MMP review – Make it More Proportional

This week the MMP Review was launched by the Electoral Commission, meaning our voting system is now open for public discussion and input. Through a submission process we all get the chance to have a say on how our voting system works and what we’d like to see changed. You can make a submission online, through the mail, fill out a quick 5 minute submission form, or even send in a piece of art!

Because of legislation already passed through parliament, the issues that will be considered as a part of the review have already been decided. These are:

  • the thresholds for the allocation of list seats,
  • list members contesting by-elections,
  • the rules allowing candidates to both contest an electorate and be on a party list,
  • the rules for ordering candidates on party lists,
  • the effect of a party winning more electorate seats than its party vote share entitles it to,
  • the effects of the ratio of electorate seats to list seats on proportionality in certain circumstances, and
  • other matters referred to the Commission by the Minister of Justice or Parliament.

It’s important to note that two areas are not included in this review:

MMP is a great voting system. It’s fair, has made parliament a more diverse and representative place, and gives voters choice. In last year’s referendum, voters chose to keep MMP and now through this review process we get the opportunity to make it even better.

Changes to some of these areas could have real implications on the way that our elections and our parliament look. It’s important that through these changes our voting system is strengthened, not weakened, and that our right to representation is protected.

In particular, removing ‘dual candidacy’ (or the option for candidates to contest an electorate seat and be on a party list), would have a real impact on smaller parties. By not being able to stand in an electorate, list candidates would be limited in their ability to campaign locally, i.e. by not being included in debates. This could see a return to FPP-style politics as only those with a strong chance of winning an electorate seat would be likely to stand.

Given that the referendum gave proportional representation a clear mandate, I hope we don’t see changes that take us back in the direction of FPP coming out of the review.

MMP has shown that MPs can represent people across different kinds of constituencies, like age, gender, ethnicity, or their areas of interest, not just their geography, and so limiting the options for list MPs would undermine their ability to represent national constituencies.

This review gives all New Zealanders a unique chance to be heard on how our representatives are elected and I hope that everyone takes this opportunity to get involved.

The deadline for submissions is Thursday 31st May, or Thursday 5th April if you’d like to make a submission in person.

More information on the submission process, the MMP voting system, and the areas being considered can be found here – www.mmpreview.org.nz or by calling 0800 36 76 56

42 thoughts on “MMP review – Make it More Proportional

  1. Is there any point in me making a submission saying that I think electoral voting should use a preferential or STV approach so as to reduce the motivation for parties to pull candidates during a 3 way race, or do the ‘other matters’ have to be raised by the Minister or Parliament?

    The website suggests that any proposals will be considered, but I’m not too clear if those suggestions will just be thrown out if the Minister or Parliament hasn’t made them first. Other references on the website seem to state they’ll be ignored unless this happens.

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  2. For completeness, the Electoral Commission may also “consider other aspects of the mixed member proportional representation voting system” (apart from the no-go areas of Maori representation and number of MPs) if it sees fit.

    A number of people have already blogged on aspects they will be submitting on.

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  3. MikeM, the Electoral Referendum Act governs both the referendum last November which clearly settled on MMP, and the review now under way.

    In s76, it says the Commission must consider anything referred by the Minister or the House – s76(1)(f). And it may consider any other matters except the two excluded matters – s76(2)&(3).

    But also in Schedule 2 it specifically provides for electorate voting to be FPP.

    I think the Commission would see its hands as tied. But my view would be to make a submission and argue your case strongly. With luck they would make mention in their report, potentially the House might consider your point.

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  4. Maori Representation and the Numbers in Parliament are two issues Central to any discussion about the configuration of our Government….are they sacrosanct? Anointed by the Pope? …..What?

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  5. I agree with a lot of this but not the notion that MMP is great or fair. How is it fair that parties getting less than 4% and less than 3% (Act and Maori respectively) can have a voice in government when parties getting nearly 34% and nearly 7% (Labour and Greens, respectively) can have no voice in government? That happened in 2008. In 2011, the difference is even more stark.

    No, this is not a fair or great system but it is the best that was on offer.

    Maybe it’s not the electoral system that should change but the parliamentary make-up following elections. Perhaps government needs to be in proportion to the votes cast, not just parliament. If that can’t be made to work then maybe we need very different governing arrangements, ones that are truly democratic.

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  6. How is it fair that parties getting less than 4% and less than 3% (Act and Maori respectively) can have a voice in government when parties getting nearly 34% and nearly 7% (Labour and Greens, respectively) can have no voice in government?

