The Referendum: Choose Your Voting System 11-Nov-2011

November 11, 2011 10:16 pm

 Next year’s referendum gives you the chance to have your say on the voting system you’d like to use to elect our Parliaments in the future.

You will be asked two questions:

  • whether you want to keep MMP (which is the voting system we use at the moment) or whether you want to change to another voting system; and

  • which of four other voting systems you would choose if NZ decides to change from MMP.

    Article from Bulletin Aotearoa – November Issue.   

    Voting Systems on Offer

All these system have 120 Members of Parliament – but the number of electorates in each system can differ. Read on…

MMP – Mixed Member Proportional: In this (NZ’s current system) there 70 electorates, (both Maori and General). Each electorate elects one MP, called an Electorate MP. The other 50 MPs are elected from political party lists and are called List MPs.

Each voter gets two votes. The first vote (the party vote) is for the political party the voter chooses and largely decides the total number of seats each political party gets in Parliament. The second vote (the electorate vote) is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.

Currently, a political party that wins at least one electorate seat or 5% of the party vote gets a share of the seats in Parliament that is about the same as its share of the party vote (if a party gets 30% of the party vote it will get roughly 36 MPs in Parliament, and if it wins 20 electorate seats it will have 16 List MPs as well as its 20 Electorate MPs).

Coalitions or agreements between political parties are usually needed before Governments can be formed.

FPP – First Past the Post: in this there are 120 electorates, including the Maori electorates, and each elects one MP.

Each voter has one vote to choose the MP they want to represent the electorate they live in. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.

The winning party usually wins a share of the seats in Parliament larger than its share of all the votes across the country. Smaller parties usually receive a smaller share of seats than their share of all the votes.

A government can usually be formed without the need for coalitions or agreements between parties.

PV – Preferential Voting: there are 120 electorates, including the Maori electorates, elects one MP.

Each voter ranks the candidates – 1, 2, 3, etc – in the order they prefer them. A candidate who gets more than half of all the first preference “1” votes wins. If no candidate gets more than half the first preference votes, the candidate with the fewest “1” votes is eliminated and their votes go to the candidates each voter ranked next. This continues until one candidate has more than half the votes.

The winning party usually wins a share of the seats in Parliament larger than its share of all the votes across the country. It is hard for smaller parties to win seats in Parliament, but votes for smaller party candidates may influence who wins the seat because of second, third, etc preferences.

A government can usually be formed without the need for coalitions or agreements between parties.

STV – Single Transferable Vote: in this system each electorate (including the Maori electorates) has more than one MP. It is likely the 120 MPs would be divided between 24 and 30 electorates, each with 3 to 7 MPs.

Each voter has a single vote that is transferable. Voters rank the candidates (1, 2, 3, etc) in the order they prefer, OR they can vote for the order published in advance by the political party of their choice.

MPs are elected by receiving a minimum number of votes, known as the quota. This is based on the number of votes in each electorate and the number of MPs to be elected. Candidates who reach the quota from first preference votes are elected. If there are still electorate seats to fill, firstly the 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. Then, if there are still electorate seats to fill, the lowest polling candidate is eliminated and their votes are transferred to the candidates ranked next on those votes. These steps are repeated until all the seats are filled.

The number of MPs elected from each political party usually mirrors the party’s share of all the votes across the country.

Coalitions or agreements between political parties are usually needed before governments can be formed.

SM – Supplementary Member: there are 90 electorates in this one (including the Maori electorates). Each elects one MP, called an Electorate MP. The other 30 seats are called supplementary seats. MPs are elected to these seats from political party lists and are likely to be called List MPs.

Each voter gets two votes. The first vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes. The second vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote. The share of the 30 supplementary seats each party gets reflects its share of the party vote (if a party gets 30% of the party vote, it will get about 9 List MPs in Parliament, no matter how many electorate seats it wins). This makes SM different from MMP where a party’s share of all 120 seats mirrors its share of the party vote.

One or other of the major parties would usually have enough seats to govern alone, but coalitions or agreements between parties may sometimes be needed.


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