Single Transferable Vote (STV)

In the Far North we've switched to Single Transferable Vote (STV).

Single Transferable Voting is a proportional system.  When voting using STV, instead of ticking the candidate you want, you rank candidates in order of preference – “1” beside your most preferred candidate, “2” beside the second-most preferred, and so on. You can just rank your preferred candidate or as many candidates as you like.

To be elected, a candidate must get a certain number of votes. This is known as the ‘quota’ and is worked out after voting has closed. The quota is calculated by dividing the total number of votes received by the number of vacancies, plus one vote. 

To be elected, a candidate must get enough votes to reach the quota. If there is more than one vacancy, votes received over the quota are partially transferred to other candidates in order of voter preference. Those with fewest votes are eliminated and their votes are partially transferred to other candidates. This process repeats until enough candidates reach the quota and all vacancies are filled.

Single Transferable Vote (STV) fact sheet(PDF, 269KB)

What does STV look like?



Questions and answers about STV

Which councils in New Zealand use STV?

In the 2019 local government elections, 11 out of 78 local authorities used STV: Dunedin City Council, Kaipara District Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, Marlborough District Council, New Plymouth District Council (1st time), Porirua City Council, Ruapehu District Council (1st time), Tauranga City Council (1st time), Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council.

How do I vote under STV?

In an STV election, you have one vote and rank the candidates in order of preference. You give a 1 to your favourite candidate, 2 to your second favourite and so on. You can rank as many candidates as you like – you don’t need to rank them all. By ranking the candidates, parts of your vote may be shared between the candidates you support according to your preferences. If the candidate you most want to win gets more votes than they need to be elected, because a lot of other people voted for them too, part of your vote may be transferred to your next choice. The same thing happens if your top choice is really unpopular and doesn’t get enough votes to be elected – your vote for them will be transferred to your next preference until all positions are filled.

How are votes counted under STV?

The votes are counted in stages. All first preference votes are counted first. To be elected, candidates must reach what’s called the quota – a number based on the total number of valid votes and the number of vacant positions. When a candidate reaches the quota and is elected, a portion of the surplus votes go to their voters’ second choices. If no other candidates reach the quota and there are positions still to be filled, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are transferred according to voters’ second choices. These steps are repeated until all of the positions are filled. If voters didn’t give any second or subsequent preferences, those votes cannot be transferred and the quota is recalculated to exclude the non-transferable votes.

All of the vote counting is done by computer using specialist software. The Department of Internal Affairs developed the programme (called the STV calculator). It has been independently audited and certified, as required by law.

What are the advantages of STV?

Under STV, the election results are more likely to reflect the preferences of a greater number of voters. Because voters’ second, third, and other preferences are taken into account, the results are a more accurate indication of the total support each candidate has. As STV maximises the number of votes that help to elect candidates, there is also a higher probability of more voters being represented by someone they voted for. 

Is the same process used to count the mayoral votes as the one used for councillors?

Yes, it’s the same process. The quota the winning mayoral candidate needs to reach is an absolute majority – more than 50% of the votes.

How is the quota calculated under STV?

In an STV election, the quota is the number of votes a candidate needs to get elected. It is calculated from the total number of valid votes cast and the number of vacant positions. In the case of mayoral elections, the quota is an absolute majority (more than 50%).

Do voters have to rank everyone?

No. You can rank as many or as few candidates as you wish, so your vote is still valid even if you only rank some candidates.



Do you have further questions about STV? Find out more here - Single Transferable Vote (



Last updated 29 June 2022