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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

Local Elections 2022September 8, 2022

2022 elections, scored: how much competition is there for your vote?

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

Analysis by shows how contested council and mayoral elections are around the country.

The dismally low number of people throwing their proverbial hats into the ring for local elections is no new thing. But it has attracted more attention in the leadup to the 2022 vote than in recent elections, in large part owing to the spotlight on individuals with fringe views – who in some cases appear less than frank about their affiliations – seizing on the paltry quantum of candidates to gain a foothold in local democratic assemblies. 

One useful way to look at how contested elections are, and how they compare across different elections – whether mayoralties or the various forms of council – is to look at the candidate-to-seat ratio. So if there were two people running to be mayor, that would be 2:1. If there were eight candidates running for six places on council, that would be 4:3, and so on.

From there we can assign what we’ll call a “competition score”, or comp score, in the interests of brevity. In the first example, the comp score would be 2. In the second example, it would be 1.25. The higher that score, the more contested the election is, the more options voters have, which – generally speaking – tends to enhance democracy.

Thanks to the collation, crunching and analysis efforts of (newscaster voice: your complete guide to the 2022 local elections), let’s look at some of those comp scores.

2.1 – Aotearoa

That’s the comp score across the country – or 2.117 if you’re hungry for more decimal places. There are 3,409 candidates in total competing for 1,610 seats across 583 elections. To look at it another way, 47.2% of all nominations will end in electoral success.

23 – Auckland mayoralty

The highest profile race, the most powerful role, and so no surprise that it’s the most contested election. With 23 candidates for the one position, the comp score is – let me just grab a calculator – 23. The next highest is a tie between the Christchurch and Dunedin mayoralty races: each is on a score of 11

7 – The most contested council contests

Voters in the Banks Peninsula and Riccarton wards of Christchurch have the richest pickings, with seven contenders for one seat each. In Buller, which fills two seats on the West Coast Regional Council, there are 11 candidates, offering a score of 5.5. As for city councils, the most competitive ward that returns more than one councillor is Paekawakawa/Southern in Welllington, where 10 people are standing for two seats, giving us a comp score (again, this is advanced mathematics) of 5

2.9 – Dunedin City Council

Dunedin’s council contest is notable as the election with the most candidates in total: 40 standing for 14  available seats. With 34 running for a dozen spots in Invercargill, the score is 2.8. The hands are up for the Manurewa local board in Auckland, meanwhile, with 29 people seeking eight seats, a score of 3.6, the highest for a board contest. The most competitive district council race is Whanganui, which scores 2.3.

1 or lower – The uncontested 

The Uncontested is not a new HBO drama, regrettably, but a term to describe those who are nominated for a seat and get it automatically, as the total number of seats is the same or higher than the total number of candidates (as explored here). There are 119 uncontested elections across the country, including 53 with just one candidate (that number includes seven mayoralties). In total, 238 people have won their seat uncontested. 

While there is a relationship between population size and turnout – generally speaking, the larger the population, the lower the turnout – no such obvious pattern is evident when it comes to the candidate-to-seat ratio. 

4.5 – Mayoral races

Mayoralties are the most contested of all local elections in 2022, with a comp score of 4.5, meaning that 22% of all candidates will gorge on the fruits of victory. (Arguably this number inflates the genuine contestability, given that a number of people join the mayoral race in pursuit of name recognition in support of a bid for a council spot.) 

The comp score across the country for city councils is 2.9. Regional councils and district councils: 2.1

1.6 – Community boards

Community boards are the least contested, on 1.6. Across Aotearoa, 864 candidates are running for 551 seats. That means that 64% of all people nominated for a community board will make it to the table. Another way of saying it: only about one in every three candidates won’t win a place on a community board.

For local boards, Auckland’s versions of community boards, it’s 2.5.   

2.1 – South Island

There’s little in it between the islands, with the South Island boasting slightly more contested elections – a comp score of 2.1 with 47% of candidates elected – while the North Island has a score a smidgen over 2, with 49% elected. Urban areas are more contested than rural – with scores of 2.7 and 1.9 respectively.

Nelson (3.2), Northland (3) and Gisborne (3) take the prizes for the most contested geographic areas; at the back end, the least contested parts of the country, are these: Hawke's Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui (both 1.7) and Chatham Islands (1.1).

3.4 – Hamilton

Let us hope it is the city of the future when it comes to electoral candidacy. When crunched the numbers comparing all elections within a city, region or district, Hamilton rocketed to the top, on 3.4 candidates per seat. Close behind: Whangārei (3.3), Nelson (3.2), Invercargill (3.1) and the Far North (3).

The least contested roll call: Central Otago and Manawatū on 1.3, Central Hawke’s Bay and Chatham Islands on 1.1, and the least contested of all, Stratford, at 1.08. If you’re standing in Stratford, and you don’t get elected, well, maybe the political life is not for you.

Read the full report here.

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