Wellingtonians are remarkably confused by their STV voting system. I’ve heard few who are confident they know how to maximise the chances of getting what they want with their vote. Perhaps some are quietly confident – they know how, and are happy that others will mess up their voting and have less impact.
The working rule is really simple, but before telling you – a bit of history.
Nigel Roberts on Stuff over the weekend sang the praises of STV, calling it “fair”. That premise about what we need most from a voting system also opens the the Royal Commission report that gave us MMP. It is dopey. The test should be what is most likely to deliver decisive government which can nevertheless be easily tossed out. That is democracy's vital work, tossing out the passengers after we've seen they're useless, and those we're sick of. Its only clear advantage is getting rid of leaders who should go. "Fairness’ systems fudge and negate that advantage.
As always I’m interested in how systems work in practice, not in how they look to those who use self-referential slogans like “fairness”.
I sat on the Select Committee that gave local government the choice of voting systems. I’m sure that few of us understood how it all worked even after multiple explanations. There was particular mystery for those who found ‘maths’ hard at school. The Sainte Lague vote counting method was eventually approved by the majority on trust, with open admission that that they did not have a clue how it worked. Rod Donald was the major influence. I was intrigued by his conviction that Green voters would be best at working voting tactically. He said they would make sure they educated their supporters, the way Aussie parties do. I suspect that he was actually counting on the ‘sounds nicer’ bias among young voters, and expecting to get more dopey second, third and fourth preferences.
He may have been right. Neil Harrap in a letter in today’s DomPost summed up STV as “ending up with whoever the fewest voters dislike”. When most voters don’t understand that any vote rank, however low, is treated as some degree of liking for the candidate, ninnies who say nice things are more likely to succeed than those who say what they mean, even if a majority agree with them. The passenger types will get more second and third preferences.
Now – the simple rule.
Vote only for people you would be happy to see winning. Stop there. Do not rank candidates just to show who you least prefer. Do not rank candidates to help make sure that at least a dog beats the genuine idiot.
Remember – all vote rankings are positive. It is a no brainer. Your vote will be transferred if your favoured candidate does not win. Only vote as far down the sequence as you actually prefer. Stop so that you do not give any votes to candidates who should not be elected at all, even if they’re better than the worst.
Having been an Alliance Party candidate disqualifies Jack Yan, and somewhat surprisingly I have too little information on John Morrison, to vote for him first, after he supported the damaging ‘living wage’. Though the incumbent is a decent person, she has dithered too much to deserve the leadership.
So I’ll vote first for Nicola Young, then Morrison, then no more.
In ward voting the same approach will maximise the impact of your vote. For example, do not list Helene Ritchie at all, even last. Her graceless stupidity got a fresh outing against one of my colleagues supporting personal responsibility for offensive drunkenness last week, but even without that reminder I’d have thought of her as one of the main beneficiaries of ignorant voting on name recognition.