by Holly Walker
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