Reports ‘Exaggerate Defeat’

1. kcdc bdgKapiti mayoral voting closer than reports indicated

By Prue Hyman for KIN

Ross Church’s victory has been portrayed in some quarters as a resounding rejection of two term incumbent Jenny Rowan. A careful look at the first preferences and iterations shows that this has been exaggerated.

I also argue that the way the results are presented – for example by the Dominion Post as well as one KIN article  – is misleading.

Most reports give the figures as follows: Church 7,933, Guru 6,779, and Rowan 4,543 (and less for the other four candidates). But this is not comparing like with like. 

Under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, the lowest polling candidates are eliminated one by one until one candidate has over 50% of the votes still counting. As candidates are eliminated, the second preferences of those voting for them are used – and even third preferences and beyond.

Jenny Rowan lagging much less’

After the lowest polling four were eliminated in this election (iteration five), the votes were Church 6676, Guru 5,666, Rowan 4543. This is the fairest comparison of votes to make – and it shows Jenny Rowan lagging much less than the result above. 

At this point Ross Church does not have a majority, so Jenny is eliminated and her second preferences re-allocated to yield the final result for Ross and Guru in the first paragraph – iteration six.

Slightly more of Jenny’s first preference votes went to Ross than Guru – and nearly half went nowhere. Those people either voted only for Jenny or voted second for candidates already eliminated. 

For all five candidates eliminated, the published results show only their first preference numbers, whereas for the two involved in the final choice, they show much higher figures than their first preferences, due to these re-allocations – hardly a fair comparison.

Rowan gets more than Guru on first count

It is also interesting to look at these first preferences only – these were Church 4582, Guru 4016, Rowan 4069, with Welsh next at 2,858 and a total for the seven candidates of 19,046 (so over 9,500 first preferences would have been needed to be elected with a clear majority straight off).

The votes were well distributed, with leader Ross Church gaining 24.4% of first preferences.

It is also notable that Jenny Rowan had slightly more first preference votes than Guru and that all three were not that far apart.

Ross was ahead at each iteration and gained more second preference votes than the others so the gap widened. He would of course have also won under First Past the Post.

STV reflects voters’ feelings about several candidates

However, one important aspect of STV, which I see as a virtue, is shown by this election – it reflects voters’ feeling about a number of candidates, not just their top one.  It gives more confidence in the election result as the gaps widened with reallocation so less voters are unhappy with the result than with any alternative.

It is clear that on the whole voters either strongly wanted Jenny Rowan to have a third term or strongly wanted a change – perhaps not strange for an incumbent.

I say this because she gained under 500 reallocated votes between iterations 1 and 5, whereas Ross Church gained just over 2,000 and Guru over 1,500.

It is also interesting to note that in the last iteration, Ross’s 7,933 votes plus Guru’s 6,779 total only 14,712, with 7,357 needed for a majority, over 2,000 less than needed on first preferences – I’ve explained how this happens with the reallocation numbers for Jenny’s votes above.

Be thankful I have confined myself to the mayoral election! 

It gets more complicated!

STV is much more complicated when electing more than one person – as with the Councillors and Community Boards. Reallocation of surplus votes for those elected come in.

The only one I looked at in detail was the Paekakariki Community Board (my home) where four were to be elected from five candidates.

 In that election, three had sufficient votes to be elected on first preference (with Jack McDonald top), yet it took six iterations to separate the two bottom candidates.

So well done, Philip Edwards, and bad luck, Graeme Tuckett – at the sixth iteration, believe it or not, 122.7994461 votes were needed (!) to be elected. Philip had 122.95, Graeme 120.42.

Elections can be strange beasts!



Thanks Mary and Sylvia who understood my article. Yes Bruce, it was primarily aimed at pointing out that both the official results and the media are not a fair presentation of the results (in ALL the mayoral elections, not just Kapiti) – and you are right that most of the media and the public do not properly understand STV. I actually think that the misleading presentation of results is a useful thing to point out. I certainly was not saying that Jenny Rowan’s mayoral performance was “well regarded”: she was clearly well beaten by Ross Church – by an increasing amount after each iteration. However, the best comparison of how the three top candidates were rated is Church 6676, Guru 5,666, Rowan 4543 rather than Church 7,933, Guru 6,779, Rowan 4,543. The fact that it was me who wrote the article when I am known as having strongly opposed the former Mayor, Council and officials on the coastal hazard/ LIMs/ PDP issues should indicate that I was not being an apologist for Jenny – just trying to be fair and point out an important aspect of the presentation of the results. Incidentally, I have emailed to congratulate Ross and hope that he is as good a listener as Mayor as he has been in the past – and listens to all of us, not just his officials. Finally, I totally disagree with Mari’s ‘What’s the point of the why’s, wherefores, and analysis?’ Political and statistical analysis of election results is important in understanding how our system works and perhaps how it might be improved. Personally, I strongly favour STV and any improvements (such as electronic voting) which can help increase turnout. Unlike many, I don’t blame the media for the low percentage voting – I think the local press all did a good job on it, there were plenty of meetings well reported, and even the Dom/Post was not too bad. Voters DO have to do some work for themselves.

