Holly Walker

MMP report great chance to strengthen system

by Holly Walker

This week, the Electoral Commission released their proposal paper on changes to MMP, following extensive public consultation on our voting system.

The Electoral Commission have produced a great paper, which outlines their recommendations with detailed analysis of the public submissions they received and the implications of the potential changes to elections in New Zealand.

The proposals paper and fact sheets on each of the areas of review are available on the MMP Review website.

The response from different parties and interested groups since the announcement on Monday has been pretty varied, with vastly different arguments being used for and against some of the proposals. Bryce Edwards has put together a round-up of the related stories from Monday and I was on National Radio on Tuesday morning head-to-head with Winston Peters, which is worth a listen!

I believe that many of the proposals put forward will strengthen the key principles of MMP – fairness, proportionality and diversity:

  • Lowering the party vote threshold from 5% to 4% will help to reduce the number of ‘wasted’ votes and ensure that everyone’s votes count
  • Removing the one electorate seat threshold will make a big difference for fairness by making sure that the votes of people in some electorates (like Ohariu and Epsom) are not given more weight than others
  • Retaining ‘dual candidacy’ (the ability to stand as both an electorate and list candidate) will ensure that list MPs and electorate MPs are able to contest elections on an equal playing field.

This process has also highlighted potential issues for the future proportionality of our electoral system. As our population grows, the number of electorate seats required increases. This means there is a gradual erosion of list seats, which will eventually pose an unacceptable risk to proportionality. It also threatens the diversity of our parliament – women, Maori and people from minority groups are more likely to be elected from list seats.  The Electoral Commission have recommended that Parliament review the proportion of electorate seats to list seats because of these threats.

Another proposal, abolishing the provision of overhang seats, will also affect the number of list seats, as it will reduce the pool of list seats to be allocated.

We can mitigate the risk to proportionality and diversity by putting in place a set ratio of electorate and list MPs, but, as our population grows, we may also have to look at the size of parliament (outside of the scope of this review – but is one of the terms of reference for the current Constitutional review).

The Electoral Commission have re-opened submissions on their proposal paper and would like to hear feedback before Friday 7th September. You can submit online or via the post – see the MMP Review website for details.

The final report will be presented to the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, by Wednesday 31st October.

Published in Justice & Democracy by Holly Walker on Thu, August 16th, 2012   

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