The Electoral Commission’s draft recommendations on MMP

August 13th, 2012 at 12:04 pm by David Farrar

The has published its draft recommendations on changes to the electoral system. The key points are:

  • The one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats should be abolished.
  • The party vote threshold for the allocation of list seats should be lowered to 4%.
  • Candidates should continue to be able to stand both in an electorate and on a party list at general elections.
  • List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.
  • Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the composition and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
  • The provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold.
  • On the basis of current information it would be prudent to identify 76 electorate seats (in a 120 seat Parliament) as the point at which the risk to proportionality from insufficient list seats becomes unacceptable. New Zealand is unlikely to reach that point before 2026.
  • The gradual erosion of list seats relative to electorate seats risks undermining the diversity of representation in Parliament. Parliament should review this matter.

You can provide feedback to the Commission on their draft recommendations.

They will publish final recommendations later this year. Then it will be up to Parliament as to whether or not they adopt them.  It will be interesting if any party proposes a members’ bill to adopt all their recommendations, rather than cherry picking the ones they think personally favour them.

I’m a bit disappointed the Commission has been so timid. I do support lowering the threshold to 4% and abolishing the one seat threshold. However I think they should have recommended greater internal democracy measures for party list rankings, and should have proposed either not allowing List MPs to contest by-elections or indeed even abolishing by-elections (which they talk about but take no stance on). Also no movement on dual candidacy means that the issue which most upsets people the most in my experience, is not dealt with. I think so long as List MPs do not have their own distinct role, and instead remain shadow constituency MPs, we will have significant issues.

So some good stuff there, but overall disappointingly timid.

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49 Responses to “The Electoral Commission’s draft recommendations on MMP”

  1. kowtow (6,685 comments) says:

    The Royal Commission recommended getting rid of the race based seats.

    Funny how thats been relegated to the forget it or else you’re a racist department.

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  2. swan (651 comments) says:

    The Electoral Commission has said they only recommend lowering to 4 percent to prevent a “glut of small parties”. Why should they care about this? Unless this was a specific issue raised by respondents, they should be totally agnostic as to the size of parties in parliament.

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  3. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    I agree that candidates should have to opt for an electorate or list, but not both.

    As for 4% being the threshhold, that seems a little high. Why not 1-2%?

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  4. Weihana (4,475 comments) says:

    Ultimately there is always going to be a threshold even if it is equivalent to one seat and any such number is arbitrary in a sense whether it be 0.833% or 4% or 5%.

    The issue should be the ability of the voter to vote with absolute honesty: to be able to choose any party on the list without fear of wasting their vote. They should be secure in the knowledge that if their vote for a small party does not obtain representation in parliament then that vote should be given to a 2nd preference so that representation for all is maintained.

    As it is, the established parties are able to ignore certain elements because they know the risk a voter takes trying to vote in a party that is not established.

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  5. Still Here (1,091 comments) says:

    Good point Weihana.

    I do favour candidates not being able to be on both list and constituency lists.
    4% is ok.
    Keep the one constituency seat bring them in for list votes as then the voters are represented proportionally.

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  6. Paulus (2,291 comments) says:

    Entirely self serving for current MPs.
    Gutless recommendations.
    Disappointing, but so is MMP in its present form.

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  7. Pete George (21,796 comments) says:

    Big party bias loses ground slightly and gains ground significantly. Can’t have them pesky wee parties.

    Most people support large parties so obviously will prefer them retaining unequal power.

    If they remove the coattailing provision then the threshhold should come done further, but 3% may be a reasonably fair reduced risk option – in the meantime.

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  8. david (2,482 comments) says:

    We won’t get it right until we have 120 parties each with it’s own policy mix. Only then will we have true representation of the differing views that make up the NZ population. Of course the country will grind to a shuddering halt and nothing will ever be decided but what the hell, we will have proportional chaos and proportional economic disaster.

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  9. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    If you read the full report you will see that it explains why 4% and many other points raised above.

    I agree that it is rather timid, but I suppose the logic is that messing with electoral arrangements is dangerous stuff – if you get it wrong you can do a lot of damage. And MMP as it stands does have a mandate.

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  10. simonway (356 comments) says:

    Why eliminate the overhang? That would just reduce proportionality even more.

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  11. Weihana (4,475 comments) says:

    david (2,168) Says:
    August 13th, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    We won’t get it right until we have 120 parties each with it’s own policy mix. Only then will we have true representation of the differing views that make up the NZ population. Of course the country will grind to a shuddering halt and nothing will ever be decided but what the hell, we will have proportional chaos and proportional economic disaster.