We don’t use three times as much water as Auckland. The BRANZ study, the only study of water use in Kapiti shows we use approx 200 litres per person per day. This is very low.

On what basis do you say educating people didn’t work? The only explanation for the huge discrepancies in water use in different locations in Kapiti is different attitudes.

There is no requirement to institute user-pays systems in order to get consent to build a dam.

I guess one can arguein favour of going against public opinion in order to ‘do the right thing’, providing one puts a very low value on democracy.

And frankly, if you didn’t understand something as basic as the existence of the water cycle, what on earth were you doing submitting on water issues?

I totally get that many people on the coast are opposed to water meters. Indeed so was I – I submitted against them – until I read the Water is Precious resources for schools. Then I got it and actually felt pretty silly I had not known before that water is a finite resource, it is cycled around the earth in a water cycle and no new water can be created. We would not get resource consent to build a dam unless we had introduced water reduction methods and simply trying to educate people just did not work. Water meters will restrict our use. I’m not a fan of them – with five children – it will cost us more than most – but I know now it is essential. Why should we, in Kapiti, use three times as much water as those in Auckland? I believe Jenny and the previous Council did the right thing for our community even though it proved to be hugely unpopular. I think that shows the measure of her character actually. Altruistic not self-serving.

Seems to me that when a cadndidate’s key opponents, despite splitting the vote, still both manage to get more first preference votes, it’s a pretty clear indication of public opinion.

Ultimately, as I’ve said before, this comes down to whether you accept the authoritarian version of democracy or the grassroots version. The outgoing council believed in the former – that once elected, they had a mandate to lead, to make decisions rejected by the puiblic, and to devote considerable PR resources to try and “bring the public with them”.

This failed. The public did not have their minds changed by PR offensives, did not accept that leaders were smarter or more enlightened than the rest of us or entitled to go against public opinion. The outgoing mayor’s comments (link below) that they were right to proceed with user-pays water, despite public opposition, exemplifies this.

Representative democracy doesn’t always work, buit in this case it did – ‘spurn the public at your peril’, is a lesson for every elected representative, not least the incoming council.

Nice words about Jenny Rowan Mari Housiaux. Many of us didn’t want Jenny to stand again thinking she had worked so hard for Kapiti and as you say, with integrity and dedication. She had no personal agenda except the best for Kapiti. She led difficult decisions that clearly made her unpopular with some sectors of the population. She is a very hard act to follow and I hope the new Mayor and councillors act with the same dedication and integrity and not just talk about it.

Great explanation, Prue. Our Auckland friends who understand issues of local government tell us we must insist on retaining proportional representation after amalgamation. Auckland does not have it and lose some promising councilors. Mind you, we lost good councilors too…

Kapiti has a new council. What’s the point of the why’s, wherefores, and analysis?

Congratulations to the elected representatives. An interesting mix dominated by more new blood than than the returning incumbents.

I pay tribute to, and thank the outgoing mayor Jenny Rowan. She has led the council during a period of immense challenges, achievements and growth in the face of forced mandates from the higher arena of politics. Some of the challenges arose from procrastinated issues left from previous councils in the past 20 years.

Many were not happy with some of the decisions made by her council and this reflects in the outcome. At all times Jenny Rowan worked tirelessly with integrity, dedication and boundless experience. Her contribution may not be fully realised until the new council beds into the rubber stamping of the many foresighted decisions set in place during her time.

Democracy has spoken.

Let’s hope it isn’t of detriment to balanced decisions in the enthusiasm brought by the new blood with strong views and the ability to air them.

Let’s hope we don’t have too many talkers and not enough do-ers among the talent.

Let’s hope that the enthusiasm the new chums bring to the table doesn’t fade with the reality of their responsibilities.

Good luck. You have a pretty hard act to follow.

My view is different. This was an election with a low turnout and there were a lot of mayoral candidates to split the vote. In these circumstances the advantage should rest with the incumbent particularly if she is as well regarded as the writer opines. To my mind it makes the victory of Mr Church all the more emphatic.
If all your writer is suggesting is the media do not understand STV, then I suspect they do not have that on their own.