    I guess it’s because those parties in the government were able to compromise their principles to work together with others to an extent that they reached a majority of popular support.

    Under FPP days, most ACT support (for instance) would’ve been melded into National directly, and the deals would have simply happened behind closed doors rather than out in the open where people can influence them with their vote. I think that still happens a lot within the bigger parties, especially National.

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  7. I should have added that (I think) some factions in Labour could work with some factions in National very easily. They just don’t, because they’ve constrained themselves into a big party, along with all the baggage through fear of falling under the threshold. Or something like that.

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  8. Maori representation and numbers in parliament were left out deliberately, because if they were in 95% plus of submissions would say “drastically reduce number of MPs and get rid of the Maori seats”. The review wanted to get some useful opinion about the MMP system without being swamped with comments only about the first two things. They can ask about Maori seats and number of MPs separately later.

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  9. Here comes another one of my unpopular comments: (smile!)

    I only believe in Democracy insofar as it gives us Meritocracy. To a degree we all believe this which is why we don’t let little kids vote. Right?

    I like the idea of taking the principle further and not letting anyone vote unless they get at least 115 on an IQ test. That’s a blunt tool for discrimination, I know, but it should improve the quality of our government nonetheless.

    I believe the last thing we should do is herd young voters, who know nothing nor even want to know anything about public policy and economics, into a voting booth where they will cast an impressionistic vote based on propaganda as opposed to understanding.

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  10. Meritocracy … you mean intelligent people who vote in their own self-interest

    As compared to those who vote influenced by propaganda – you mean idealism/altruism.

    Read Ayn Rand?

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  11. Andrew Atkin

    You’re conflating IQ with understanding politics. It does not follow that someone with a higher IQ understands politics while someone with a lower IQ does not. If you want to weed out from the voting process people who don’t follow politics then make all voters pass a test that tests their understanding of the political system or the issues. That test would not be an IQ test.

    All the same, a dumb undemocratic idea, akin to racist policies used in the US south to stop black people voting. Have you thought through the logistics of a country where the majority of people are disenfranchised? What happens to social order having a minority making decisions that impact on the lives of the majority? The second class citizen you create? And who gets to determine what the questions are – and the “correct” answers?

    Based on the logic of you assuming IQ=understanding, I’d write a test that ruled you out :-)

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  12. I think the concept of electorate MP’s is reasonably outdated, and I doubt many New Zealander’s still identify primarily with their geographic location (if they ever did).

    Of much greater interest (to me at least) is who ends up holding the major portfolio’s such as education, foreign affairs, transport etc. Being able to directly influence who holds the position would be ideal, but as a start parties could be required to publicise, prior to the election, which of their politicians would hold each position if their party recieves the portfolio.

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  13. Andrew,

    A high IQ doesn’t necessarily mean someone is rational, has much common sense or has a good awareness of the reality big picture.

    Mike,

    I’m pretty certain it’s not a case of just compromising principles. It’s also a case of being asked and of wanting some power, any power.
    Well

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  14. “I’m pretty certain it’s not a case of just compromising principles. It’s also a case of being asked and of wanting some power, any power.”

    Perhaps it’s just that some parties have principles that are much easier to compromise than others, but people still vote for them. Does that say something about those voters?

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  15. Tony: I totally agree. That’s why I called it “a blunt tool”.

    But if it increases the quality of the vote *on average* then it can help with the ultimate objective, which is good government – or better, at least.

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  16. Us in the poor areas of town had almost no polling booths – fair go ay?

    The people in my neighbourhood who had real intentions on their first expression of democracy were deprived – underlining the hideous ‘differences’.

    They are thus estranged by that Tyranny of distance – the healing will take more than our ready resources.
    They no longer see jail as an inhibiting factor.

    It is well past time some our ‘arrangers’ came down from the trees…

    “I won’t give up and I won’t allow you to give up Humanity is Better Than This! – We Are Better Than This!
    “Our job this day is to become part of the answer to the world’s immense
    and protracted suffering rather than continuing our ancient task
    of being part of the difficulty.”

    – Hugh Prather

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  17. Honey(!)Harawira has (for mine) demonstrated that a grass-roots pragmatic appeal is more relevant to our people than apartheid dogma.
    I believe that the numbers in our Parliament could be reduced by say 30% without affecting Democracy in the slightest.
    Are we getting Value for money in the current set-up”
    Might make for an interesting Poll that one.

    I personally think the Greens have not been given sufficient acclaim for halting the Whale Slaughter in the Southern Ocean last season – to me that was Democracy in Action – I love them (you guys and gals) for that.

