What happened to one person one vote?

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, June 28th, 2019 - 34 comments
Categories: elections, local body elections, local government, uncategorized - Tags:

It is for Local Government election year. Soon your roadsides are going to be emblazoned with billboards and your letterboxes crammed with printed material from individuals and groups wanting to be your representative.

There are two aspects of the mechanics of this year’s election which I believe will be significant issues. The first is our depleted postal system and its (in)ability to handle postal votes. Reduced frequency and concerning examples of mail not being date stamped have cast some doubt o the veracity of recent school board of trustee elections. How this will effect local government elections and their much larger scale is yet to be seen.

The other aspect that has received recent attention is the rather archaic law that allows someone with multiple interests in land multiple votes.

From Television New Zealand:

An old law that gives owners of multiple properties extra voting rights in local elections is unfair, archaic and should be ditched, election researchers say.

The ratepayer roll allows people to vote in each council district, local board area and community board area the own property in.

RNZ analysis of Auckland’s ratepayer rolls from the 2016 local elections uncovered people who were enrolled as ratepayer voters in not just one, but two, three or four different local board areas.

One man was enrolled in seven separate local board areas, in addition to the area he lived in. Although he could only vote for Auckland’s mayor and councillors once, he was eligible to elect local board members in Howick, Upper Harbour, Devonport-Takapuna, Kaipatiki, Waitemata, Henderson-Massey, Manurewa, and Hibiscus and Bays local boards.

Overall, about 12,700 ratepayer votes were cast in the 2016 elections for district, city and regional councillors, and local and community board members.

The law is a kick back to the 18th century when the franchise depended on a person, initially a male person, also being a land owner. The landed gentry was considered to be more trustworthy in their political views and limiting the franchise would produce a better result, at least as far as members of that rather exclusive club were concerned.

The numbers are small. But if anything this reinforces how archaic the provision is and why it should be changed. And you can bet that most property owning absentee ratepayers would prefer to reduce rates than to build and nourish their local community.

The concept of one person one vote is something that is at the centre of our electoral system since the 1890s. It is time we made it apply to all our voting systems.

Reprinted from gregpresland.com

34 comments on “What happened to one person one vote?”

  1. tc 1

    Crikey is there a provision for a monthly pig for the mayor also (Simpson’s).

    wtf is it still there Mickey it’s 2019 not 1919, given all the laws slammed through to create supershity the poor dears were to busy to sort this one out.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    The principle of one person one vote needs to be applied. Pick a district.


  3. You_Fool 3

    If we all live in a collective where we all own each others land, so we all get to vote multiple times?

  4. michelle 4

    bloody hypocrites national and this policy shows who they really are and who they really care about not us but the rich and themselves  

  5. Lucy 5

    think it more harks back to no taxation without representation, so as the rates in a district are levied from the homeowner they should have a say. If we had poll tax raised from people living in the house for local body tax then the people living in the house should be the only ones voting.

    • Ed1 5.1

      So in a property owned by a company, does each shareholder get a vote? Do properties owned by central government give the government a vote? Does an investment property where the rates are paid from rental income give a vote to the tenant?  It does seem fairer to have the tenants that pay rent to cover the rates have a vote instead of the investor, who may for example reside overseas. 

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    Nearly 100% of people seem to like moaning, bitching and whinging, about various aspects of local Govt. but barely 40% regularly participate in the elections. 38% in the Supercity last time.

    Transience, alienation, dying postal services, not wanting to be found, not able to be found, as well as “can’t be arsed”, all figure in the consistently low turnouts along with more principled non votes when the often lack lustre candidates are considered.

    There needs to be online voting, and some more kick ass candidates that actually stand for something, e.g. fare free public transport, community housing sponsored by Councils–yes there are good people that work away quietly for years on Community Boards–but they perhaps need to be less quiet about it!


  7. Gosman 7

    Except if you have property that you own in a local council area why shouldn't you have a say in how decisions impacting that property are made?

    • Muttonbird 7.1

      That's not the case in general elections. Or are you advocating an electorate vote in every electorate you own property in? The corollary is that people who don't own property should not be afforded a vote at all.

      Further, you can only exist in one property at a time can you not?

      • Gosman 7.1.1

        Note the difference in name between "Local elections" versus "General elections". In a "General election" you get to have a say on how decisions will be made that impact the ENTIRE country. Therefore you don't need to have more than one vote because you already get to influence decisions impacting you. If I own a property in say Taupo which I use for a month or so a year but I live in Wellington for most of the year then I am still going to be interested in what decisions are made that impact Taupo and I should have a right to influence them if I am a NZ resident.  

        • Muttonbird

          You still have an electorate vote in a general election. If you own property in two electorates why shouldn't you have an interest in your local candidate who takes your concerns to parliament.

          • Gosman

            Because your electorate MP should be able to represent your view for the ENTIRE country if necessary and not just in the area they represent. Regardless with MMP that argument is moot.

