Now that the rather pointless referendum on keeping MMP is over and done with, the real work starts. You have to play your part, too.

We all know that Pundit readers are the best, most informed, wisest and subscribe to the highest possible standards of personal hygiene in the entire blogosphere.

(Yeah, Kiwipolitico ... I'm looking at you and asking when you last cleaned under your fingernails?)

We also know that you're just bursting with opinions on all sorts of things. In particular, you know all the problems there are with our voting system and just how they need to be fixed.

Well, now you can do your bit towards making this happen. The Electoral Commission has just put up a public feedback site, looking for your input into its post-referendum review of MMP.

So ... take 5 minutes and write (using 750 characters of less) in the comments section below what you would like to see changed about MMP. Then copy it, head over to the Commission's website, and tell them too

(Or, if you like, you can take longer than 5 minutes and more than 750 characters and make a longer submission here.)

OK - have at it! It's only the entire future of our democracy that is at stake!!!

Comments (40)

by Morgan Jones on February 13, 2012
Morgan Jones

I've often thought that rather than having the parties order their own lists, lists could instead be ordered by how well candidates did in their electorate. So those that came a close second would be placed at the top and those that didn't campaign all that hard or no-one actually likes would be right down the bottom and thus less likely to get in. No MP gets a free ride into parliament and our electorate vote actually matters, even if we live in a 'safe seat'. In other words, proportionality with our electorate vote as well as our party vote. Parties become a bit more subject to the politics of the people, rather than the other way around.

by XChequer on February 13, 2012
XChequer

"OK - have at it! It's only the entire future of our democracy that is at stake!!!"

Oh, is that all? Well then, perhaps apathy is not the best policy after all.

by Andrew Geddis on February 13, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Morgan,

My immediate thought on that solution to the list-ordering problem is that it conflates two different things - a particular electorate's preference for a candidate from a particular political party and the worth of each particular candidate. In other words, just because a particular candidate did/did not do well in the electorate vote may be no reflection of their qualities or the electorate's view of him/her. 

Let's take a real-world example. Chris Finalyson, the Attorney-General and Minister for Treaty Negotiations, stood in Rongotai - a safe Labour seat held by Annette King and where Russel Norman also ran for the Greens. He got a bit over 9,000 electorate votes. Joanne Hayes, a first time candidate that National brought into Dunedin South got around 12,500 electorate votes. So on your suggested model, she ought to come into Parliament ahead of Chris Finlayson. Much as I think Joanne Hayes is a good potential MP, I think you'd struggle to say she'd be a bigger asset to National (or the country as a whole) than Chris Finlayson is. So if your suggested model did apply, you can bet one of two things (or possibly both) would happen ...

(1) Chris Finalyson would not be running in Rongotai anymore ... he'd be moved to a seat where he's more likely to attract more National electorate votes. In other words, parties would try and stack safer electorates with talent, leaving the less-friendly seats to the rabble.

(2) New candidates like Joanne Hayes would have very strict instructions not to ask for electorate votes ... they'd be party-vote campaigners only. Indeed, a candidate who did as well as she did would be frowned upon as gaining her place ahead of those the party wanted to see come back in.

Also, on your model, what of campaign strategies like that pursued by the Greens, where they essentially said "we don't care about your electorate vote, just give us your party vote". How could such a strategy operate, where candidates also need to build their electorate vote (in competition with other candidates from their party)?

by Iain Butler on February 13, 2012
Iain Butler

The 5 percent vs one electorate seat threshold anolomy needs to be resolved. It's not democratic for a party to get into Parliament with fewer party votes than one that misses out. 

We could drop the threshold down a lot lower (I believe it's 2 percent in Germany, though admittedly 2 percent gets you a lot more MPs there).

Alternatively, bring in an anomoly trigger, where an Empsom / Ohariu type scenario of a party gaining entry to Parliament with less than 5 percent allow all other parties with a greater or equal party vote share to also enter Parliament, with or without an electorate seat.

Under either of these scenarios, the Conservative Party would now have 3 MPs.

by Andrew Geddis on February 13, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Iain,

I'm tending towards dropping the party vote threshold to 2.5% and getting rid of the electorate lifeboat option (which, I think, has been abused in ways not imagined when it was first proposed). I think there's an argument for still having a threshold so as to elect party teams, rather than one-man (and they always seem to be men) bands. A 2.5% threshold will deliver (as you note) 3 MPs ... which it seems to me is the minimum number of MPs needed to actually function as a party around Parliament (i.e. sit on enough committees/take part in enough debates/ask enough questions/etc).