    Quite an exaggeration. We have a threshold of 5% at present yet we do not have 20 political parties in Parliament. Arguably lowering the threshold to 1-2% would introduce instability, but we could nevertheless have fair representation for all maintaining a 4-5% threshold whilst having preferential party votes which would eliminate the wasted vote.

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  12. wiseowl (570 comments) says:

    Another sham.
    Public can’t comment on Moori seats.
    Gross interference.

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  13. Joel Rowan (99 comments) says:

    Abolishing by-elections? So… if an electorate MP dies/quits their spot should be taken by the next MP from their party’s list. Erm… no thanks.

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  14. Graeme Edgeler (3,216 comments) says:

    Then it will be up to Parliament as to whether or not they adopt them.

    Then it will be up to the Government as to whether it adopts them.

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  15. Other_Andy (2,079 comments) says:

    @kowtow

    Not only did they ‘forget’ about that recommendation, they also ‘forgot’ all about the recommendation to limit the house to a 100 members.
    Commission after commission to give the ilusion that the plebs actually have a say.
    Then the political elite will determine what actually happens.

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  16. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    Actually I like the recommendations. I think they have got it about right.

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  17. kowtow (6,685 comments) says:

    O A

    And then they express dismay at the publics’ dissillusionment with the “democratic” process.

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  18. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    > If you read the full report you will see that it explains why 4%

    The explanation given is very weak and not at all convincing. The Commission talks about fragmentation but doesn’t explain how or when that would apply at, say, 2%. Very few parties, apart from those already in Parliament, would reach 2%. The issue of fragmentation is a red herring.

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  19. Pete George (21,796 comments) says:

    The larger parties see small parties as pesky nuisances so will do what they can to minimise the chance of them succeeding.

    One person having any power is terrible – unless it’s their own party leader, with greatly magnified power…

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  20. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Very sound recommendations.

    If they pass, NZ First should survive in 2014. Right wingers and Nelolibs will probably back the Conservatives to get 4%.

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  21. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @Other Andy: “Not only did they ‘forget’ about that recommendation, they also ‘forgot’ all about the recommendation to limit the house to a 100 members.”

    Maybe because the Electoral Commission was specifically told it couldn’t look at the size of Parliament (this is being considered as a part of the Government’s wider Constitutional Review).

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  22. David Garrett (5,120 comments) says:

    Darn it, I have to agree with Hamnida…so be a good leftie and tell us you’ve changed you mind because I agree with you….

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  23. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I see it as Winston Peters and the Greens commanding a good lot of power in New Zealand with none of the MPs commanding an electorate seat because no-one would vote for these guys to represent them directly. They’ll all get to sit on their collective arse troughing and stirring without a proper workload and everyone will talk about how “representative” Parliament is.
    thank God we don’t have that MMP bullshit in the U.S.

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  24. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Could be an interesting election.

    National, Conservatives and NZ first trying to get over 60 seats.

    Labour, Greens doing the same.

    Possibles for one or two seats: Mana, Maori, United Future (20% chance), ACT (10% chance, have to change candidate in Epsom).

    So I guess National have to hope that both the Conservatives and NZ First get 4% plus.

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  25. Other_Andy (2,079 comments) says:

    @AG

    I was talking about the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System in 1986, not about this commission…….
    However, checking it I found that they did not recommend the number of MPs to be limited to 100.
    Their recommendation was to limit the number to 120 (although they considered 140 would be ideal).
    They also recommended that the Māori seats be abolished

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  26. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @Other_Andy: “They also recommended that the Māori seats be abolished”

    True … but they coupled this with a recommendation that parties representing Maori ought to be exempt from the party vote threshold.

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  27. Pete George (21,796 comments) says:

    Matthew Hooton rootin’ for National+Winston+Craig:

    MMP review report hands Key a third term

    Freed of the temptation to play tea-party-type games, National now knows exactly the necessary form of its third term. As I have been arguing for some time both in the NBR and elsewhere, this will involve it being propped up by both Winston Peters’ NZ First and Colin Craig’s Conservative Party.

    Arise Sir Winston. And welcome to the Cabinet Mr Craig.

    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/mmp-review-report-hands-key-third-term-ck-125700

    I thought Labour had lowered their sights somewhat to Labour+Green+whoever else can make up the numbers.

    But a National strategy that relies on Peters and Craig? I’m not so sure the voters will be keen on that combination. Last election NZ First did so well because they picked up substantial support from ‘neither National nor Labour” voters.

