Electoral reform in the constitutional review

This week the deadline for submissions on the Constitutional Conversation was extended by a month, so now we’ve got until July 31st to submit.

This is a great chance for all of us to have a say on how we want our country to be run, as well as to share our values and aspirations for Aotearoa New Zealand.

We’ve got a submission guide to help you have your say, which includes Green Party policy on some of the specific areas included in the terms of reference.

Two of the official areas under review that I’m really interested in are electoral matters and Māori representation, which include some pretty important issues like:

  • the size of parliament
  • the size and number of electorates
  • how long our parliamentary term should be
  • whether we should have a fixed election date
  • the Māori Electoral Option
  • Māori seats

I think it’s worth thinking about these issues in the context of our MMP system. MMP has brought fairness, diversity and proportionality to our parliament, and it’s important that these principles are reflected in any further changes to the way parliament and elections work.

As an example, we think it’s important that the size of parliament is linked to the size of our population, so that the number of MPs increases or decreases based on population growth or decline, which is a step we should take to help ensure the proportionality of parliament.

Similarly, there needs to be a set ratio of electorate to list MPs (e.g. 60:40) to ensure that proportional representation is maintained. Currently the rules that govern the division of electorate seats between the North Island, the South Island and Māori seats mean that the number of electorate seats in the North Island is increasing after every census as the population increases. This increase in electorate seats means less list seats (e.g. in 1996 there were 55 list seats, but only 50 in 2011).

This was raised in the Electoral Commission’s review of MMP, who recommended that consideration should be given to fixing the ratio of electorate seats to list seats at 60:40 to help maintain diversity of representation and proportionality, which we get through the list seats.

By increasing the size of parliament and fixing a ratio of electorate to list seats we could ensure that we all have accessible local MPs, without compromising the number of list MPs that have been so valuable to bring diversity to parliament.

There are other areas included that it’d be great to see some change in. Currently the date of our election is set by the government, which means it can be used as a tool for political game-playing. A fixed election date would provide certainty and allow for better planning, as well as removing the advantage that the government of the day has in choosing an election date for party political purposes.

I’d also really like to see the Māori Electoral Option changed. Currently, you can only change between the General roll and the Māori roll during a four-month period following each census. It is unfair and undemocratic that Māori are forced to wait for five years to change from one roll to the other.

Don’t miss this opportunity – make sure you take the time to have your say.

10 Comments Posted

  1. Best thing would be real participatory democracy. Staring with BCIR, with realistic thresholds so they actually happen.

    Sadly, many politicians, even on, supposedly, the peoples side of the fence, would rather let right wing socially destructive fascists get unbridled power for 3 to 9 years, than miss out on their own chance at dictatorship.

    Note that the population as a whole are enthusiastic about anything which limits politicians power, even a little. Which is why MMP was so popular. We all know subconsciously that most in parliament couldn’t run a “piss-up in a brothel”, let alone a country.

    We are lucky, mostly, with our Green politicians or maybe it is because we are the only party where the members, not caucus, (or some mysterious group known only to these at the top), choose our list.

  2. I agree with you on the size regulations that should be imposed upon government Holly. Some checks and balances are needed to ensure the size of government accurately and efficiently reflects the people.

  3. @zedd, do you meant that electorates shouldn’t be able to choose a person to definitely an unambiguously represent them? Or do you mean that an electorate MP should be decided by the highest of the party votes in that electorate?

    I can think of reasonable arguments against either.

  4. My real concern about a constitutional review, is that this Govt. will ignore any suggestions that they think doesn’t favour THEIR neo-liberal agenda !

    The best thing that could happen to MMP would be to align MPs to electorates, but ditch the electorate FPP style vote. Just have a party vote, with a thresh-hold at 2% for more fair & open representation !! (but will the key-party listen.. unlikely)


  5. Hi Graeme. That may be true, and I could be too much of a conspiracy theorist when strong commercialism is involved, though. If there were practical legislation or some other strong disincentive to prevent scheduling of big events on election day, I’d feel more comfortable with it long term.

  6. MikeM – I think one of the ideas behind fixing the election date so far in advance is that people would avoid putting very important rugby matches on that day.

  7. A fixed election date would provide certainty and allow for better planning, as well as removing the advantage that the government of the day has in choosing an election date for party political purposes.

    But might it not also increase the chance that the election could fall on a day likely to clash with other events? I could imagine just as much political game playing by the NZRU, for example, if one or two powerful people wanted to influence the outcome of an election by scheduling a major Rugby match on the same day. In the past, political game-playing aside, election dates have often been set carefully so as to avoid such distractions, for good reason. (Not wanting to bag the NZRU here, but a constitution lasts much longer than the current generation of people running an organisation.)

    I get that allowing the government to determine the date can easily result in at least as many problems, but my personal belief is that if it’s to change, the election date should be set by some entity designed to represent the entire political spectrum rather than just given a fixed date.

  8. Sure if you can prove you’re a descendant of a New Zealand Maori you can vote in a Maori electorate, feel free! However if you don’t like the idea of Maori electorates, we can always go to what they’re there to replace, total self rule, Maori decide everything including where non Maori live and travel within the confines of Aotearoa. And if you don’t like that, bugger off to wherever your descendants came from, you’ll find all opening arms I’m sure of people who really want you to be there, Graeme Edgeler!

    As for the Maori option only coming along every 5 years, absolutely 100% racist, Maori ought to only change their electorate when they move districts, just like it is for non Maori.

  9. It is unfair and undemocratic that Māori are forced to wait for five years to change from one roll to the other.

    I’m interested in your reason for why you believe this is so. Do you think, for example, that someone should be able to change rolls to be able to vote in the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election, and then change back for the next general election, etc.?

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