I am voting for STV

I will be voting to change New Zealand’s electoral system from MMP to STV. Having spent many months considering the pros and cons of the five systems, I believe STV is the best system for New Zealand. It retains proportional representation, does away with List MPs, weakens the powers of party hierarchies, and effectively turns every electorate into a marginal seat.

Before I go into the full list of reasons why I think STV is the best system for New Zealand, let’s start with the pros and cons of MMP. As always I stress no system is universally good or bad. It is a trade off.

Good aspects of MMP

  • Almost all votes count
  • Votes are equal
  • Proportional
  • Fair to minor parties
  • Increased diversity

MMP is definitely an improvement over FPP. But there are aspects of it I don’t like.

  • List MPs are indirectly elected through party lists, rather than receiving a direct mandate from voters
  • Party leaders and hierarchies have become far more powerful through their ability to rank the list
  • MPs who get rejected by voters, can remain in Parliament
  • Two classes of MPs – electorate and list, which receive different funding, status and treatment
  • Stability of Government. In all five terms we’ve seen a Government minor party implode under the strain. NZ First 96 – 99, Alliance 99 – 02, United Future 02 – 05, NZ First 05 – 08, Maori Party and ACT 08 – 11.
  • Minor parties are encouraged to be extreme to attract votes as there is no downside to alienating most voters
  • The vast amount of time and energy spent on tactical voting, and coverage of it

So why am I backing STV? First a summary of how STV will work.

  • 24 – 30 electorates with 3 – 7 MPs per electorate
  • Just one vote for candidates
  • You rank candidates in order of preference, or accept the recommended preference order of a political party
  • Surplus votes from candidates get transferred to the next preference, as do votes from candidates who are eliminated as lowest polling

Here’s what I like about STV

  • It is still a proportional system where basically all votes count, and treats votes equally. It is not as pure a proportional system as MMP, but it is definitely still proportional, not semi-proportional such as SM.
  • All MPs get elected directly by the voters. No List MPs whose main accountability is to their party.
  • While a party can list its preferred order, voters can ignore them and rank candidates as they see fit. Voters can over-turn a party ranking.
  • Better access to electorate MPs. While electorates are larger, there are multiple MPs in each. 120 rather than 70 electorate MPs makes them more accessible.
  • Every seat will have a National and Labour MP. Almost inevitably every (general) seat will have at least one National and one Labour MP. That means people can choose to go to the electorate MP they are most comfortable with.
  • There will effectively be a cross-party caucus in each seat of MPs from National, Labour and sometimes a minor part. On common issues affecting their area, they will be able to work together to advance change as all of equal status.
  • All seats are marginal! Well, not quite. But what I mean is that in every seat there is the potential for National or Labour (or a minor party) to gain an additional MP. This means every seat will be contested vigorously. Even in a safe Labour area like South Auckland, you will have say one definite National MP, five definite Labour MPs and a battle for the 7th seat.
  • The quality of candidates should be greatly improved. Under FPP you can put up a donkey in a safe seat and they get elected. Under MMP a baboon can be a highly ranked List MP and they are impossible to dislodge. However with almost every seat under STV being competitive, parties will be incentivised to select candidates who actually appeal to their local communities, rather than reward unelectable unionists and the like.
  • Under MMP minor parties make it on 5% of the vote, which encourages parties like NZ First to appeal to a narrow segment, without concern for how much they offend the rest of the country (such as their attacks on Asian immigrants). Under STV a minor party will generally only get elected if people who are not first preference voters for them, are willing to still give them a reasonable ranking, so it should encourage less extreme policies.

So I am voting for change in Part A and voting for STV in Part B. I am firmly convinced that STV will be a superior electoral system for New Zealand, retaining many of the good aspects of MMP such as proportional representation, but getting rid of many of the bad aspects of MMP.

Incidentally STV does not advantage National, and in fact on the modelling done of 2008 and 2005 elections probably mildly disadvantages it. My preference is based on what is good for New Zealand, not what is good for National.

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