The Christchurch City Council local body elections showed, beneath the bare figures of the election returns, some interesting patterns. (Figures for number of enrolled voters per ward can be accessed here.)
There are seven wards in Christchurch City: Banks Peninsula; Fendalton/Waimairi; Hagley/Ferrymead; Shirley/Papanui; Spreydon/Heathcote; Burwood/Pegasus; Riccarton/Wigram.
The table linked to below shows the tendency of voters in each ward (a) to vote; (b) to vote for councillors; and, (c) to vote for community board members.
There are a few interesting points to note from the table:
- The Wards are listed, left to right, in order of overall voter turnout. Those wards to the right had lower turnout. I’ve assumed that the ballots received (ignoring informal and blank ballots) all included a vote for Mayor. The highest turnout in metropolitan Christchurch was in the Ward (Fendalton/Waimairi) that has the highest average income and also that had limited earthquake damage.
- The tendency to vote for councillors almost followed the same sequence of Wards as the vote overall (i.e., what I’m assuming is a vote for Mayor). The only difference was that Fendalton/Waimairi electors who voted had a very slightly greater tendency to vote for councillors than even those in the Banks Peninsula Ward (which had a higher overall turnout).
- That sequence breaks down at the Community Board level. Fendalton/Waimairi, the metropolitan Ward with the greatest tendency to vote and the greatest tendency (of those who voted) to vote for councillors has the lowest tendency per voter to vote for community board members. Twenty percent fewer voters, in Fendalton/Waimairi voted for community board members as for councillors. By contrast, the tendency to vote for community board members was only 11% less for voters in Riccarton/Wigram.
- Voting for community board members was always significantly less likely than voting for councillors and, in turn, voting for councillors was significantly less likely than voting for Mayor.
Is there anything to take from all of this?
There’s only speculation possible from this rough analysis but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting – or useful – to speculate. There’s also a bit more useful information in the second link above. It shows the daily postal returns by ward in Christchurch.
In all wards there is a surge of voting from 4 october to the end of voting on 9 October. The surge, however, was bigger in Fendalton/Waimairi than elsewhere. That ward moved from, marginally, having the second lowest metropolitan return rate on 1 October to having the greatest by the end of voting.
Why these differences? There will be many reasons but one that is consistent with all of these rough trends is what we might call an awareness of structural power and its relationship to one’s interests.
It might be thought that participation in local body elections is a function of, for example, level of education with a potential heightened concern with fulfilling civic responsibilities. If that were so, though, there seems little reason why a ward that has the greatest voter turnout and the strongest tendency of those who voted to vote for council would, at the level of community boards, abandon a civic duty that they’ve already mostly fulfilled (with two other votes).
The office of Mayor and the Council have the greatest power and delegate only limited and circumscribed power to community boards as part of its Register of Delegations (ward councillors sit on community boards as well). Voting for Community Boards is less compelling for a variety of reasons, one of which is their lack of power.