MMP referenda

February 16th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

has also announced details of the MMP referenda.

  1. in 2011 will ask whether they wish to retain the present voting system.
  2. A second question will ask what alternative voting system they would prefer from FPP, PV, SM and STV, regardless of how they voted in the first question.
  3. If people vote not to retain MMP in 2011, then a run-off referendum in 2014 will be held between MMP and the preferred alternative.
  4. If people vote to retain MMP, the Electoral Commission will be asked to review our MMP system and recommend desirable changes.

Two issues I think the select committee should consider:

  1. Should the second question on alternate voting systems be a preferential vote? I think it would be better if it was, ensuring that the most widely supported option runs off against MMP.
  2. Can the 2014 date for the second referendum be held earlier? I initially had the view it must be with the 2014 election, as that ensures a high turnout. However upon reflection I think the second referendum will get a very high turnout even if not at the same time as an election.
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37 Responses to “MMP referenda”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    Can the 2014 date for the second referendum be held earlier? I initially had the view it must be with the 2014 election, as that ensures a high turnout. However upon reflection I think the second referendum will get a very high turnout even if not at the same time as an election.

    You could be right that there’ still be a high turnout – the turnout in the postal referendum that asked the question “Do you like Winston Peters?” was pretty high =)

    My main concern with having it separately is not so much turnout as the fact that I prefer in-person polling over postal votes. And that it wouldn’t work, logistically.

    I don’t doubt that Parliament could pass the Electoral (STV voting system) Bill in its first year, but there is a pretty big difference between the 1992/1993 process and your proposed one – Electoral Agencies had three years to prepare for the the 1996 MMP election.

    Realistically, the earliest your proposal could see the second (binding) referendum held is early in 2013 (March, probably, if not April) – say 18 months before the 2014 election. Planning for the 2015 election would already be under way – it’s a massive logistical exercise. New training material for voters and polling clerks would need to be prepared. Different paper for the different ballots – it’s ordered from overseas – would be needed, etc.

    And you’d need the Representation Commission to draw new boundaries very quickly. They might find themselves finalising the new boundaries for the 3-7 MP STV districts over the Christmas break before election year. Then the Electoral Commission – first time it’s ever been involved in drawing up Electoral Rolls – would have to start over again 8 months before the election based on the newly announced seats, and political parties would forming new internal structures based around the new much larger electorates just months before they’d be selecting candidates.

    In short, we’d make Florida 2000 look professional.

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  2. Nicholas O'Kane (147 comments) says:

    I agree that ideally the first referenda should have been this year, so the second can be in 2011. I guess its too late now. I agree that the second referenda could be held early in 2014 but only if some extensive preparations are done. For instance…

    “you’d need the Representation Commission to draw new boundaries very quickly” The representation commission can start doing STV boundaries immediately after the 2011 election and census and have the boundaries ready by early 2013 by the time of the referenda.

    “New training material for voters and polling clerks would need to be prepared.” Again this could be done before the referenda.

    It would add consdierably to the expense to have all this work done if we vote NO, but it would allow the new system to come into effect by 2014. We can also agree that if there is a vote for change the 2011 parliament will have a one off four year term with the election postponed to 2015.

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  3. LeftRightOut (622 comments) says:

    So, regardless of the answer to Q1 the second referendum will still have MMP as one of the only two choices to be offered? Wow, big step forward, aye?

    What’s the point in a No vote (Retain MMP) if MMP is still on the table, regardless of the support for the other options?

    Any one seen Crosbie-Textor lately?

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  4. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    The representation commission can start doing STV boundaries immediately after the 2011 election and census and have the boundaries ready by early 2013 by the time of the referenda.

    1. That would be illegal – there’d still need to be a law to allow them to do that.
    2. It wouldn’t work anyway. The STV proposal Parliament comes up with might say that there are 24 5-MP electorates, Or it might say that there are 24 electorates with between 4 and 7 MPs each, with exactly three in the South Island. Or that there are to be 22 South Island MPs, but have no view on the number of South Island electorates outside the parameters of 3-6 MPs each. Until that level of detail is known any work would be pointless.

