Holly Walker

Electoral reform in the constitutional review

by Holly Walker

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.

Published in Parliament by Holly Walker on Fri, June 21st, 2013   

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