December 17, 2003
confirms changes to DHB elections
Press Release: New Zealand Government
Health Minister Annette King today announced that the Government has approved
a new way of electing District Health Board members in 2004, allowing voters to
select representatives for the entire board rather than just their local ward
under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system.
"The changes from First-Past-the-Post to STV, plus merging current
constituencies, give voters more power through more choice and a chance to have
greater impact on the makeup of the whole board," says Ms King.
Merging current constituencies will create "at-large" elections,
meaning that all voters in a district will be able to vote for all seven elected
board members, as opposed to just voting for a limited number of board members
as ward representatives which has been the case in the past.
Ms King says DHBs and local government organisations received more than 130
submissions on the issue.
ĺ─˙These submissions have led to changes to the candidate profile statements
provided to the public. The Ministry will recommend to electoral officers that
candidates be identified on these statements by their place of residence. This
allows voters, for example, to rank rural candidates, who they may feel will
represent the best interests of rural communities, higher than city candidates.
"Many of the submissions showed a limited understanding about how the
STV system will work, but the Ministry, along with other interested parties,
be running information campaigns in the lead-up to the local authority and DHB
elections in October 2004."
This system gives voters more choice and effectively more power to determine
the total makeup of the boards and better reflects the regional nature of
health service provision.
Ms King says STV elections held at-large will mean that boards have a better
chance of more accurately reflecting the make-up of the wider community and
groups within the community.
Frequently Asked Questions
A. District Health Board (DHB) Elections
1. How many board members does a DHB have? Up to 11 members sit on each DHB
board. Seven are elected every three years at the time of local body elections,
and up to four can be appointed by the Health Minister.
2. Who are elected DHB board members accountable to? The board is accountable
to the Minister for achieving the expectations of the Minister and the
Government. Elected members are expected to have a clear understanding of issues
of importance and views of people in their district as a whole, but they remain
directly accountable to the Minister for the DHBĺ─˘s performance.
3. Can a candidate stand for more than one board? No. They cannot stand for
either more than one DHB or more than one constituency within the same DHB.
4. What will the order of candidates be on the voting document? DHBs are able
to decide what order candidate names appear on the voting document. Names can be
listed alphabetically by surname, in ĺ─˛pseudo-randomĺ─˘ order (where names are
ĺ─˛drawn out of a hatĺ─˘ and the resulting order is used on every voting
document) or in random order (where the order is differenton every voting
5. What happens if not enough people stand? If there are fewer candidates
than vacancies at the close of nominations, those candidates are deemed to be
elected unopposed and an actual election is not necessary. The Minister is
entitled to appoint suitable people to the leftover positions, and those people
are treated as though they are elected members for the purposes of the laws
governing DHB boards.
6. Who acts as the DHBĺ─˘s electoral officer? DHBs may choose their own
electoral officer, but that person must also be electoral officer for one of the
territorial authorities (city or district councils) within the DHBĺ─˘s boundary.
7. When will election results be announced? Under the STV electoral method, a
result cannot be calculated until all votes (including special votes) have been
received. This is because each voteĺ─˘s preferences could affect the way that
surplus votes are transferred. As a result, results are expected to take
slightly longer than usual to announce, but the extra time required is not
expected to be substantial.
8. Can candidates unsuccessful at the election still be appointed as board
members? Yes. When making appointments to boards, the Minister considers the mix
of skills and backgrounds of the elected members to the boards, identifies the
gaps, and endeavours to fill these with people known to have the required
attributes and backgrounds. Those people may include candidates who stood for
election but were not elected to the board.
B. Single Transferable Voting (STV)
1. Why is STV being used? STV is believed to be a fairer method of electing
candidates at local body elections. Popular candidates only keep the number of
votes they need to be elected, with any surplus votes being shared around the
other candidates according to votersĺ─˘ preferences. STV is also expected to
increase Maori and minority group representation on local bodies.
2. How do you vote under STV? Instead of putting a tick beside candidatesĺ─˘
names, voters put a number showing their preference for the candidate. For
example, if a voter liked Candidate A best, they would put a ĺ─˛1ĺ─˘ beside
Candidate Aĺ─˘s name. If the voter liked Candidate B next, they would put a
ĺ─˛2ĺ─˘ beside Candidate Bĺ─˘s name, and so on.