    We can also agree that if there is a vote for change the 2011 parliament will have a one off four year term with the election postponed to 2015.

    Any MP who votes for the that will lose my vote for their party for ever.

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  5. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    So, regardless of the answer to Q1 the second referendum will still have MMP as one of the only two choices to be offered? Wow, big step forward, aye?

    What’s the point in a No vote (Retain MMP) if MMP is still on the table, regardless of the support for the other options?

    The first question is really about whether there should be a second referendum. The point of a pro-MMP vote in the first referendum is to avoid having a second referendum, and instead have a discussion about possible amendments to MMP (get reid of the threshold, open the lists, etc.). If that’s what you want, of course.

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  6. bearhunter (822 comments) says:

    The cynic in me suggests that the reason for holding off on the second referendum is so that various list-dependent MPs can clock up enough parliamentary miles to qualify for pensions and perks once their “seats” disappear. My inner idealist pleads that they wouldn’t be THAT shallow, would they?

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  7. LeftRightOut (622 comments) says:

    Graeme I am well aware of the why for Q1. I am asking why the final choice MUST include MMP as one of only 2 options?

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  8. malcolm (1,952 comments) says:

    Can Elections New Zealand (silly name) pull their finger out and get a decent and cost-effective online referendum system in place before this referendum? A referendum should not cost millions to run.

    If they can’t, can they please run a 3-month competition to allow the many clever and talented people in NZ come up with one?

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    Because we’re considering changing from MMP to something else. If the current MMP isn’t an option, we could be forcing people to choose between two options the majority of New Zealanders oppose more than MMP.

    Let’s assume than 75% say they want rid of MMP in the first question, and 25% say keep it

    Let’s say FPP gets 40% and Preferential Vote get 30% in the second question (with the other two 15% each). So a second referendum is then held between the top two contenders – FPP and Preferential Vote. But what form of FPP and PV? Parliament debates that next term and decides that it should be FPP with a single electorate where the person elected gets to write all the laws they want for three years (a dictatorship, if you will), or PV with a 300 MPs,

    In 2014 we then get the choice between a dictatorship and having 300 MPs – even though if people had known that would have been the option, they’d have said “keep MMP”. To ensure that people actually support the change, it needs to be an option between the status quo and something else, otherwise it’s not really the referendum that will make the decisions.

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  10. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    “If people vote not to retain MMP in 2011″

    ….will 87.6% be an accecpateble benchmark?

    “then a run-off referendum in 2014 will be held between MMP and the preferred alternative”

    …. lucky the maori party didnt rely on MMP, otherwise you’d still be getting asked in 2020

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  11. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    Can Elections New Zealand (silly name) pull their finger out and get a decent and cost-effective online referendum system in place before this referendum? A referendum should not cost millions to run.

    I don’t know. Can Parliament pass a law that would enable them to do this before election year, without stuffing it up as much as they did the Electoral Finance Act?

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  12. malcolm (1,952 comments) says:

    Actually that was a rhetorical question. I asked Elections New Zealand before the last referendum if they had any plans to implement an online referendum system. They said they did not but that the government was working on a general login system for citizens.

    I don’t think a referendum needs such an elaborate system. I can think of a number of cheap systems which could give comparable security to the postal one. And there are much smarter people than me working on this sort of stuff in NZ.

    Do you think a law need to be changed to allow for an online referendum system?

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  13. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    Do you think a law need to be changed to allow for an online referendum system?

    I know that it can’t be done without a law change.

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  14. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,704 comments) says:

    Why all the hurry? Take it slowly and get it right.

    You must give Labour sufficient time for Mallard, Goff, King, Hodgson, Dyson and all those other awful gargoyles to die.

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  15. CharlieBrown (1,054 comments) says:

    They should change the wording of the second question from:

    “Regardless of how you voted under Part A, if there was a change to another voting system, which voting system would you choose? ”

    To

    “Regardless of how you voted under Part A, if there was a change to another voting system, which less representative voting system would you choose? “

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  16. eszett (2,450 comments) says:

    Suggestion for Q1:

    Should MMP, as part of good representative democracy, be replaced by a less proportional system?

