How Preferential Voting works

On your voting paper, you will be asked to rank the different flag options – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – in the order you prefer them.

You write a “1” in the box of the flag option you prefer most. Then you can put a “2” in the box of the option you prefer next, and so on.

You can rank as many or as few flag options as you wish, but you shouldn’t skip a number or use the same number more than once.

If one flag option gets fifty percent or more of all the first preference votes (that is votes marked "1"), it will be selected on the first count.

If no flag option gets fifty percent or more of the first preference votes, the flag with the fewest number “1” votes is dropped and its votes go to the flag each voter ranked next.

This continues until one flag gets fifty percent or more of the valid votes cast in the first flag referendum. The most preferred flag in the first referendum will go to a second referendum in March 2016, when voters will choose between it and the current flag.

This system of voting is called Preferential Voting (PV) and is used for elections to the House of Representatives in Australia and to elect some mayors in New Zealand, including in Wellington and Dunedin.

 

 

Examples of how PV works

Here are three simple examples of how PV works. In each example there are 100 valid votes and a flag option needs fifty percent or more of the votes to be selected.

Example 1: 

The Aubergine flag (with 53 votes marked “1”) gets more than half of the 1st preference votes and is selected.

Flag option

1st count

 

Aubergine

53

Selected

Corn

8

 

Carrot

20

 

Tomato

14

 

Broccoli

5

 

Total

100 votes

 
Example 2:

The Aubergine flag (with 45 votes marked “1”) leads after the first vote count but does not have fifty percent or more of the 1st preference votes. So the flag with the fewest votes marked “1” – the Tomato flag – is dropped and its 11 votes go to the flag options marked “2” by these 11 voters.  Aubergine gets seven of Tomato’s 2nd preference votes for a total of 52 votes and is selected as the alternative flag option for the second referendum.

Flag option

1st count

2nd count

 

Aubergine

45

45+7=52

Selected

Corn

19

19+2=21

 

Carrot

12

12+1=13

 

Tomato

11

Eliminated

 

Broccoli

13

13+1=14

 

Total

100 votes

100 votes

 
Example 3:

The Aubergine flag (with 40 votes marked “1”) leads after the first vote count but does not have fifty percent or more of the 1st preference votes. So the flag with the fewest votes marked “1” – the Tomato flag – is dropped and its five votes go to the flag options marked “2” by these voters.   Aubergine gets two of Tomato’s 2nd preference votes for a total of 42 votes, Corn gets one for a total of 39 votes, Carrot gets one for a total of eleven votes, and Broccoli also get one for a total of eight votes.

There is still no flag option with fifty percent or more of the votes. So the flag with the fewest votes – Broccoli – is dropped and its eight votes go to the flag options each voter ranked next. Aubergine receives two of Broccoli’s next preference votes for a total of 44, Corn gets four of these votes for a total of 43 votes and Carrot gets two for a total of 13 votes. 

There is still no flag option with fifty percent or more of the votes. So the flag with the fewest votes – Carrot – is dropped and its 13 votes go to the flag options each voter ranked next. The Corn flag receives nine of these votes, enough to overtake Aubergine and be selected with 52 votes.

Flag option

1st count

2nd count

3rd count

4th count

 

Aubergine

40

40+2=42

42+2=44

44+4=48

 

Corn

38

38+1=39

39+4=43

43+9=52

Selected

Carrot

10

10+1=11

11+2=13

Eliminated

 

Tomato

5

Eliminated

 

   

Broccoli

7

7+1=8

Eliminated

   

Total

100 votes

100 votes

100 votes

100 votes

 

These examples show some basic features of PV

  1. A flag option must get fifty percent or more of the valid votes to be selected, which may come from a mix of votes marked “1”, “2”, and so on.
  2. The flag option with the most votes marked “1” may be overtaken by another flag in the second, third or fourth counts.
  3. If a voter’s first choice is eliminated they can still have a say through their second, third or fourth preferences.
     
Last updated: 24 November 2015