  8. Obtrectator 8

    Not wholly unrelated to "one person, one vote" is "one state, two senators".  And we all can see where that's now leading.

    • Gosman 8.1

      Why is this a problem? The US is a Republic not a pure democracy. The reason the Senate (and the electoral college) is there is to protect the federal nature of the country.

  9. James Thrace 9

    This provision was taken out by the fourth labour government but rammed through under urgency by National in 1991 to reinstate multiple votes by landowners for local authorities.

  10. SHG 10

    No taxation without representation.

    I find it perfectly appropriate for people to have local government votes wherever they pay rates.

    • Muttonbird 10.1

      You personally pay rates for the house you live in. The rates for other properties you might own, commercial or residential are paid by a business or tenant.

      • SHG 10.1.1

        Funny, the rates notices always have my name on them no matter what the properties are being used for.

        • Muttonbird

          Yes, and you charge your tenants accordingly. We always hear that costs are passed on to tenants. Or are rates costs somehow different? Are rates not a deductible expense for rentals? Why, yes they are!

          Also, your position suggests that owners pay for all the services a council provides and tenants pay nothing towards their use of the roads, rubbish collection and facilities, etc – this is manifestly untrue and either the thoughts of a very very stupid person, or a wind up.

          • Gosman

            The revenue is levied off the property value which property owners are ultimately responsible for. How they raise this is their business. The local council will not take too kindly on being told they won't get their rates due to the landlord not having a tenant.

            • Ed1

              Who has suggested that responsibility for rates be passed to tenants?

              • Macro


              • Sabine

                you ever rented a commercial building? You pay the rates. You get the bills every three month . Straight bill courtesy of the poor landlord. you will also pay the building insurance for that landlord and the maintenance for that building. 🙂 

                as for residential properties they are calculated in the weekly rents. 

                you seem very funny. 

            • Muttonbird

              Similarly the rent is a function of the value of the property. Important then to have tenants who do have to live somewhere, after all. It is they who pay for the rates just as the pay for the mortgage.

    • I find it perfectly appropriate for people to have local government votes wherever they pay rates.

      As long as the rent they charge on those properties is set at a level where the cost of rates is falling entirely on the property owner, sure. Maybe there's a landlord somewhere in NZ who falls into that category, but you wouldn't need a lot of fingers to count them.

      • SHG 10.2.1

        I own multiple properties, am landlord to multiple tenants, I never pass on rates (or any other) increases to the tenants. I'm the guy out there with a shovel when the council septic truck can't get to the inspection hatch, I'm the guy writing to the council when a tenant tells me the footpath is cracked outside the house, I'm the guy with less in my wallet when the rates go up because the council fucked up its recycling contract.

        So I think it's reasonable for me to have a say in the local government elections where those properties are. When those councils make spending decisions it comes out of my pocket. When a council says “no new books for the children’s library this year” or “we spent $10,000 on a golf club membership for the CEO” I want to be able to vote someone out.

  11. soddenleaf 11

    When you pay you should have a say. Property ownership means a right to use that ownership, gain benefit. Now if the board in your area decides adversely and you have no representation, that's wrong. You pay rates, you should have a voice, six even.

    What I find objectionable is how hard it is to co own housing, or how few collectives there are, or any number of collectives that just seem extinct in Hz. It's like shareholder are the only collective actively supported by govt. unions not so much.

    What about local energy collectives, why uber? why not govt investing money in a uni project to create local car sharing companies… …or energy, or food, whatever happened to councils supporting small business by having a open market area, stalls etc.


    Big business has too much of a vote, Nats have been hamstring our economy with their virulent neolib less govt more tax cuts. A nation needs to invest, nothing ventured nothing gains, that includes councils supporting local community markets, gift supporting uni project to start non-profits.

  12. Sabine 12

    What happened to one person one vote?

    some people are just more equal then other people. 

  13. This is just one of those fundamental disconnects between right and left.  On the right, society is about effective administration of property rights, so it makes perfect sense for representation in government to be based on property.  On the left, society is about people in a community, so it's ridiculous to have representation in government based on property rather than people. 

  14. observer 14

    NZ is a real outlier when it comes to local elections.

    The norm in other democracies is to do it just the same way as national elections: you go to the same polling station, you are on the same electoral roll, you can even vote for the same parties if you want.

    Why don't we do that? If the answer is "cost", that's not good enough. "Because it's what we do" isn't an answer either, it's circular.

    (And sure, there are many other things we do better than other democracies, our general elections lead the world. But local elections are a different story).

  15. mpledger 15

    I'm conflicted.

    Say you own three houses in three districts.  In each district candidates are proposing flood control measures that will effect each property – a person owning those homes sees that those measures won't work and should be able to vote in each district to save their property.

    On the other hand, most people owning multiple homes are landlords, letting them have multiple votes means landlords get a greater say in what candidate, and hence policy, gets voted in.

    Maybe their should be vote splitting.  A person can split their vote how they see fit for each district they have a home in. 

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