But maybe I'm wrong - is having ANY threshold at all a bad distortion of MMP's proportionality? Would having (say) another couple of 3-4 MP parties in the House fracture government too much? 

by Chris de Lisle on February 13, 2012
Chris de Lisle

Currently, the number of electorates in the country is determined as follows: the South Island always gets 16 electorates, and then the North Island and Maori roll are divided into electorates of equal size.

Given that the South Island's population has been decreasing relative to that of the North Island for over a century, this strikes me as an unsustainable system, which is going to lead to an ever-increasing number of electorate seats and make overhung parliaments more and more likely. 

I think it would be better to divide the entire country into a set number of electorates of equal size. There are currently 70 electorates, so we could stick with that.

I would prefer to drop it to 55 or 60 electorates and use that to lower the party vote threshold (Ideally, I would like that party vote threshold to be equal to be the same number of votes as a single electorate, but I've not been able to work out whether that would actually be possible) 

by Raymond A Francis on February 13, 2012
Raymond A Francis

I would like to see more public input into the Lists, obviously this would have to be party members only but with the right laws we could have a rise in party members (hopeful solving the problems of party finances without dipping into the public purse) and maybe more interest in politics by normal members of the public as the pollies fight it out with a series of primaries so that they can be ranked on the List

Of course another plus would be the better health of the afore mentioned pollies who no longer would have to meet in "smoke filled" rooms to sort the List

by Ian MacKay on February 13, 2012
Ian MacKay

Have posted just now and just a few words asking for 2-3% threshold instead of 5%. Simple. Easy.

by John Stroup on February 13, 2012
John Stroup

In the interest of full disclosure, I commented heavily in favour of dumping a system where MPs were not elected [i.e. I’m  anti MMP].

As stated, the incestuous nature of politicians selecting other politicians is abhorrent.  It seems as though there is a lot of political back scratching going on, so I’m not sure that you can make a bad system better.

by Andrew Geddis on February 13, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Chris,

Could do ... but that'll mean some already pretty big South Island electorates will get even bigger (as the number of South Island electorate seats drops with the shift North of population). Not necessarily a deal-breaker, but a consequence to be aware of ... .

Raymond,

Why only party members getting to decide party lists? Why not do "open list" voting, where voters can rank the party list for themselves (as, say, in Bavaria)?

Ian,

Good man.

And finally ... altogether now ... Hey John, don't make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better ... .

by Chris de Lisle on February 13, 2012
Chris de Lisle

Also, this sort of mini-submission website is not something that I have seen before. Is it new? Or have I just not been paying sufficient attention (likely)?

At any rate, it is very cool, and I hope to see more of the same in the future!

by BeShakey on February 13, 2012
BeShakey

In terms of the threshhold, it seems to me that anyone arguing for any threshold other than whatever is needed for one seat needs a really good argument for why voters should be disenfranchised.  From what I've seen the arguments are:

a) People vote for stupid parties who might get in with a low threshold (e.g. Bill and Ben party).

b) Party X (e.g. Christian Heritage) that I don't like would get in.

c) There would be lots of one man parties that would make it impossible to govern.

All of these seem bad arguments to me.  In terms of a) I suspect Bill and Ben may not have run if they thought that they would get in, and even if they did run it isn't clear if people would have voted for them if they would have got in (instead of voting for them as a joke/protest, knowing it wouldn't have an effect), and finally, this seems a bit like b).  b) is pretty obviously silly, but it doesn't stop people from using it.  If the democratic will of the people is to elect someone offensive or silly there needs to be a very good argument to prevent them (and one that applies in NZ, not elsewhere, or merely hypothetically).  Finally, I'm not convinced by c) because, again, if people want to vote for parties that are only realistically going to get one seat, why shouldn't they be allowed?  I suspect that a parliament that was paralysed because of this would stimulate voters to stop doing this, and, if not, that coalition partners would become more varied (e.g. a Greens/National or National/Labour coalition might occur).

