The Electoral Legislation Committee has called for submissions on the Electoral Referendum Bill. You can make an online submission or a written submission (enclose two copies), by Thursday, 10 June 2010, to
Electoral Legislation Committee
The Bill sets out the nuts and bolts for next year’s Referendum on MMP. The format of the ballot paper follows the 1992 Referendum: Part A, do you wish to retain MMP or not; and Part B, irrespective of how you voted in Part A, which alternative voting system would you prefer.
The choice for alternatives to MMP is from First Past the Post (the United Kingdom system – they are in the middle of an election campaign), Preferential Vote (the Aussie system for their House of Representatives) and Supplementary member (try Hungry for a current example – they’ve just held an election). These are all non-proportional systems. The fourth option is the largely proportional Single Transferable Vote (STV, try Ireland for an example of how it works).
The Referendum will run concurrently with the next General Election, and if there is a need for a run-off between MMP and one of the four systems a further Referendum will be held at 2014 General Election. This is a sound timetable, giving adequate time for public information and public consultation.
The Bill states that a review of MMP must take place (under the auspices of the Electoral Commission) if people vote to retain MMP. It is important that people are aware of this option and the opportunity to improve on the current MMP system.
The review will look at thresholds (currently a party needs 5% of the popular vote or one electorate to get into Parliament), overhang (currently we have 2 extra seats in Parliament as the Maori Party has more electorate MPs than their percentage of the popular vote entitles them to) and issues like candidates standing both in an electorate and on the party list.
The merit of MMP is the ability to tweak. The German MMP was tweaked when the electorate seat threshold was changed from one to three seats.
The controversial aspect of the Bill is lack of a cap on advertising regime. There is no requirement for large advertisers to disclose how much they are spending. The rationale for this lack is to foster a robust debate – this is pretty weak.
There should be fairness for participants in the debate on MMP. The present lack of spending limits undermines the democratic process. It gives undue influence to those with lots of money. Rational debate should not be overwhelmed by lobby groups able to spend millions on television, radio and newspaper advertising. Remember the 2005 Exclusive Brethren campaign to discredit the Green Party, or the initial fight to get MMP when big business interests spent huge sums of money on full page newspaper and endless television advertisements.
MMP is the fairest electoral system. It allows everyone’s vote to count wherever we live and irrespective of what political party we support. It would be a tragedy to go back to the days where only a few people in marginal electorates decided elections and we get the Government we don’t deserve.