low public profiles. Researching all those people enough to feel confident about ranking them precisely is not something I have the time and energy for. I'd love to be able to vote in tiers: yes, maybe, no, over my dead body etc.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    yes in some sense STV allows you to both choose between the lesser of two evils while still voting for the candidate you want

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2173 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    STV is better than FPP, but not much.

    We could have MMP for local government, with some councillors being elected by ward and some on lists, and then the council electing a leader/mayor with majority support.

    It'd stop local government being a biggest-ego competition and mean that council;s would usually have a clear majority group able to enact their platforms policies and seek re-election on basis of those polices.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

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