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  17. Paul Williams (880 comments) says:

    Why is this occuring in the first place? The process leading up to the change to MMP was preceded by widespread concern that successive elections resulted in parliaments that had dubious mandates. I’m certain many who read and comment here did not like Labour, but did they seriously think their mandate was unclear? Why?

    Reading the FAQ is illustrative, on why the proposal for reform you get this answer:

    The 2011 referendum builds on the referendum process held in 1992 and 1993. The voting systems listed in the second question are based on those put to voters in the 1992 referendum on voting systems.

    The voting systems were chosen in 1992 after careful consideration of the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Electoral System, Towards a Better Democracy. This report provides an excellent basis for comparing voting systems.

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  18. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    What a stupid survey.

    Everyone who doesn’t want to change from MMP just needs to chooses the worst alternative at question 2. The worst alternative then has a high chance of being the run-off choice and then get soundly beaten.

    E.g. suppose there is 40% support for MMP and 40% support for PV, 10% support for sTV and 5% support for FPP and SM

    Suppose the 40% who support MMP at the first round go on to choose FPP at the second round (because evidence shows people prefer MMP over FPP) giving FPP 45% beating out PV at 40%.

    Therefore the two choices will be FPP and MMP and MMP will win.

    People who prefer MMP shouldn’t be allowed to answer question 2.

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  19. eszett (2,450 comments) says:

    Paul Williams (500) Says:
    February 16th, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Why is this occuring in the first place?

    I believe there is some general concern (within National and quite possibly Labour) around MMP and the resulting majorities. I assume that the smaller parties are quite happy with MMP, anything else would certainly not be in their interest.

    I think some changes around MMP would actually be better than a referendum, but then again, a voting system should have a strong backing within the electorate. Danyl has captured it quite well. http://dimpost.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/kicking-the-tires/

    But it also could be a chance to re-affirm MMP. It will be very interesting to see what system the two big parties will be supporting

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  20. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    People who prefer MMP shouldn’t be allowed to answer question 2.

    I’m not sure you’ve thought this through. This would substantially weight the referendum process in favour of MMP. There might be a lot of people who are fine with MMP, and will support it in the first referendum to avoid the prospect of going back to first-past-the-post, but who could be persuaded to support STV when the argument between two fully-developed systems occurs.

    If you only let MMP opponents vote for the alternative, you’re making it much more likely that weak MMP supporters the first time ’round will stick with MMP in a second referendum when faced with a far less palatable alternative like first-past-the-post.

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  21. Fale Andrew Lesa (473 comments) says:

    It’s certainly cause for what is bound to be an interesting nation-wide debate/discussion.

    The fact that Act received less votes in the general election of 08 than NZ First and yet has 5 sworn MP’s and one seat in the house rubs me up the wrong way.
    NZ First no longer exists, despite the amount of votes that it received.

    If this is democracy, just how proportionate is this power from the people?

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  22. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    So you’d rather have NZF than ACT in parliament? Methinks that has less to do with democracy than other more pragmatic concerns.

    Nice to see Brainsrightout go for the Crosby-Textor boogeyman. Very predictable.

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  23. Fale Andrew Lesa (473 comments) says:

    No, I didn’t indicate that at all. I would rather have democracy reign supreme in how WE as a people elect our parliamentary officials.

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  24. Kris K (3,570 comments) says:

    mpledger 6:54 pm,

    People who prefer MMP shouldn’t be allowed to answer question 2.

    To get around this why not just have ONE referendum which poses ONE question:

    What voting system would you prefer from MMP, FPP, PV, SM and STV?

    And perhaps any required ‘tweaks’ (to MMP for example, and others if required) could be visited prior to the referendum being held.

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  25. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    A second question will ask what alternative voting system they would prefer from FPP, PV, SM and STV,

    I prefer the CI channel, myself.

