The 2011 referendum on the electoral systemHere's a few thoughts on the referendum on the electoral (voting) system.
At the general election there will be a referendum giving you the chance to have your say on the voting system. The Electoral Commission has been working on its publicity campaign and is to post out information on each electoral system starting today.
On election day you`ll be given two voting papers. One will be the standard voting paper, the other one will be a purple voting paper and you`ll be asked two questions:
• The first question asks whether you want to keep MMP (our current voting system) or whether you want to change to another voting system.
• The second question asks which of four other voting systems you would choose if New Zealand decides to change from MMP.
The four alternative voting systems you can choose from are:
First Past the Post (FPP) - the person with the highest plurality of votes in each of the 120 electorates wins – i.e. a candidate can win if he gets fewer than half of the votes, provided he gets more than the others.
Preferential Vote (PV) - the person with the highest majority of votes in each electorate wins, as the candidate must get over 50 percent of the votes to be elected.
Single Transferable Vote(STV) MPs are elected by receiving a minimum number of votes (called a quota – based on the number of votes in each electorate and the number of MPs to be elected in each electorate).
Supplementary Member (SM) - Candidates in 90 electorates are elected the same way as in First Past the Post. The remaining 30 seats in the 120-member Parliament are called supplementary seats. MPs are elected to these seats from political party lists, the same way list MPs are currently under MMP.
If at least half of voters opt to keep MMP, the second question is irrelevant and the Electoral Commission will review MMP in 2012 to recommend, with public input, any changes that should be made to the way it works.
If more than half the voters opt to change the voting system, Parliament will decide if there will be another Referendum in 2014 to choose between MMP and the alternative voting system that gets the most support in the second question in the 2011 Referendum.
The following outlines the split of electorates under the different systems – and how each system compares with the others:
Under MMP we’d have :
16 South lsland electorates
47 North Island electorates
7 Maori electorates
The remaining 50 will be list MPs proportionally allocated from closed political party lists.
Supplementary Member will lead to more North Island, South Island and Maori electorate MPs as there will be fewer list MPs. There are:
21 South Island general electorates
60 North Island general electorates
9 Maori electorates
Once all candidates who receive the highest number of votes are elected, the remaining 30 seats in the 120-member Parliament are called supplementary seats. MPs are proportionally allocated these seats from closed political party lists and are likely to be called List MPs. This system is sometimes called First Past the Post “in drag” as the government outcome is almost identical - and is why many politicos who support National like this system
First Past the Post and Preferential Voting will have even more North and South Island electorate and more Maori electorate MPs as there are no list MPs. We’d have:
•27 South Island general electorates
•81 North Island general electorates
•12 Maori electorates
So given that under FPP and PV, we’d have the same number of electorates in each island and the same number of Maori electorates, what’s the difference between the two systems?
The difference is in the way each MP is elected.
Under FPP, the person with the highest plurality of votes in each electorate wins; under PV, that MP must get over 50 percent of the votes to be elected– and here’s how they do it.
Candidates are preferentially ranked ( 1,2,3 etc) and a candidate who gets more than half of all the first preference votes (that is votes marked "1") wins – as would happen under the other electoral systems..
But it is where no candidate gets more than half the first preference votes that things change. If that was to happen under FPP and MMP, that candidate with the highest number of votes will be elected. However under PV, as candidates are ranked, the candidate with the fewest number of “1” votes is eliminated and their votes go to the candidates each voter ranked next.
This process is repeated until one candidate has more than half the votes.
The Single Transferable Vote system will have the same spread of MPs as FPP and PV but fewer electorates as follows:
• About 6 South Island general electorates with a total of 27 MPs
• About 18 North Island general electorates with a total of 81 MPs
• About 4 Maori electorates with total of 12 MPs
So each electorate will have between 3-5 constituent MPs as, with FPP and PV, there are no list MPs.
Where STV differs with the other electoral systems is that there are fewer electorates ,but up to five people can be elected in each electorate, and parties can have two candidates elected from the same electorate, so if you are a National supporter in a Labour constituency you may not appreciate ending up with two Labour MPs, a Green MP and a NZ First MP. Like PV, voters still rank individual candidates ( 1, 2, 3, etc) , but MPs are elected by receiving a minimum number of votes (called a quota).
Candidates who reach the quota from first preference votes are elected. As there are electorate seats to fill after first preference votes are counted, a two-step process follows.
First, votes the elected candidates received beyond the quota are transferred to the candidates ranked next on those votes. Candidates who then reach the quota are elected.
Second, if there are still electorate seats to fill, the lowest polling candidate is eliminated and their votes are transferred to the unelected candidates ranked next on those votes.
This two-step process is repeated until all the seats are filled.
So, if the country wants to keep MMP, then all we need to worry about is how to change it – i.e whether the threshold remains at 5%, whether MPs who lose their seats can come in off a safe list seat, whether list MPs should also stand as candidates for a constituency etc. If voters decide to change to another electoral system it’s a long drawn out process which will then need electorate boundary divisions quickly drawn up once we know what system is chosen.