3. Do voters have to rank all the candidates on the voting document? No.
Voters can rank as many candidates as they wish. STV votes will be valid as long
as a ĺ─˛1ĺ─˘ is clearly marked beside one candidateĺ─˘s name. Each subsequent
preference will count so long as it follows in an unbroken sequence.
4. How are votes counted under STV? Keeping track of voter preferences is
quite complicated in STV elections. A computer program is used to track the
preferences each candidate receives, and to perform all calculations necessary
for a result. This program was developed by the Department of Internal Affairs,
has been independently audited and has been certified as producing an accurate
result by the Secretary for Local Government.
5. When do votersĺ─˘ second, third, fourth (and so on) preferences come into
play? Votersĺ─˘ preferences are used in two situations. If a candidate receives
more votes than he or she needs to gain a place on the board, the surplus votes
are transferred to other candidates in order of preference. Secondly, if no
candidate has enough votes to be elected to the board, the lowest placed
candidate ĺ─˛drops outĺ─˘ and his or her votes are redistributed to help elect
6. How are the surplus votes transferred? Is the way this is done fair? Votes
are transferred according to the order of preferences on each voting document.
For example, if one candidate has more votes than they need to be elected, then
the excess votes are redistributed to votersĺ─˘ second-most preferred
candidates, and so on. Likewise, candidates who have so little support that they
are unable to be elected also have their votes transferred, to help other
candidates get elected. To ensure that this is done fairly, a ĺ─˛keep valueĺ─˘
is assigned to each candidate. The keep value lets the candidate keep the
portion of votes they need to be elected, but allows any surplus to be
distributed proportionately amongst the other candidates.
C. Constituency Arrangements for DHB Elections
1. What is a constituency? What does ĺ─˛at-largeĺ─˘ mean? DHBs are currently
divided into constituencies, which work like council ĺ─˛wardsĺ─˘ by electing
people from specific communities to boards. Under an at-large system, each
DHBĺ─˘s current constituencies would be merged to form district-wide elections.
Under this arrangement, all voters would vote for all seven elected board member
positions. DHBs and local government representative bodies are currently being
consulted on constituency arrangements for DHB elections under STV.
2. What are the benefits of constituencies? Constituencies guarantee that
different geographical communities have representation on the board. Residents
are more likely to feel that they have their own member on the board, who may be
more accessible and willing to advance their concerns at the board table.
3. What are the benefits of at-large structures? Traditionally, Maori and
minority groups have been under-represented at local body elections. This is
because most constituencies only elect a very small number of members, thus
making it difficult for Maori and minority groups to see their candidates
elected. By using at-large structures, the threshold of support becomes a lot
easier to achieve. This is because all candidates would only require 12.5
percent of the votes, from all the districtĺ─˘s voters, to be elected. Voters
also have greater choice and flexibility under an at-large structure. Instead of
being required to vote on the basis of geographic communities, voters are able
to select the candidates who they think will do the best job as board members,
irrespective of where those candidates live. Voters are also likely to have a
larger range of candidates to choose from and therefore have a better
opportunity to support candidates who are more likely to represent their
particular concerns (be they based on gender, ethnicity, locality or any other
4. How much support does a candidate need to be elected under the different
arrangements? Under STV, candidates must receive a certain level of support
before they can be elected to the board. The exact number of votes necessary
will differ from region to region and on the number of people who actually vote.
If constituencies were maintained, and if only one member was to be elected to a
constituency, a candidate would need to receive just over 50 percent of the vote
to be elected. If the constituency elected three members to the board,
candidates would need just over 25 percent of the vote each to be elected. Under
an at-large system in the DHB environment, candidates would need a little over
12.5 percent of the vote, from all of the districtĺ─˘s voters, to be elected.
5. Under at-large structures, what happens if no-one gets enough support to
be elected? If no candidate has enough votes to reach the quota, the candidate
who has received the lowest number of votes ĺ─˛drops outĺ─˘. That personĺ─˘s
votes are then redistributed, in order of voter preference, to all the other
candidates. This in turn helps the remaining candidates get closer to crossing
the quota, and the process continues until all vacancies have been filled.