I'd be interested to hear any other arguments though.

by Andrew Geddis on February 13, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Beshakey,

I tend to agree with you on (a) ... I can't imagine either of them wanting to actually be MPs. (What about a Jeremy Wells Party, but? He just might have the ego to go through with it :-} .) And (b) seems to me a bad reason in the absence of particularly nasty parties like the BNP, etc ... and if we really don't want quasi-fascist parties in Parliament, then the way to deal with it is have some legal requirement that parties support democratic principles and have membership rules that do not discriminate on the basis of race/etc in order to be allowed to register. As for (c), it's worth remembering we already have 3 "one man band" parties in Parliament at the moment, so doing away with the threshold won't necessarily increase that number.

All that said ... I think it's worth remembering MMP was built around parties as institutions. I then think that a single-representative party doesn't really do what it is meant to do, which is give effective representation for its supporters in Parliament. Yes, that single MP may get some things done policy wise - John Banks has Charter Schools, etc - but in terms of operating as an effective bloc within Parliament and doing all the things that need doing there (sitting on committees, debating, asking questions, etc) you need more than one face. So in terms of parliamentary representation (which is the point of the election) I think it is better to say that you need to be going into the House with at least two colleagues if you are going to do your job properly. Hence, I think a 2.5% threshold is defensible.

But, I'm not fully convinced by my own argument. Other thoughts?

by Raymond A Francis on February 13, 2012
Raymond A Francis

 

I have always tended to think some sort of threshold is necessary (basically along the lines you have outlined) but while reading about the way Germanys states deal with the List I note their Courts have decided that a threshold of any sort is unconstitutional

This what happens when you let lawyers near any of this sort of stuff :-)

by Andrew Geddis on February 13, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Raymond,

Not quite. The German Constitutional Court ruling related to a 5% threshold for elections to the European Parliament, not to the National Parliament (Bundestag). While it said the threshold was not justifiable with respect to the former, it remains OK with regards to the latter. This discussion explains the difference:

"Differently from general elections to the Bundestag, there was no need to deprive smaller political parties from participation. Whereas the Bundestag required a well-functioning majority which ensures the stability of a coalition based government, this was not the case with the European Parliament which currently assembles more than 160 political parties from all over Europe who were well integrated within seven transnational factions. ... The five percent threshold ... can only be – and actually remains – justified by the operability of a parliament, dependent on its particular institutional function. The Court has departed from the expectation that the “operability of parliament” can be used as a general argument in favour of thresholds for any election to any parliament. This was, in particular, not the case with the elections to the European Parliament as the European Parliament does – distinctly from the Bundestag – not elect a responsible government based on a coalition agreement, ensuring the stability of the coalition majority. For similar reasons, state constitutional courts have declared unconstitutional five percent thresholds for elections to local councils "

As for keeping lawyers away from this sort of stuff ... absolutely! Unless they are a good lawyer, that is.

by Morgan Jones on February 13, 2012
Morgan Jones

Andrew,

Valid points, I'll have to mull those over. I would mention though that your first point (1) isn't really that different to what goes on under the current system; i.e. John Key standing in Helensville.

Ultimately, in my ideal voting system there'd be no electorates and no poltical parties; the public would instead vote on each (reorganized and simplified) cabinet portfolio. Obviously that's not going to happen under this review though...

by Dean Knight on February 13, 2012
Dean Knight

Hmmm. Would it be bad if my submission only addressed the layout of the ballot paper?* #focusingonthebigissues

* Oh, I mean unhitching the party and electorate votes. Not side-by-side. But one after the other, with the important party vote first. 

by Chris de Lisle on February 14, 2012
Chris de Lisle

On these inefficient one man parties, a radical (perhaps?) question: why is %vote in parliament tied to the number of MPs a party has? Why not let, say, United Future have a caucus of four people to do all the things necessary to function as 'a real party' and have them share a single seat in Parliament?

If the Lord Great Chamberlain can be divided into portions, why not a Parliamentary seat?

by Andrew Geddis on February 14, 2012
Andrew Geddis

@Dean: "Hmmm. Would it be bad if my submission only addressed the layout of the ballot paper?"

Yes. It would. Very bad. But you may include it as one of the issues you discuss in your 19,000 word submission.

@Chris: "Why not let, say, United Future have a caucus of four people to do all the things necessary to function as 'a real party' and have them share a single seat in Parliament?"

Certainly radical! I don't think anyone has ever proposed allowing people who haven't been elected in any form take part in Parliamentary processes (even if they don't get to vote on issues). It would be the ultimate divorce between the identity of representatives and the act of governance.

by Dean Knight on February 14, 2012
Dean Knight

@AG: Sigh.  Add those words to the very long list of other chores..

