PAPUA New Guinea will be using the limited preferential voting (LPV) system in the 2022 national general election.
Prime Minister James Marape told Parliament last week that it will start as scheduled:
- APRIL 14 – nominations open;
- APRIL 21 – nominations close;
- JUNE 11 – polling start; and,
- JULY 15 (on or before) – return of writs.
Despite the many awareness conducted on the LPV system, many still do not understand how it works.
Prior to LPV, PNG was using the old system of “old majority voting” also known as the “first-past-the-post” where the voter puts a cross on a ballot paper next to their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins.
That system had been used since Independence until the 2002 national election where Papua New Guineans have been electing their leaders to represent them in the Parliament and it was easy.
The Parliament then amended the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections to provide for the introduction of LPV in national election.
With LPV, the voter is given an option to choose three candidates among the names on the ballot paper by placing the number “1” as the first preference, indicates the second preference with number “2” and the number “3” for the third candidate.
The winning candidate should get 50 per cent + 1 of the formal votes cast in the electorate.
In the LPV system, there are two distinct parts to counting votes. The primary count is the first part. This refers to the first preference vote or vote 1 that is counted first.
At the end of the primary count, they should determine if a candidate has received 50 per cent + 1 of the first preference votes to be declared the winner.
If a candidate does not secure the 50 per cent + 1 formal votes, then they go into the second part of the counting.
This is the elimination part where the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated; and the votes that he or she received will be redistributed to the remaining candidates according to the second and third preference votes. After the first elimination and the redistribution of the votes of the excluded candidate, they will then determine if the redistributed votes have given a candidate 50 per cent + 1 of the formal votes.
If not, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is again eliminated and his or her votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates according to the second and third preferences.
This process continues until a winner is found and they say under this system, a winner is always found.
However, some votes will run out of preferences and these are called exhausted votes.
As more candidates are eliminated, the chances increase for more exhausted votes.
As more votes become exhausted, the “live” formal votes remaining decrease.
Understanding how the LPV counting works brings to light a number of things.
Firstly, we understand the importance of first preference vote.
In order for a candidate to stay in the running, they need the first preference votes as it is the primary vote.
All in all, second and third preference votes are as important as the first preference votes.
First preference votes get you in the running and second and third preference votes determine your win.
Much has been said about educating voters to be better informed about the voting system but the question of whether they really understand still remains
With the low literacy rate, awareness on LPV should be conducted with a mock exercise involving the people, only then they will really grasp the LPV system.