Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: At least we have MMP

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I should add that, despite the fact that the Maori electorates are inherently more likely to cause overhang than the general electorates, the system is still weighted against them.

    Maori electorates and general electorates represent the same number of people overall, but in 2008, the average general electorate was responsible for electing 1.849 MPs (1 electorate MP (duh!), and 0.849 list MPs). Because of lower enrolments and lower turnout, the average Maori electorate was responsible for electing 1.051 MPs (1 electorate MP, and 0.051 list MPs).

    In short, I completely dispute Angus's numbers.

    I'm not sure what it shows - and I wouldn't set up the system another way - but Angus's assumptions (that turnout is equal and demographics don't matter) mean his numbers are way off.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Wholly anecdotal - but supporting what you are writing Graeme: a large proportion of my Tai Toka whanau voted only for parties. They did not like the Labour candidate, and resented the Maori Party candidate, and not a lot of us vote Nacts. So, party votes went Labour or Green...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    I do think we should remove vote-splitting (so that an electorate vote implies a vote for the candidates party)

    ...and another "disagree" from me.

    In Welli Central (which has, I think, the highest Green Party vote in the country), there's been a tendency for many of us lefties to vote Green for our party vote and then strategically vote for the Labour candidate to keep the Nat candidate (or Prebble back in the day) out.

    Hence in the last election we achieved a 20%+ Green Party vote AND helped Grant Robertson (Lab) to beat Stephen Franks (Nat) by a coupla thousand votes when their party vote figures had the Nats ahead of Labour by 345.

    I value the ability to use one of my two votes strategically, and to me it's a fundamentally important aspect of MMP. I certainly wouldn't want to lose it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 329 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The Maori seats are a taonga and not for the rest of us to decide on.

    Oh, bullshit -- I know it's tempting to retcon history to serve contemporary needs but it might be a little more useful to acknowledge that the history and motivations were a wee bit more ambiguous. Personally, I think Maori seats are a dated relic that should go the same way as the property qualification and the idea that folks with lady-parts were just too emotional to vote responsibly. There are plenty of counter-arguments, I'm sure, but not for de facto disenfranchisement when it come to election a government that binds all of us.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I tend to agree with Craig, that the Maori seats aren't actually a good idea. But of all the things that could be fixed in MMP that one is way down my list. The dangers of Maori political overrepresentation just don't seem that scary to me. I'd sooner that the 5% threshold was reduced (which could make removal of the Maori seats seem less scary to Maori). Then the Epsom debacle would be less of a problem. Sure, we'd have ACT, but we'd also have counter-ACT. In fact, I think that it might even be likely that there would be a faction of ACT I would actually like. We certainly wouldn't have the major parties strategically deciding which electorates to give away so as to pick and choose who the threshold applies to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Maori electorates and general electorates represent the same number of people overall, but in 2008, the average general electorate was responsible for electing 1.849 MPs (1 electorate MP (duh!), and 0.849 list MPs). Because of lower enrolments and lower turnout, the average Maori electorate was responsible for electing 1.051 MPs (1 electorate MP, and 0.051 list MPs).

    List MPs are an aggregate of all votes across all seats, so a comparison with electorates isn't particularly valid.

    This applies to the overhang as well. The reason the Maori Party end up with an overhang is that they don't get the required level of party vote, not just in Maori seats but in all seats, to bring in a member from the list.

    Personally, I think Maori seats are a dated relic that should go the same way as the property qualification and the idea that folks with lady-parts were just too emotional to vote responsibly

    So, how do you feel about a party that thinks Maori shouldn't decide for themselves, and had a policy of abolishing the Maori seats irrespective of Maori views to the contrary ? Oh, and at the same time as campaigning on promoting personal choice.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    So, how do you feel about a party that thinks Maori shouldn't decide for themselves, and had a policy of abolishing the Maori seats irrespective of Maori views to the contrary ? Oh, and at the same time as campaigning on promoting personal choice.