 

by Ang on February 14, 2012
Ang

I'm going to submit against small parties who get one electorate seat and less than the threshold (whatever it is) being allowed to bring in their friends.  Boo to that.  If you get less than the threshold then you should only be entitled to your electorate seat.

I'm keen to have more MPs in who are answerable to the public directly rather than protected by party lists.  Is there a system where electorate seats and party seats are separated out completely?  So maybe have 80 electorate seats and leave 40 party seats to be divvied up by the party vote?  

All advice gratefully received!!!!

 

 

by Andrew Geddis on February 14, 2012
Andrew Geddis

"Is there a system where electorate seats and party seats are separated out completely?  So maybe have 80 electorate seats and leave 40 party seats to be divvied up by the party vote?"

That sounds a lot like Supplementary Member ... a voting system that was rejected at the 2011 referendum.

We could do MMP with an 80/40 electorate/list split, but it would increase the chance of an overhang occuring (as well as the potential number of overhang seats).

by alexb on February 14, 2012
alexb

I'm yet to hear a truly convincing argument against lowering or abolishing the threshold, especially given that communites these days aren't set within geographical boundaries. 

http://afinetale.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/every-vote-counts.html

by Dan Knox on February 14, 2012
Dan Knox

If we limit entry to Parliament at a threshold of 3 MPs (or its % equivalent) or some other arbitrary level it creates an anomaly between parties that get in on the party vote and those who secure an electorate seat (and this is something I can't stand currently). If you have enough support for your policies nation wide then those views deserve representation in the house, regardless of whether or not your party can participate fully in parliamentary process. Once parties have a foot in the door they have a much better chance of increasing their presence in the following election due to the increased coverage they would receive in the media, funding etc. 


Or we could split the two groups of MPs over a Bicarmeral system with a major house of proportional members and a smaller house of representatives as a check...

by Andrew Geddis on February 14, 2012
Andrew Geddis

"If we limit entry to Parliament at a threshold of 3 MPs (or its % equivalent) or some other arbitrary level it creates an anomaly between parties that get in on the party vote and those who secure an electorate seat (and this is something I can't stand currently)."

Just to be clear ... I'd do away with the "electorate lifeboat" option. So a party that won an electorate but only 2% of the party vote only would get the 1 MP elected from the electorate (not 1 + 1 list seat, as at present). Which still would be "unfair" compared to a party that got 2% of the party vote and no electorate seat - but that's a blip that can't be eliminated without getting rid of electorate MPs (which will never happen).

by animalspirit on February 14, 2012
animalspirit

Andrew - re your reply to Chris re letting anyone in - ie harnessing "all the talents" as PM Gordon Brown did bringing in to Parliament blokes like the obnoxious business secretary of the time(whose name I can't recall but he has since toddled off elsewhere),  And of course they do it in the Lords with the newly labelled Lord Glassman coming in to help Ed Miliband's cause - until the new Lord came out with some unpopular comments about immigrants (of which he himself was one in war years).     I do find it quite interesting to see who turns up in the present MMP as in the NZ First last lot.   Adds a bit of spice to the mixture I think but there are too many of them - max 3 I reckon. 

by BeShakey on February 15, 2012
BeShakey

So a party that won an electorate but only 2% of the party vote only would get the 1 MP elected from the electorate (not 1 + 1 list seat, as at present). Which still would be "unfair" compared to a party that got 2% of the party vote and no electorate seat - but that's a blip that can't be eliminated without getting rid of electorate MPs (which will never happen).

Wouldn't simply removing the threshold altogether remove this unfairness (and completely eliminate electorate lifeboats and the associated tactical voting)?

by Bruce Thorpe on February 15, 2012
Bruce Thorpe

As the number of separate comments are made, I become less and less conscientious in reading then, so I might be duplicating others, but blame the system, not me. okay?

No piggy backing by party on electorate wins.

Reduce the party percentage needed to minimum of 3 members.

(The present Australian situation where a couple of "independents"  hold the balance should be avoided if possible.)

The number of electorates should be increased (75 -85) with proportionately fewer list members, to improve community access to their representatives.

Each party's list process should be transparent and public.  

