I’m not sure what is being considered by Cabinet, but they need to be very careful with the MMP referenda, so that people are voting on a sensible option.
There has been some suggestion previously that an initial question will be whether or not to keep MMP, and if people vote not to keep MMP, then the next question will be what is the replacement system – and MMP will not be given as an option against the replacement system – the preferred replacement system will just become law.
That would be quite simply the wrong way to do it. The current electoral system should ultimately be put to a vote against a known replacement electoral system, so people can make an intelligent choice on the pros and cons of both. You can not ditch MMP solely on the basis of an initial vote indicating dissatisfaction- because any of the alternatives may prove more dissatisfactory.
It was Churchill who once said democracy is the worst form of Government – apart from all the others that have been tried!
There is no need to spend a lot of time working out what are the appropriate questions, as it was done very well in 1992 and 1993, so I just advocate repeating that process.
The first referenda should be a two parter, and run in 2011 to maximise turnout. The questions would be.
- Do you wish to retain the present Mixed Member Proportional system or do vote for a change to the voting system.
- Please choose your preferred option to run off against MMP:
A The Supplementary Member System (SM)
B The Single Transferable Vote System (STV)
C The First Past the Post System (FPP)
D The Preferential Voting System (PV)
If a majority vote for change in Q1, then the most popular option in Q2 goes to a run off against MMP, so people are making an informed choice between the status quo and an alternative.
The second referendum would be held preferably in 2014, to again maximise turnout. That would give Parliament lots of time to devise an electoral act based on the alternative system selected. Then in 2014, if people vote for the alternative system ahead of MMP, the alternative electoral act automatically comes into force.