    Action, instead of endless talk, may well be the measuring stick – though having said that,I shudder to think what damage an unfettered National Party may do to my country – and lets face it – their opposition is in Australia or Jail. The latter of whom are deemed to be (by THAT Parties standards) as being unworthy to Vote at all.
    The very idea is a step toward tyranny.

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  18. “But if it increases the quality of the vote *on average* then it can help with the ultimate objective, which is good government – or better, at least.”

    Why not just go the whole distance and have a government appointed by a select few people approved to decide the best people to govern?

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  19. MikeM,

    but people still vote for them. Does that say something about those voters?

    Probably, but the number of people voting is declining. Only 56.5% of the estimated number of those eligible to vote actually voted in 2011. That doesn’t get headlines but should.

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  20. “Only 56.5% of the estimated number of those eligible to vote actually voted in 2011. That doesn’t get headlines but should.”

    Where did that figure come from, if you don’t mind me asking? I haven’t found final figures, but a quick Google turned up this article on Stuff where preliminary figures were estimated at 73.8% turnout. Still low, granted (and should be better, I agree).

    The total votes were 2.26 million, which (if 56.5%) suggests nearly 4 million eligible voters. New Zealand’s population estimate in September 2011 was 4.4 million, but nearly 900,000 of those people are under 15. So that’d suggest a maximum of 3.5 million eligible voters, and that’s before you cut out people aged 16-18, and any resident ineligible for any other reason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 (0)

  21. I just don’t get the problem. If people don’t want to vote then surely it’s best that they DON’T.

    If the fact of low voter turn-out makes a few politicians feel stink, then tough titties for them. Or maybe, more realistically, the Green party knows only too well that they proportionally cash-in well on the apathetic voter?

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  22. phil u:

    I invite you to explain how I am wrong with anything I have thus far said. Not to suggest you can’t do it, but to just call my thoughts ‘drivel’ is boring because it leaves no one any the wiser.

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  23. MikeM,

    I agree, it seems a bit odd but I took these figures from the official election results. Look at the bottom line. The roughly 4.03 million people are in the column “Electoral Population”. It probably includes those who live overseas but who are eligible to vote.

    Andrew,

    It’s the fact that so many people don’t want to vote that IS the problem. Why do so many people not register and/or not vote? If they don’t see any party worth voting for, that should be a worry, don’t you think? Obviously those who simply couldn’t care less aren’t bothered but please don’t assume that that applies to all of those who didn’t vote and, even if it did, that should be a worry in itself.

    We’re not too far away from half of people, who could have voted, not voting. That should be a big concern in a so-called democracy.

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  24. Thanks Tony,

    But speaking from the ground level, from what I have seen of people, the apathy leaves little hope. Especially with modern young people. And I for one would rather the apathetic just stay out of it, because they will only otherwise be propaganda pawns whether they realise not it or not (not).

    It’s up to worthwhile parties to form and engage the public, in principle. But how can they when the mainstream media (stage masters, I like to call them) dictate the options that people even get to know about? The Green party, for example, only exists on the grace of their exposure.

    I sometimes wonder if the editors of TVNZ and the NZ Herald etc, are more powerful that the politicians themselves. Their power to control votes via their discretionary representation is overwhelming. For example they turned Act, the only true housing-affordability party, into the marijuana party. That was the media’s call. Every party has a lot to say – the media makes the call on what we hear about.

    Maybe we should have elections for the editors themselves?

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  25. “And I for one would rather the apathetic just stay out of it, because they will only otherwise be propaganda pawns whether they realise not it or not (not).”

    Doesn’t that depend on why people are apathetic?

    Personally I consider someone who doesn’t vote because they’ve given up on thinking they can make a difference, or because they think the options are all the same, as being quite different from someone who doesn’t vote because they couldn’t care less one way or another.

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  26. I for one, am so glad the majority voted to retain MMP. Even though the majority of voters, put in a Govt. that publically did not advocate to do so.
    Maybe the number of seats that represent the percentage of non-voters ‘The APATHY party’ should be left empty.. to represent those people ?
    Whilst MMP does need some tweaking (in my opinion) its miles ahead of the others for fairness & balance.
    I was surprised to hear that some poltical commentators were singing the praises of FPP (trying to sway public opinion ?)
    I agree with Dr. Norman’s comments : “If a party gets 10% of the vote, Why shouldn’t they get 10% of the seats ?”
    Kia-ora

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  27. MikeM: I agree. There are two types. Though often the “all politicians the same” types are only rationalising their apathy i.e. they only want to believe all politicians are the same so they don’t have to be bothered taking a second look.