Each party should provide a 

 

 

by Ian Tinkler on February 15, 2012
Ian Tinkler

A couple of points. Firstly there is need for reform of parliament. In many countries (including Ireland and Scotland) you need to get a certain number of seats become an official parliamentry party. So if that was here then say 6 seats secured that status those parties get easier speaking rights etc. In Ireland they allow small parties and independents to form a technical group (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_group) to gain full speaking rights.

The second point is I we do not need a perfectly proportional parliament. The system needs to assure that the largest party has the most seats (which was not the case under FPP in 1978 & 81) and roughly proportional allocation. However we could do as in Albania and Scotland have regional proportions where the seats in a place like Auckland gets X% of the seats as it has x% (+/- a bit) of the seats allocated between electorates and list in a way that best fits. And MPs can only stand in one region. With smaller list people will have time to see who is being elected. With Key and Peters only listed in one region it may change how people vote. Shorter lists also allow for greater ease for voters to rank the candidates (However I do not think that is needed).

Overhangs should mean seats are taken off the party that gets the last seats (in 2011 that would have been National and 2008 1 each from National and Greens) and that could be done regionally

The number of current MPs (list or other) should be limited (to say 3 in every 5). Although this may not work if there was regional lists.

Threshholds with one Nationwide list 4%. If Regional 5% in each region. Seats won by Parties less than the threshhold treated as independents so no other seats.

http://belfast.war2glory.co.uk/report/2012/1/15/4/12DRL20120215041912199...

by Dan Knox on February 15, 2012
Dan Knox

Just read the comments on Brian Ruddman's artical on the Herald; I now get your opening remark.

by Gaylene Nepia on February 16, 2012
Gaylene Nepia

I’d like to see the 5% threshold abolished. Parties should be awarded a share of list seats in parliament based on the % of party votes they win. It is unfair and undemocratic for parties to have won 2, 3 or 4% of the votes and not get a share of the list seats. This would also mean that you would not need to retain the one seat electorate threshold. Parties would be entitled to a share of the list seats no matter if they won an electorate seat or not.

We live in a democratic society therefore we should not bet excluding anyone from standing in any elections. List candidates should be able to stand in a by-election and dual candidacy should be allowed as well. I'm sure, if voters objected to either of these, that they would send parties and candidates a strong message when they vote - or when they don't!

I’m against an open list.  A party list should be chosen by the party according to its rules.  I also believe that minority groups would be significantly disadvantaged and parliament would lose its diversity.  And allowing the voters to rank candidates on a Party list would be problematic and time consuming at election time.  That being said, it’s likely that the voting process would need to be changed – perhaps to electronic voting?  Or to postal voting?  And extended over a few weeks?  Imagine the ballot form, with the names of 70 or more candidates for all parties! Voters would need to read a short novel before voting.  Simplicity should be the goal in any election.

I’m in favour of allowing the overhang and providing balance seats to the other parties.  I believe this would be a fairer system.  Granted, the size of parliament would increase but it would only be temporary until the next election.   And while this review will not be addressing the size of parliament, I’m in favour of increasing the size of parliament as we don’t have an upper house.

In terms of proportionality, changes in population are not the only feature that could affect proportionality.  It’s my view that there are disparities in the way that electoral districts are divided.  And eliminating these disparities will surely affect the ratio of electorate seats and list seats.  One such disparity can be seen in certain provisions of the Electoral Act. 

Section 35 of the Electoral Act states:  “no General electorate is to be partly situated in the North Island and partly in the South Island”, but no such provision exists for the division of the Maori seats; hence the reason Te Tai Tonga electorate is situated in the Wellington part of the North Island and includes the whole of the South Island.  And while a simple amendment to section 45 of the Act including this provision will fix this problem, another problem would probably be created - at least two other Maori electorates will become larger in both population and geographical coverage as the Wellington part of that electorate would need to be included in either Te Tai Hauauru or Ikaroa Rawhiti or both.  Of course the most appealing option for Maori would be the creation of another Maori seat.  However, I’m mindful that this review will not be discussing the Maori seats, but I think it important to discuss the issue in context to the number of electoral districts.

Other considerations that need to be taken into account when drawing up the electoral boundaries, is the geographical coverage of electoral districts.  The Maori electorates especially Te Tai Tonga are much larger and pose very different problems for candidates and MP’s compared to a General electorate.  For example, during an election campaign the cost of getting around the Maori electorates is more expensive; having the ability to adequately advertise ones candidacy in the Maori electorates is more challenging as the spending limitations are the same as the general electorates regardless of geographical coverage.  For an electorate like Te Tai Tonga, 25K in advertising is only enough to advertise in Christchurch and Wellington.  And at least in the General electorates one can easily drive from one end of the electorate to the other in no time, it is totally impossible in Te Tai Tonga given that this electorate is separated by the Cook Strait!  And for this reason, it is just as difficult trying to service constituents in the Maori electorates.

