How To Vote In Kapiti — By A Canadian

‘As a Canadian voting in this year’s local elections, I have had to try and understand and come to terms with the voting system — Single Transferrable Vote (STV) — in Kapiti,’ says Salima Padamsey

‘After reading several documents, visiting various websites, speaking to a number of people in the district (including the Electorate Officer), I have attempted in this article to strip back the STV system to its bare bones.  

‘Although the system is designed to give an approximate proportional representation, it is a very complicated system to understand with varying quotas,’ says Salima.

Who uses STV in New Zealand?

  • 6 out of 66 city or district Councils
  • 1 out of 6 unitary Councils
  • 1 out of 11 regional Councils6 out of 66 city or district Councils
  • 1 out of 6 unitary Councils
  • 1 out of 11 regional Councils

Conclusion:  It is not a very popular system of voting
Conclusion:  It is not a very popular system of voting

Don’t use a tick like this!

Basic Rules for Voters

  • make sure you put in a number, not a tick 
  • you have to put a number 1 or else your vote is ruled informal and not counted
  • be clear in your numbering
  • ensure that your numbers are consecutive 
  • try to vote early, because the deadline is 12 pm on the 8th of October (if you are late by even 30 seconds your vote will not accepted)


  • a quota is set from the number of votes that are cast which changes as the number of candidates increase
  • any candidate that gets 50+1% is automatically elected
  • for those that do not reach this threshold, they must meet the quota set to be elected
  • the lowest polling candidate is dropped and the second preferences allocated to that candidate is then added to the count
  • this redistribution of count carries on until there is someone elected

What you Need to Know to Make STV Work for You!

  • only vote for those you know
  • you are not obliged to put a number down for every candidate
  • the less candidates you number the more powerful your vote is 
  • I will vote with only my 1 and 2 choices maximum
  • its okay to leave candidates without a number next to their name
  •  the more candidates you number means the iteration system takes over which could actually go against the candidate you really want

Good Luck to Kapiti in the elections!’

Hello Salima,

I very much appreciate this summary. Well explained and I believe much needed. However, I intend to vote all 14 numbers for district wide candidates. Because of this I must assume we have a fundamentally different understanding of STV, and that one of us is incorrect (which is more than likely due to STV’s complexity, so please correct me if I am wrong).

Now the reason I will be using all my votes for district wide candidate: because no lower vote will ever disadvantage someone voted above them. And as it happens, unlike most people voting in this election, I know all the candidates well enough that I can definitively say that: if our community is so stupid that the worst case scenario arises I would happily take my #13 vote above my #14. I like to think of it as voting for the lesser of two evils. Meanwhile, in the worst case scenario where your vote could have made the difference, candidate number 14 will be voted in instead of 13, because you did not number all the way down.

To paraphrase the NZ government website. By numbering candidates in STV you are saying “Bert is my first choice. But if he is elected or if he has no shot at getting elected than please count my vote towards Jonathan.” It is actually pretty simple. Nothing less, nothing more.

However, in conclusion I will mention that I strongly agree with Salima in one area. It is very important you number ONLY candidates you know. Why? Because otherwise you are taking away from the vote of people who you actually have spent time thinking about it.

(I will also comment, in partial humor, that it may be worthwhile to spread the rumor that voting for people you do not know seriously disadvantages the candidates who you do care about. In this, it is highly likely we will convince many foolish people, and the people we do convince are better off not having cast those random votes anyway. But I guess before then we must ask: “do the ends justify the means?”)


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