stv bicentennial extraordinary town-hall talk
Ideally, the bicentennial of stvsingle-transferable-vote should be held where the Birmingham Society for Literary and Scientific Improvement held the world’s first election with it.
But even if that ultimate location—were it known, and were it still standing—was the epicentre of a global celebration, two other, antipodean, countries deserve to play a supporting role. The first public stv election was held in Adelaidefor the Adelaide City Council, thanks to the persistence of the inventor’s similarly brilliant son, who masterminded the Uniform Penny Post system—part of the communications technology continuum of which the internet is but the proximate phase—and educational reforms. But arguably of greater importance, are the six New Zealand district councilsDunedin, Kaipara, Kāpiti Coast, Marlborough, Porirua, and Wellington that adopted the world’s first practicable, computer-counted single-transferable-vote system the, first election it was available and still use it today.
Warkworth, having never been served by a council—district, regional, nor unitary—with the guts or gumption to use preference voting, is an unlikely location to host New Zealand’s stv bicentennial event. But better Warkworth, in the recalcitrant north of New Zealand’s most populous local body where it also has the potential to cure politicians of their first-past-the-post pathology, than no celebration at all.
The Warkworth Town Hall, sumptuously restored thanks to a combination of community energy and Auckland Council funding, is in its third season of town-hall talks, aimed at elucidation of Mahurangi and global issues and catalysation of Mahurangi, and global, actions. Last month’s, titled the Historical Archaeology of Coastal Trade on the Mahurangi River, drew a crowd of more than 100 people. Another was famously poorly attended, but nevertheless spawned a five-year, potentially million-dollar, Mahurangi-based green-lipped mussel reef restoration research project. The last scheduled for this year, in October, will update that project, with one of the presenters being phd student Al Alder, from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
With no New Zealand school of political studies stepping up to host the stv bicentennial, the Mahurangi Magazine has booked Warkworth Town Hall for an extraordinary town-hall talk, on 17 December. Due to its barely eastern longitude, AotearoaNew Zealand is well placed to kick off the celebrations. Because a celebration commencing midday in the iconic Adelaide Town Hallnot extant when the first public STV election was held, but the land beneath it had been purchased would head off a Warkworth Town Hall Talk at its normal doors-open-for-refreshments time of 5 pm, breaking with three years of practice by beginning with a luncheon would nicely uphold trans-Tasman one-upmanship. Although, because Wikipedia erroneously gives the date of the first stv election as 18 December 1819, Aotearoa probably has a day up her sleeve.
The face of academic concern for voter turnout, stv -champion Professor Janine Hayward, has accepted an invitation to participate, possibly via video link. Meanwhile, there is no question that the guest of honour, in absentia—his carbon footprint is probably on par with Greta Thunberg’s—must be the man who cracked the challenge of rendering stv practicable for local bodies, Wellingtonian statistician Stephen Todd.
The face of the local impact of unfair fpp will be panellist Ayla Walker. In standing for the Rodney Local Board as part of a ticket, Ayla is in the invidious position of having to lie or dissemble, when her strongest supporters ask how they should vote. The honest answer is they should tick only one name, hers, and not be tempted to also support her running mates. Under stv, Ayla’s friends could be told:
Easy as 1, 2, 3—rank me 1. Then, if you want, you can rank any other candidates you support, in the order you most support them. Either way, just remember, rank me 1!
Do that in 2019, however, and the vote would be rendered invalid. Instead, the brutally honest answer must be:
It will say you can tick up to three candidates, but the only way you can be sure that your vote supports me is if you only tick one candidate, me!
This is why stv must be made mandatory. It is disingenuous—not to mention, unethical—to extoll citizens to vote, knowing that their preferences, as often as not, will not be given effect. Two hundred years after this perversity was first seriously tackled, time and energy should not need to be being expended on this stuff. Having a lessor person elected ahead of a more preferred person is not negligible, is not necessary, and is not democracy.
2019, in addition to being the bicentennial of stvsingle-transferable-vote, is, soberingly, the beginning of the 1000-year-climate-action-war, if humanity mobilises—if not, it is the beginning of a much shorter world climate war. Arguably, the difference will be whether democracy can be wrested from the disingenuous, undisguised megalomaniacs currently ruling the Western world. Democracy, and particularly electoral systems, have been denied reform, including continuous improvement, and allowed to break. Fit-for-purpose battle-hardened, stv is ready to retire perverse fpp and play its part in restoring practicable people power.
The wishy-washy 2002 legislation failed to make preference voting mandatory, other than for the toothless district health boards, which few would mourn the passing of, including the ordeal of sifting through gargantuan, at-large lists of largely unknown faces, unguidedunnecessarily unguided, given that online voting would allow, for example, voters to readily consult the recommendations of the nurses union. If, or when, as is looking increasingly likely, the health boards go, stv could find itself out in the cold. As a result of running dual voting systems, democracy has been further discredited, thus increasing the allure of the strongman populist—in 2019, in the Auckland mayoralty, of a bullying victim-blaming misogynist, who could be legally elected with the support of fewer than 20% of registered voters.
Making preference voting mandatory, including as an overlay of proportional voting—mmpmixed-member proportional—is not fiddling while Earth burns. Democracy is indispensable to all of humanity mobilising to provide a fighting chance of salvaging a survivable climate, for itself and at least some of Homo sapiens sapiensas opposed to Homo sapiens, to acknowledge Homo sapiens idaltu, and to avoid the more cumbersome alternative of ‘anatomically modern human being’, and for sheer cussedness’ fellow species.
Meantime, thanks to the inaction of members of Parliament, local councillors, and local board members, since 2002, voters strongly motivated to see at least one young person representing the Warkworth Subdivision, are obliged to use only one of their three fpp ticks, and award it to Ayla Walker.
The Mahurangi Magazine’s justification for brazenly putting itself forward to organise New Zealand’s stv bicentennial is that it has published 19 articles on the subject since 2007, albeit of a total of 742. Having said that, nothing would bring the editor and his long-suffering publisher greater joy than should some university step up—or society for electoral reform, form—and snatch away the honour.
The Mahurangi Magazine’s context for naming Warkworth Subdivision candidate Ayla Walker is the existential imperative to rejuvenate democracy. Youth voting is the only evidence-based route to reversing the global trend of declining turnout, and a critical part of that is ensuring that there are candidates sufficiently youthful for potential young voters to relate to. Ayla has readily agreed—win or lose on 12 October—to be the face of youth voting at the 17 December stv bicentennial town-hall talk.
Put 17 December Warkworth Town Hall Talk in your own calendar
Put 17 December Warkworth Town Hall Talk in your own calendar
Ordered by urgency of deployment
- Year-7–15 voting as curtain-raiser
- Universal year-7–15 voting in schools—extended Kids Voting
- Election Day enrol-and-vote
- Concurrent elections, which will quickly recoup the costs of 1–3, and pay for 4–11
- Lifetime licence to vote
- Pre-enfranchisement voting
- Pre-enfranchisement enrolment
- Lowering the age of enfranchisement—currently some turn 21 before being allowed to vote
- Fixed, holidayised, Mondayised, and festivalised Election Day
- Online voting
- Anytime voting*
*If not strictly evidence-based, then at least, strongly evidence-suggested.