    About the same way I feel about women's suffrage being decided by an all-male Parliament in 1893 (though points off for not allowing women to stand for Parliament until after the First World War!) Or the delicious irony that my civil rights as a gay man are protected by two bills in the name of a pair of heterosexual women. I sleep well, thanks for asking.

    Unless Darth Brownlee has stripped Maori of their citizenship and voting rights while I wasn't looking, Maori are still entitled to vote, make submissions to any bill before the House and lobby their sweet little arses off.

    I'm also rather tired of having to remind the media-political complex that Maori aren't Te Borg; perhaps "Maori views" on this topic are a little more diverse than the MSM knows, or cares about.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The reason the Maori Party end up with an overhang is that they don't get the required level of party vote, not just in Maori seats but in all seats, to bring in a member from the list.

    That's not a reason. It's a description. An overhang is when a party doesn't get enough party votes to account for all its electorate seats. (You can also say an overhang is when a party wins too many electorate seats compared to its party vote share).

    And it avoids the question "what's the reason the Maori Party didn't get the level of party vote required to avoid overhang?" And I suggest the answer to that question is "because electorates are drawn with respect to population, rather than voting age population, and this (along with enrolment and turnout, which are influenced by voter age) means that the Maori electorates have vastly fewer voters in them."

    I've done the numbers (and am inclined to turn this into a fully argued post) and if the Maori electorates had the same number of voters as the general electorates, there would be no overhang.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • mic weevil,

    "if the Maori electorates had the same number of voters as the general electorates, there would be no overhang."

    because (in the last election) there would've been two less maori electorates?

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    because (in the last election) there would've been two less maori electorates?

    I didn't do the numbers that way, but I suspect that applies too (it's harder to work out, as who is to say that 5 Maori seats would be split 3-2 between the Maori Party and Labour - it could be 4-1).

    Instead, I re-did the numbers of the basis that a whole bunch of extra voters suddenly appeared in the Maori electorates, and voted in the same proportions as those already there.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    No, it disadvantages the Maori Party. We have a 120 seat Parliament. The Maori Party won 5 of those seats. That's 4.17% of Parliament. But we have an overhang. Which means the Maori Party get 4.10% of Parliament, despite winning 5 seats.

    And what proportion of the party vote did the Māori Party get?

    However boundaries are drawn with respect not to the voting age population, but to the electoral population, which includes non-voters, especially children.

    How do they decide if a child is a non-voter on the Māori roll or a non-voter on the general roll?

    Maori electorates and general electorates represent the same number of people overall, but in 2008, the average general electorate was responsible for electing 1.849 MPs (1 electorate MP (duh!), and 0.849 list MPs). Because of lower enrolments and lower turnout, the average Maori electorate was responsible for electing 1.051 MPs (1 electorate MP, and 0.051 list MPs).

    I'm not sure how meaningful these numbers are. List MPs aren't elected by electorates. They're determined by the party votes cast by all eligible voters who choose to use their party votes. And the 50 list seats aren't even given in proportion to party votes; they're allocated so that the whole 120-seat Parliament is in proportion to the party votes. But an overhang distorts this proportionality in favour of the party whose disproportionate success in geographical electorates caused the overhang.

    In this thread, I'm not trying to advocate for or against the present system; I'm just trying to clarify exactly how it works --- for myself as much as for anyone else.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    Another way of looking at it is (at the 2008 election): a vote for NZF was worth nothing (despite being over 4% of the party vote) while a 2% Maori Party vote got them to overhang/hang over the parliament.
    - Does that mean Maori voters are worth infinitely more than NZFP ones?
    - Should Winston Peters campaign in Maori electorates only since that would have yielded seats instead of wilderness?

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Instead, I re-did the numbers of the basis that a whole bunch of extra voters suddenly appeared in the Maori electorates, and voted in the same proportions as those already there.

    I did the same, and this is what I got:

    Using your numbers: Average general roll = 44,534, average Maori roll = 32,809.