6. Wonĺ─˘t at-large elections mean that far too many people appear on the
ballot? It is difficult to predict how many people will stand from election to
election. While numbers standing under at-large structures are likely to be
larger than under constituencies, voters would have a greater choice in deciding
who the best people for the job are.
7. Why canĺ─˘t some DHBs use at-large structures and others constituencies?
It is important that all DHBs are on an equal governance footing, especially
with the introduction of a new electoral system. To that end, it is preferable
to have the same electoral arrangements apply to all DHBs. Although recognising
that each DHB has different features, it is felt that principles of collective
responsibility, and a district-wide focus on service delivery to meet health
needs, require a nationally consistent approach on this issue.
8. Under at-large structures, would individuals need to be really well known
everywhere in the district to get elected? No. The way STV works, candidates
only need to cross the quota of votes required to be elected. Under at-large
structures, candidates are free to determine the best way to do this, whether it
be by targeting a specific group or community of voters, by working towards a
high profile across the district, or by using region-wide community structures
to promote candidates.
9. Will it be more expensive to run an election campaign in an at-large
environment? As campaign spending limits are based on an electoral areaĺ─˘s
population, candidates would generally be entitled to spend more under an
at-large structure than they would if they stood in a smaller constituency.
However, the amount a candidate is willing to spend on any election campaign is
a matter for the candidate alone. Candidates are also able to use organisations
and groups with regional profiles, such as iwi/hapu groups, Country Womenĺ─˘s
Institutes, and so on, to raise their profiles across the district if they so
10. Under an at-large structure, wouldnĺ─˘t board members from larger towns
or cities end up controlling the board? No. STV is a proportional voting system
and is therefore more likely to deliver an election result proportionate to the
districtĺ─˘s voting interests. Communities are not necessarily ĺ─˛shut outĺ─˘
solely by virtue of removing guaranteed geographical representation on boards.
For example, if one area represents 25 percent of voters, that area has the
potential to deliver two members to the board (given that under at-large
structures in the DHB environment, each candidate would need 12.5 percent
support to be elected). In many DHBs, urban voters currently choose several
board members while rural voters only get to select one or two. Under at-large
structures, voters from rural areas get a greater say in electing all of the
boardĺ─˘s members. At-large arrangements allow all votes to have an equal
influence in determining the final makeup of the board. In addition, boards also
have the ability to create their own specifically community-based committees, or
appoint different community representatives to existing committees. The Minister
is also able to ensure a good balance of community representation through the
Ministerial appointments process.
11. Why change the voting system? A move to at-large structures would be more
likely to realise the anticipated benefits of STV than if present constituency
arrangements remain in place. The benefits of moving to an at-large environment
include potential for improved Maori and minority group representation on
boards, potential for greater choice and flexibility for voters, encouraging an
environment of collective responsibility at the board table, and equalizing
levels of representation across each district.
12. What does ĺ─˛at-largeĺ─˘ mean? Under an at-large structure, each DHBĺ─˘s
current constituencies would be merged to create one district-wide constituency.
Through at-large structures under STV, DHB voters would be able to influence the
final composition of the board a great deal more than under current
arrangements, because their votes would contribute to electing all seven elected
board members, not just one or two as in the majority of current constituencies.
13. What is the potential for improving Maori and minority group
representation? The effect of constituencies on Maori and minority group
representation was seen at the 2001 DHB elections. Only a very small number of
Maori candidates were elected (even though close to 130 stood as candidates) and
no candidates who described themselves as being of Pacific or Asian origins were
elected to boards. If STV elections were held under current constituency
arrangements, the low levels of elected Maori and minority representation on DHB
boards would probably continue. This is because in a one-member constituency a
candidate would require just over 50 percent of the votes to cross the STV quota
and be elected. In a two-member constituency a candidate would need to get just
over one-third of the votes in order to be elected. In 2001, constituencies
effectively divided Maori and minority groups in many DHBs. These groups did not
have sufficient ĺ─˛voter massĺ─˘ to achieve the higher numbers of votes
typically required under FPP, which saw their candidates go unelected in many