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  26. big bruv (14,222 comments) says:

    Listen to Adolph guys, according to him and the rest of the cheer leaders Neville has it all in hand.

    Never mind that we are borrowing 1 billion a month, just as long as the blue team stays in power!

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  27. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    A correction there BB:…… The black and blue team stays in power!

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  28. arkhad (70 comments) says:

    Thanks to Graeme for all the clear informative answers.

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  29. gazzmaniac (2,306 comments) says:

    correction to you Johnboy – brown and blue!
    Seriously, does anyone actually think that MMP will be abolished? I don’t, and I won’t be voting for a change either. The presence of the minor parties has changed the political landscape for the better – it got rid of the National-Labour duopoly and opened politics up to competition!

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  30. Paul Williams (880 comments) says:

    I believe there is some general concern (within National and quite possibly Labour) around MMP and the resulting majorities. I assume that the smaller parties are quite happy with MMP, anything else would certainly not be in their interest.

    Thanks for this view.

    I wonder about the benefits of a review so soon in the development of the electoral system. Perhaps someone could tell me how long FPP was in operation before it was review in the early ’90s.

    Stable government ought not be trifled with. Perhaps I’ve been in Australia too long, and you’d not for the moment want ot look too closely into electoral affair here, however, I think one real benefit of the federal arrangements is the tendency for them to moderate the extremes. Of course you can argue this. Kennett in Victoria and Howard once he had a majority in both Houses. My point though is that NZ has had stable and predictable government following the implementation of MMP. I didn’t always like it, but save for a few surprises, most governments largely did as they said they would and were judged accordingly.

    That being the case, why so quick to review… distraction?

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  31. tvb (4,556 comments) says:

    The biggest problem with MMP is the role of minor parties. In the main the minor parties have not distinguished themselves in Government. They want to be around for the popular stuff taking credit where they can but when the hard stuff gets done they want nothing to do with it. In the case of the maori party they frequently line up with the opposition. This tells me that support for minor parties is frequently quite soft and they are not really suitable to be part of a Government. Faced with this it may be best to drop MMP because it cannot produce stable Government due to the behavior of minor parties.

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  32. wreck1080 (3,999 comments) says:

    I predict mmp is gone.

    Winston peters prostitution and the rejection and subsequent uptake of the baubles of office will take care of that.

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  33. gazzmaniac (2,306 comments) says:

    Paul Williams – FPP was invented when the parliament of England was set up (presumably with the magna carta? Graeme could probably answer that one), and as such has a 1000 or so year history.

    This tells me that support for minor parties is frequently quite soft and they are not really suitable to be part of a Government. Faced with this it may be best to drop MMP because it cannot produce stable Government due to the behavior of minor parties.

    Why not let the electorate decide the suitability of minor parties to become part of government, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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  34. Pete George (23,814 comments) says:

    The advantage MMP has is that we are familiar with it, with it’s strengths and weaknesses. It will be easier and safer to work on improving what we already have rather than introduce something different that we really don’t know how it would work out in practice.

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  35. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    FPP was invented when the parliament of England was set up (presumably with the magna carta? Graeme could probably answer that one), and as such has a 1000 or so year history.

    I would imagine FPP was much older than that. Except for the possibility of block-vote or SNTV, I can’t see the Ancient Greeks or Romans using anything other than FPP (and SNTV and Block-vote are identical to FPP whenever you’re electing only one person).

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  36. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Pretty reasonable compromise, can’t see much wrong with the time frame- good that we are not accepting MMP is perfect too. I like many people would like to see the 5% threshold go.

    Can’t see why we are not able to have some say over the Auckland Council voting system though. The election is arguably more important than the NZand we will have to put up with an imposed,arbitary,decrepit mixed multi and single member FFP ward system that I suspect nobody understands or likes. Come on Rodney give us a say!

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  37. emmess (1,398 comments) says:

    MMP could easily be modifed to become SM by changing the list vote from determining the overall proportionality to the proportionality of the list seats only
    And get rid off the Maori seats too

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