I’m big on making sure voters know how to make the best use of their votes at elections, so last week I went along to the Transparency International Mayoral Forum.
After short-opening statements, the candidates were asked about governance, and avoiding corruption, and then they opened up for questions from the floor. I got to ask the last question of the evening, and think the answers are worth reporting. My question was along the lines:
Wellington uses the STV voting system, which means voters get to rank the candidates. I assume you all want my first preference, whom do you recommend I should give my second preference?
I got the biggest laugh I’ve had in years, and while Helene Ritchie, Andy Foster and Justin Lester all quickly declined to answer, both Nicola Young and Nick Leggett did (Jo Couglan had already left to another engagement).
Nicola, who’d used her speech to talk about support for openness, said she felt that she should be open with voters, and recommended that people give their second preference to Nick Leggett.
I’m not sure Nick was expecting that, but he replied that he returned the favour. I had thought this was intended as semi-humorous, but he confirmed on Twitter the following day that Nicola Young has his second preference.
I welcome this sort of candour from politicians. I’ll be voting for everyone, although in what order, I’m still not sure, but this sort of information from candidates is very helpful in understanding where everyone fits.
In Australian elections, which also allow voters to rank candidates, parties will formally declare which candidates from which other parties should get later preferences. People even stand outside voting places handing out “how to vote” cards on behalf of candidates, listing how to vote for all the candidates in rank order if you support a particular candidate.
I will never know a lot about candidates for local office when casting my vote, so information like this is useful. I perhaps also could have helpfully asked whom they would recommend I rank last :-).
This type of information is likely to give voters a better understanding of the interactions and alliances, as well the real views of candidates on issues important to them; much more than stock answers about the importance of consensus or transparency ever will.
While there will be reasons to vote for different candidates at general elections, generally the most important and useful information for most voters is the name of the party they’re standing for. In local elections, where parties have less involvement, this is a good proxy. And if I do decide I like the policies of a particular mayoral candidate, well, they’re probably in a better position than I am to know which candidate other than them is closest to their positions, and thus deserving of my back up vote.
It would be especially helpful to have mayoral voting recommendation from candidates for local council seats, who get even less media scrutiny. If you’re heading along to a candidates forum this year, I encourage you to ask the candidates their recommendations for the other races.
The Long Long Holiday
On a wholly unrelated note, I recently finished watching The Long Long Holiday on Netflix, and cannot recommend it more highly. It’s a 10-episode French cartoon (English dubbing optional, and oddly grouped as five episodes on Netflix) about two children who find themselves on holiday with their grandparents in Normandy when World War II begins. It’s clearly aimed at families, and is never particularly graphic, but it doesn’t shy away from the realities of the Nazi occupation. I’m deliberately avoiding spoilers, but it also has the best use of La Marseillaise since Casablanca.
And finally: Happy Carter/Docherty Day everyone!