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  28. “No matter who you vote for, the government still gets in” (think that’s it – Will Rogers)

    There are several problems, not really related.

    One is a lot of that “the other fellow will do it” attitude.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect

    We witness a crime (which is a pretty good description of government in action, or almost as frequently, government inaction). Someone else will take care of it.

    Not a good thing but it IS a part of how our group think fails.

    ================

    Another is the reality that government is not really in control of certain things. Economics is not a science despite its magnificent equations and amazing jargon. Comes right down to it they have not the slightest notion that they’ve failed the first hurtle. They have nothing to measure with. Can’t use money because money is defined in relative terms, as debt. So in the end the bankers own the governments, and the democracy has no control over the bankers. Which is how unelected bankers wind up in control of the Fed (the USA), Italy and Greece… and probably a lot of other places I don’t pay that much attention to.

    ———————

    Then there is the inherent conflict between limiting the franchise intelligent interested and involved people and trying to involve everyone else. Jefferson’s quote about ignorance and freedom being incompatible is relevant… so giving everyone the right and letting the apathetic self select their way out makes some sense.

    I don’t think there are a lot of solutions. Just reckoning that the problem has more legs than I like.

    ciao

    BJ

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  29. so giving everyone the right and letting the apathetic self select their way out makes some sense

    Maybe, but, as MikeM said, it depends on why people are (apparently) apathetic. Personally, I came quite close to not voting, last year and only did so because the Greens looked like they had a chance of making a big dent in the near monopoly of the big players, and I thought a Green voice in government may at least introduce some consideration of the environment in policy making. That’s a separate issue of course, but I got very close to being lumped into the apathetic box because, a) I didn’t think anything would really change, no matter who got in and, b) I couldn’t agree with all policies of any party, though I could guarantee that the party leader would assume I did.

    What would be great is a definite choice of “none of the above” – at least that would give those who don’t want any party to get in the opportunity to leave that clear message. Maybe zedd’s idea of leaving that percentage of parliamentary seats empty could then be a serious proposition, with a government still needing a majority of all seats, to govern.

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  30. phil u:

    You don’t deserve a reply because of your contemptuous tone, but here goes anyway:

    No. I have my own ideas on things. I don’t join camps or ideological groups. I believe in what makes sense to me. The degree to which my thinking correlates with this Rand person is unknown to me, and I don’t care regardless. It’s irrelevant.

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  31. Tony: I have not voted before because I saw no one worth voting for (and I’m moving in that direction again, to be honest). I don’t think that’s apathetic. It’s apathetic when you have no desire to even know about politics. Even worse – when it’s uncool to even care.

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  32. and do i have ‘contempt’ for the teachings of rand..?

    ..indeed i do..

    ..and did you know that key is a rand fan-boy..?

    ..explains a lot..really..

    ..he must like/find it reassuring to have an ideological base for his ‘not caring’..

    ..eh..?

    phil@whoar.

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  33. Andrew,

    True, some non-voters may be apathetic and others not. However, it’s impossible to say which it is. In either case, it should be a worrying situation. People should care about their futures and should have the opportunity to have their views represented. If neither case applies, that should be cause for concern in a democratic society, particularly as the overall turnout approaches only half of the people affected.

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  34. Tony: I can’t disagree with that. Maybe the problem is that schools are all about vocational training and behavioural conditioning as opposed to civil/social wisdom. We are taught to work – not vote. When the voter is blind you don’t have a democracy, you have a managed herd of human resources. What else could they be?

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  35. @Tony: I agree, it seems a bit odd but I took these figures from the official election results. Look at the bottom line. The roughly 4.03 million people are in the column “Electoral Population”. It probably includes those who live overseas but who are eligible to vote.

    For what it’s worth, I brought up a related point in Danyl’s latest post, and Andrew Geddis popped in with a legal qualification and pointed out that “Electoral Population” refers to all people living in an electorate, including those not entitled to vote. It’s used as the count for determining where to draw up electorates. So in this instance I guess 74% is more accurate than 56%. It’s still dismally low.

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  36. Mike,

    “Electoral Population” refers to all people living in an electorate, including those not entitled to vote

    Really? Hmm, well that’s a fairly useless figure for an election results table. It also doesn’t match the estimated population of New Zealand (4.4m+). So I guess we don’t know the real figure of how many people (here and overseas) are eligible to register to vote and so can’t tell what percentage of those people actually voted. I think our representatives should look into that figure so we can determine the participation rate and consider whether that’s a figure that should give cause for concern.

    Thanks for posting this.

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