 

by Chris de Lisle on February 16, 2012
Chris de Lisle

Hi Gaylene,

I agree with most of what you've said. I think it is high time that Te Tai Tonga was rearranged- it is huge, geographically and in population (in 2006 it was at 113,000 voters, whereas the average district seems to be closer to 80,000 (or even smaller: Ohariu and Epsom were both hovering around 60,000 in 2006).

I expect that the best way to divide it population wise would be to be to form a new electorate for Wellington and the northern portion of the South Island... which as you say, is not ideal, but I think is better than over-inflating one of the other north Island districts (themselves both a bit populus already)?

Currently, it would look like the population on the Maori roll is going to continue to grow- and that means that the number of Maori seats will as well. This, in addition to the continuing multiplication of north island seats, seems to me likely to cause either a permanent and increasing overhang (which wrecks proportionality), require that parliament's size be increased (which would seem to require the construction of a new chamber?), or a dialing back of the number of electorate seats (both General and Maori)

Both Andrew Geddis and yourself have raised the issue of large electorates, which is an interesting issue, in my mind at least. Is there perhaps a need for a greater travel/advertising allowance for the Maori electorates and for three or four of the larger rural South Island general electorates? How might that funding be determined in a way that remained fair to the other electorates (where, say, advertising might be more expensive?)

by Gaylene Nepia on February 17, 2012
Gaylene Nepia

Kia ora Chris,

In 2009 Te Tai Tonga, Te Tai Hauauru, Te Tai Tokerau, Ikaroa Rawhiti, Hauraki Waikato, Waiariki, Clutha-Southland, West Coast Tasman, Waitaki and Kaikoura, all received additional support funding for "out of parliament support staff".  I don't think it is anywhere near what these electorates should've got, but it's enough to employ one fulltime worker and I guess it's an acknowledgement that these electorates are larger and need more funding.  It's just a shame that this same consideration hasn't been given to these same electorates during an election campaign. 

The best way to determine the amount of resources each electorate should receive, is to include the geographical coverage of each electorate as part of the formula when working out funding allocations - similar to what they did with the 10 electorates as mentioned earlier.

by Olivia on February 17, 2012
Olivia

I'm surprised by all the support voiced for lowering or abolishing the 5% threshold. While it sounds good in theory, my concern is that in practice it encourages fragmentation - it will produce either individuals whose appeal doesn't go beyond a single electorate, or crank parties who can cobble together just enough votes to scrape three or four seats, probably around a single issue. This is a problem for two reasons: first, these microparties or individuals are likely to be needed by one of the big parties to make up the numbers, which gives them a share of the balance of power and a massive opportunity to extort benefits; and second, they're unlikely  to maintain power (not least because voters don't like extortion), so their incentive in parliament is to grab what benefits they can, while they can, for their limited constituency. Take a look at Australia for examples: the current Federal Government is clinging on with the help of regional Independents who almost certainly won't be re-elected. The Independents know this is their one chance to get support for pet projects and the Government will pay almost anything to buy their support. Completely predictably, money has flowed into certain areas of regional Australia. A slightly different version can be seen in New South Wales, where the ruling Liberal-National coalition needs the single-issue Shooters & Fishers and Christians (each with only two members) to get the numbers to pass controversial legislation. Public sector pay cuts (Coalition policy) are enabled by cuts to cancel ethics classes in school (Christian Democrat policy). It's ugly, but it's unavoidable when political players know they probably have just one shot at the prize. Maintaining a higher Parliamentary threshold forces parties to appeal to a larger and broader section of the community, develop an identity that transcends party founders, and play a longer game than one three-year cycle.

by Gaylene Nepia on February 18, 2012
Gaylene Nepia

Kia ora Olivia,

Perhaps a strategy to deal with this could be to review the rules around registering Political Parties.  For example instead of a party only needing 500 financial members, increase it to two or three thousand. My view is if a party can't get 2,000 members then they probably can't get 2,000 votes either and therefore clearly don't have the support of the people and should not be registered. 