    It would be sad to see National aim for 40% plus NZF and CCCP propping them up. Especially if Winston is in a kingmaker position, where Labour will probably be more desperate than National.

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  28. Other_Andy (2,079 comments) says:

    @AG

    “True … but they coupled this with a recommendation that parties representing Maori ought to be exempt from the party vote threshold.”

    Thats a red herring.
    Every party represents Maori.
    What they mean is ” parties solely representing Maori.
    In other words, a racist party.

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  29. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @O_A: Quite possibly. But if we’re going to hold up one Commission proposal as holy writ (“abolish the Maori seats!”) then we at least have to recognise that there was another proposal put up alongside it (“exempt racist parties from the party vote threshold!”).

    Because a lot of people like to quote the former without noting the latter … which could be a bit disingenuous.

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  30. emmess (1,332 comments) says:

    Can someone explain what ‘The provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold’ actually means in practice?

    If the Maori party wins three electorate seats but on 1.5% of the vote

    1) One of winners of the seat does not become an MP.
    2) They all get seats and someone from the list of another party does not

    I suspect it is 2), because all the other recommendations as expected were exactly what the left wanted.

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  31. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @emmess: Here’s the Commission’s reasoning on the issue:

    Most submissions that commented on the question of overhang seats argued that the small increase in the size of Parliament caused by overhang seats at the 2005, 2008, and 2011 General Elections had not created any difficulties in practice and, therefore, the status quo should be retained.

    However, abolishing the one electorate seat threshold, as the Commission proposes, would increase the chances of overhang seats being triggered where localised support for a party’s candidates exceeds its nationwide support. For example, if the one electorate seat threshold had not applied at the 2008 General Election and the current provision for overhang seats had been retained there would have been eight overhang seats. When this scenario was put to people presenting submissions on this point, most agreed any more than three or four overhang seats in any one Parliament was likely to be unacceptable to the public.

    For this reason, if the one electorate seat threshold is abolished, then we also propose the abolition of overhang seats for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold.

    A number of submissions proposed methods for reducing or removing the incidence of overhang seats. The usual number of quotients to be allocated using the Sainte-Laguë formula is 120. The simplest method of abolishing overhang seats generated by parties that do not cross the party vote threshold and, therefore, the Commission’s preference, would be to reduce the number of quotients to be allocated by the number of electorate seats won by the party. For example, if a party that did not cross the party vote threshold were to win an electorate seat, the number of quotients to be allocated would be reduced from 120 to 119 meaning the size of Parliament would remain at 120. It is important to note the party would keep any electorate seats it won.

    This is the same approach that would apply if an independent candidate won an electorate seat under current arrangements.

    Some submissions were concerned that removing provision for overhang seats in this way would have an unacceptable impact upon proportionality. However, we analysed the 2005, 2008, and 2011 General Elections to see what the impact on proportionality would have been had there been no provision for overhang seats, and found it to be minimal. Using the internationally recognised Gallagher Index for measuring disproportionality, results would have been slightly more proportional without provision for overhang seats in 2005 and 2011. In 2008 the increase in disproportionality would have been 0.1%.

    This is true if either the retention of the current thresholds or the adoption of the Commission’s proposal for thresholds is assumed.

    We therefore conclude that provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that have not crossed the party vote threshold if the proposal to abolish the one electorate seat threshold is adopted (there would be little point in abolishing overhangs if the one electorate seat threshold remains). The impact upon the proportionality of Parliament would be minimal. It would also simplify the MMP system.

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  32. flipper (3,266 comments) says:

    The 4% is a diversion that will come to blight our poilitical future. 4% nationwide gets Parliamentary representation? CRAP. Win a seat or no represerntation at all. But it is easier for the Government of the day to do nothing about that suggestion/recommendation than to enter in to quid pro quos with current coalition partners.

    The real tragedy is that the Commission (really only deserving of a small “c” just as Peden is deserving only of a small “p”) argues classic BS on list MPs. Only the system makes them MPs. The voters do NOT.

    Until a defeated MP cannot be resurected as a party list “MP” (until the folllowing GE), MMP will continue to appeal only to power brokers and political junkies. The concept that a constituency MP defeated at the polls can go back to the House (and even become Prime Minister) as a list MP is contrary to all sensible democratic principles … well, in my view.

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  33. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @flipper: “Until a defeated MP cannot be resurected as a party list “MP” (until the folllowing GE), MMP will continue to appeal only to power brokers and political junkies.”

