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Who will you vote for? And why?

Do mayors have an advantage over other mayoral candidates? With local body elections not much more than four months away, voters will be considering how much they know about the people who want their votes. We probably know more about the mayors than about the people who are standing against them.

Part of the Hutt city website shows how visible a busy mayor can be – David Ogden has his own picture gallery [1] with more than 70 photos.

Wellington city’s website doesn’t give the same treatment to Mayor Kerry Prendergast, though it offers her profile. [2] She also has a page on the City Mayors [3] website, though it’s out of date because it states that she isn’t standing again, whereas she has decided to seek a fourth term. Unlike the candidates who are standing against her, she doesn’t seem to have her own website or Facebook page. But there’s no denying her visibility. As the The DomPost reported last September, she’s seen at a dozen city events [4] each week.

This year her challengers include two newcomers. Jack Yan has not one but two websites. One is named Your Wellington. [5] The other is more precise; it’s called Jack Yan For Mayor [6]. He’s doing some serious campaigning on Facebook [7] too, and he has a group of active supporters who write letters and send comments to websites.

The second new candidate is Miramar veterinarian Allan Probert, who makes lots of statements and has developed constructive contacts with media people. His website address is optimistically named Wellington Mayor [8]. And here’s his Facebook [9] page.

Veteran councilor Bryan Pepperell is standing again for the mayoralty. His website, named PeppTalk [10], includes videoclips and a link to his MySpace page. He’s been talking and blogging recently on issues affecting control of Wellington’s water supply, on which councilors are divided.

His views on water differ from those of Councilor Celia Wade-Brown, whose decision to stand for the mayoralty can be found here [11] on the Greens website. She also has a presence on Facebook. [12] And last week she lifted her visibility when she was photographed in a kayak [13] wearing mayoral yellow and campaigning for more promotion of outdoor water sports.

At least two more mayoral candidates are expected to emerge before nominations close on August 20. There’ve been reports that Labour will enter the race. And Sir Robert Jones has given notice that he’ll be announcing a mayoral candidate to lead his Vibrant Wellington team. His campaign got headlines last year when he announced his policy of a traffic-free Golden Mile [14]. Last time he was active in council elections, his mayoral candidate was Carmen [15]. It’ll be a challenge for him to find another candidate with equal fame, or notoriety.

There are no polling booths for local body elections. You vote by mail, which is credited with encouraging more people to vote, though the numbers in Wellington went down last time. Here’s the timetable: nominations will be received from 23 July. Nominations close on 20 August, at midday. Postal voting starts on 17 September and ends at noon on 9 October. The results should be known that night.

The lists of Wellington candidates used to be in alphabetical order, but some defeated councilors blamed the fact that their names were at the end of the list. “There is a perception … that candidates with a surname starting at the top end of the alphabet have an unfair advantage,” according to a council report. Hutt City and Kapiti Coast have stayed with alphabetical listings. But Wellington lists its candidates in random order – the council says there’ve been no complaints since the system was introduced five years ago. Wellington has also given up the “first past the post” voting system. Instead, it uses the Single Transferable Vote [16]system – one of only eight councils that chose this system last time.

It’s supposed to be simple [17], but people don’t seem to understand it. Advice from the knowledgeable: if there’s someone that you don’t want to be elected, then don’t put a number alongside his or her name.

[Since this article was published, Allan Probert has announced that he will not be standing for the Wellington mayoralty.]