Due to recovering from a cold over the weekend, I haven’t had time to blog about the super-shitty electoral boundaries released on friday in traditional style. However jarbury has done a great analysis over at the Auckland Transport blog.
If you look at the all-important councillors, the striking thing is the inequities of the voting wards.
Probably the most interesting column in this table is the one on the far right which effectively shows the level of â€˜unfairness’, or deviation from the idea of everyone having their votes count equally. Some level of discrepancy is to be expected, as the ward boundaries have been generally aligned with the local board boundaries which need to take into account â€˜communities of interest’. Plus the legislation required that Rodney and Franklin would have their own wards, with one councilor each.
However, despite this, I really think there’s a problem here. Some discrepancy is not the 24% under-representation that we’ll get in the Mangawhau-Hauraki Ward (which just happens to be where I live, which probably explains part of my annoyance) or the 24% over-representation in Rodney District. This basically means that someone’s vote in Rodney counts almost the same as two votes in my ward.
Most of the inequities are from Rodney Hides flawed legislation that appears to have been designed to ensure that the Local Government Commission would be unable to keep withing their usual 10% variation as Phil Twyford at Red Alert says
Wards like rural Rodney and Franklin, Hibiscus-Albany-East Coast Bays, and Howick-Pakuranga-Botany are all under populated by more than the benchmark 10% meaning each of their votes counts for more than the average. On the other hand Waitakere, Whau (Avondale-New Lynn), Maungawhau-Hauraki Gulf, and Orakei-Maungakiekie are all over populated, meaning their votes count for less.
What this means is that the vote of a Rodney resident is worth a third more than a central Auckland resident. And a vote in Waitakere is worth almost 3/4 of one Hibiscus-Albany-East Coast Bays vote.
Now this doesn’t necessarily constitute some kind of rort designed to keep the left from fairly winning a majority on the Council. The drawing of the boundaries to reflect communities of interest is arguably as important as the population ratios.
But ensuring everyone’s vote is worth about the same is an issue of fairness and goes to the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote. That is why the Local Government Act lays down the 10% guideline.
Because of the restrictions laid down by Rodney Hide on the number of wards, what areas got included and excluded, the number of representatives per ward, and the shortage of councilors , it was virtually impossible to draw up an equitable voting system. But of course that appears to be the Hides intent as was noted from the first post in this series.
There was absolutely no way that communities of interest can be formed out of such a small number of councilors. The number of voters that each councilor is going to represent is far higher than for MPs. Because of the restrictions laid down in the legislation and the existing Local Government Act, it was obvious that would happen.
Of course Hides supporters would say that local concerns are meant to be taken up by the local boards. However since it has been signaled that these boards will have no significant powers or staff or budgets to do anything for their local areas this is a meaningless distinction and a distraction from the debate.
Of course this could change when the third bill that establishes their powers is actually passed. But that doesn’t look likely until next year. At present there doesn’t appear to be a good reason for anyone serious about supporting their local communities to actually stand for those positions.
I suspect that Auckland local body voters are going to be highly peeved with these inequities, and this will translate across to the national elections. After all John Key and his government has been so relaxed about Rodney Hides plans, that a considerable blame can be laid directly at his door for putting a gerrymander in place in Auckland.