    Apparently some 56% of those voting at the last election were power brokers and political junkies. Who knew?!

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  34. flipper (3,266 comments) says:

    AG
    Absolute rubbish.

    The concept of a defeated candidate going back on a party list is never even considered (in my experience, anyway) when casting a vote by anyone other than “power brokers and political junkies”. That is really quite disturbing. And the thought that such individuals) could be Prime Minister……. At presernt unlikely, I admit, but, sadly possible.

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  35. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @flipper: “The concept of a defeated candidate going back on a party list is never even considered (in my experience, anyway) when casting a vote by anyone other than “power brokers and political junkies”.”

    So the only people in Epsom who recognised that if they cast their electorate vote for John Banks, Paul Goldsmith would still enter Parliament as a list MP were “power brokers and political junkies”? And anyway, just what is wrong with Michael Woodhouse being an MP, despite his continued inability to convince the people of North Dunedin to vote for him?

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  36. leftyliberal (597 comments) says:

    @flipper: Are you referring to Chris Finlayson, Hekia Parata, David Carter, Tim Groser, Michael Woodhouse, Chris Auchinvole, Jackie Blue, Tau Henare, Melissa Lee, Katrina Shanks etc?

    Are they’re less deserving to be MPs than Steven Joyce or Lockwood Smith? I note that Steven Joyce has never been rejected by an electorate, but equally, he has never even stood for one. Does this make him more or less deserving to be an MP?

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  37. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I don’t really think Parata, Groser, Woodhouse, Auchinole, Henare and Lee could ever win an electorate seat.

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  38. freedom101 (439 comments) says:

    The Maori seats were outside the review. The review is therefore fatally flawed and should be ignored. If the Maori seats were abolished then the recommendations probably make sense. However, it is completely wrong to abolish the ‘coat tails’ provision while continuing to allow racial representation, and overhang, in the Maori seats.

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  39. eszett (2,264 comments) says:

    However, it is completely wrong to abolish the ‘coat tails’ provision while continuing to allow racial representation, and overhang, in the Maori seats.

    How so? Just what is the connection between the two?

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  40. eszett (2,264 comments) says:

    4% nationwide gets Parliamentary representation? CRAP. Win a seat or no represerntation at all.

    Winning a seat represents about 0.5% of the vote nationwide.
    Why should 0.5% get representation just because they are in geographically proximity while the 4% don’t?

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  41. BlairM (2,265 comments) says:

    Well that was a spectacular waste of time…

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  42. Johnboy (13,335 comments) says:

    “Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the composition and ranking of candidates on their party lists.”

    More weirdos in the Green/Winston/Labour parties!

    Still suits their style really. :)

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  43. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,785 comments) says:

    So New Zealand moves further in the direction of Putin’s Russia. Top stuff.

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  44. eszett (2,264 comments) says:

    @OECD rank 22 kiwi, spectacular platitude. Trite, meaningless, obtuse and utterly irrelevant.

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  45. AG (1,727 comments) says:

    @Hamnida:”I don’t really think Parata, Groser, Woodhouse, Auchinole, Henare and Lee could ever win an electorate seat.”

    Really? Not even if nominated by National in (say) North Shore or Selwyn or Clutha Southland? You think they are THAT terrible a set of individuals that proposing them as candidates in these areas would result in Labour winning the seat?

    Really?

    And if so, I sure hope you didn’t give your party vote to National, knowing that it would result in such terrible, terrible individuals becoming MPs!!!!

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  46. GL (58 comments) says:

    @Hamnida:”I don’t really think Parata, Groser, Woodhouse, Auchinole [sic], Henare and Lee could ever win an electorate seat.” – Henare (Northern Maori/Te Tai Tokerau) and Auchinvole (west coast-tasman) have both already won electorate seats.

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  47. Bogusnews (425 comments) says:

    Have to say though, we who follow the blogs knew this would happen. Polies would tinker with the system to benefit themselves. I’d be much happier if they limited the number of list seats so that parties could not get their reject politicians in even when rejected by the electorate.

    But, NZ’ers were either too stupid or lazy to vote against this mess. We get what we deserve.

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  48. orewa1 (425 comments) says:

    So Banks doesnt like these recommendations? That should ensure they have overwhelming public support.

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  49. tas (527 comments) says:

    The recommendations are incredibly timid. Particularly their recommendations regarding the number of electorates. Their recommendation being “someone should look at this issue in the next 10-15 years, as it may become a problem.” They also dismissed preferential/transferable party votes as too complex, which pisses me off a bit.

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