And we could bring in a rule that requires a party to gain a certain amount of votes in a General election to keep their Party registration, for example 5,000 party votes or more. And as you know, only registered political Parties are eligible to receive a share of the list seats in parliament.   Parties like Alliance, Libertarianz and Democrats for Social Credit would have lost their registration status after last years election.

Just a thought.

by Chris de Lisle on February 19, 2012
Chris de Lisle

@ Olivia. I don't think it follows that because a party is small it is going to be temporary and personality based. Look at Libertarianz, Democrats for Social Credit or the array of tiny increasingly doctrinal Communist parties of the Cold War West. If a party can construct a coalition of interests that get it into Parliament, it might very well be able to construct that same coalition again at the next election (Especially if said minor party proves able to get results in line with its policies- That sounds to me like a successful party).

That goes even if it is a single issue party- if their position on that issue is important enough 30,000+ votes then dosen't it deserve to be represented?

I guess I'm largely arguing here that fragmentation need not be all bad. More speculatively, I'd hope that a more fragmented system would allow shifting voting blocs in Parliament and the involvement of a greater array of parties in some aspect of government (some kind of multipartisanship), rather than the Government vs Opposition dynamic which currently exists.

by Chris de Lisle on February 19, 2012
Chris de Lisle

* And contrariwise, look at all the large parties which are largely personality-based, e.g. NZ First (At 6%, not really small), National under John Key, Labour under Clark, Canada's NDP under Jack Layton

by Andrew Geddis on February 19, 2012
Andrew Geddis

May I just say that when I wrote "We all know that Pundit readers are the best, most informed, wisest and subscribe to the highest possible standards of personal hygiene in the entire blogosphere", I intended it to be an example of outrageous pandering to the audience that would not be taken seriously by anyone.

However, the comments on this thread are making me think I unwittingly said no more than the truth. Thanks everyone - I'm sure the Electoral Commission will be equally grateful for your various views.

by John Stroup on February 19, 2012
John Stroup

The theshhold should be put up to about 15%. A party with this much "clout" should be considered, all the rest are inconsequencial. "Vocal minority".

by Mike Osborne on February 19, 2012
Mike Osborne

One of the areas I'd like to see addressed by the review is a notion I call "fulfilment of voter intention". In other words, that a voter's entry on the ballot paper is most likely to achieve their overall intention for parties, policies etc. I'd be interested if anyone can cite a study in this area. Prior to the 2008 election, the EC conducted a survey to see if its education publicity was working. Results were, in my view, abysmal.

http://www.elections.org.nz/study/researchers/satisfaction/final-results-voter-and-non-voter-satisfaction-survey-2008.html

"However, knowledge of how MMP works to determine the number of MPs in Parliament has declined. Just over half (52%) of voters and 32% of non-voters correctly answered that the party vote was more important for determining the number of MPs in Parliament. (This compares with 59% and 37% in 2005)."

48% couldn't correctly identify the more important vote. When I look at that number, what confidence can we have that the elected representatives and mix in the house bear any correlation to what voters were intending. Who governs relies on margins below 5%, yet 48% potentially don't know how to vote.

Drop in the Epsom situation and what are the odds? If you were a Labour voter and lived at 21 New North Rd your best vote was Electorate: Labour, Party: Labour but if you lived at 22 New North Rd your best vote was Electorate: National, Party: Labour. When 48% don't know the usual more important vote, what hope for subtleties like that? For most people, the completely counterintuitive idea of voting National when you're a Labour supporter wouldn't compute (no offence to Labour supporters).

So - one of the things that has to go is the threshold requirement of an electorate seat as it potentially leads to gaming the system and counterintuitive voting - lowers the likelihood of fulfilling voters' intentions. For all of its ills, and there are plenty, FPP is simple and straightforward.

The other troublesome area that doesn't get much airtime is "wasted votes". Vote for a party that doesn't meet the threshold and according to EC your vote doesn't get counted in the allocation of parties. Whilst literally true, this is misleading as what happens in effect is that your wasted vote gets apportioned to the parties that do meet the threshold. Hence a voter for Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party effectively gives about 80% of their vote to National & Labour neither of which are going to legalise cannabis any time soon. Raising the threshold exacerbates this problem, lowering it increases risk of tail wagging dog with minor parties having undue weight.

The answer, of course, is STV but that's not on the menu.

If they drop the electorate seat threshold that will at least be one major anomaly gone.

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