    So, vote increase in Maori seats is 0.357.

    This results in 48,732 extra voters across all 7 seats, and brings total party votes to 2,405,295.

    Maori Party get 14,165 extra party votes across the 7 seats, bringing their total party vote to 70,145.

    2,405,295 / 120 = 20,044 party votes required to get one list MP.

    So, the Maori Party earn enough votes for 3 list MPs. Ergo, the overhang of 2 MPs is still the same.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    Maori electorates and general electorates represent the same number of people overall, but in 2008, the average general electorate was responsible for electing 1.849 MPs (1 electorate MP (duh!), and 0.849 list MPs). Because of lower enrolments and lower turnout, the average Maori electorate was responsible for electing 1.051 MPs (1 electorate MP, and 0.051 list MPs).

    Oh, and according to these numbers, the general electorates elected 1.849 * 63 = 116.487 MPs, and the Māori electorates elected 1.051 * 7 = 7.357 MPs, for a total of 123.844 MPs in Parliament. I don't think this is right.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    How do they decide if a child is a non-voter on the Māori roll or a non-voter on the general roll?

    The Maori electoral population is determined by taking the number of residents of Maori Descent, and multiplying it by the proportion of of people of Maori descent who are enrolled to vote and are enrolled on the Maori roll.

    Bascially if 60% of people of Maori descent enrol on the Maori roll, 60% of the children of Maori descent are counted as being represented through the Maori roll.

    I'm not sure how meaningful these numbers are. List MPs aren't elected by electorates. They're determined by the party votes cast by all eligible voters who choose to use their party votes. And the 50 list seats aren't even given in proportion to party votes; they're allocated so that the whole 120-seat Parliament is in proportion to the party votes.

    I'm aware the list seats are allocated over the whole 120 seats. The voters in an average Maori electorate have enough party votes between them to elect 1.051 MPs. The voters in the average general electorate (because there are many more of them per electorate) have enough party votes between them to elect 1.849 MPs. When allocating list seats, you first look at how many electorates have been won, for voters in Maori electorates, this means, collectively, they have very little say in the divvying up of list seats. They help ensure overall proportionality, and individually have as much sway as anyone, but collectively, their votes mostly band together to ensure there isn't more of an overhang, rather than deciding actual list seats.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Oh, and according to these numbers, the general electorates elected 1.849 * 63 = 116.487 MPs, and the Māori electorates elected 1.051 * 7 = 7.357 MPs, for a total of 123.844 MPs in Parliament. I don't think this is right.

    It's not. I'd been looking at the last two elections (our only overhangs), and noticed this morning that I'd been working off the 2005 electorate numbers for both sets of data: 62 general seats, 7 Maori seats.

    As you note, in 2008, there were 63 general electorates. The numbers will change a little, but not very much. I was intending to go back and re-do them when I had a chance at home tonight.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    However boundaries are drawn with respect not to the voting age population, but to the electoral population, which includes non-voters, especially children.

    I had always assumed that electorates were based on voter numbers, not total population, but that makes a great deal of sense.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6208 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    I suggest sufficient Maori voters used their votes tactically to increase their representation.

    I've done the numbers (and am inclined to turn this into a fully argued post) and if the Maori electorates had the same number of voters as the general electorates, there would be no overhang.

    Because having larger electorates makes it impossible for voters to vote tactically for their own advantage? Seats like Epsom or Tauranga or Coromandel, are all examples of larger electorates.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Because having larger electorates makes it impossible for voters to vote tactically for their own advantage?

    No. Because if the numbers of voters in the electorates increased, the proportion of the list vote that the Maori party would earn would increase, as they got higher relative list votes in the Maori electorates.

    So their list vote percentage would increase from about 2.5 to 3.something.

    And yet they wouldn't pick up any additional electorate candidates, as no more electorates created.

    Eventually the list vote would give them 5 MPs, which is the number of electorates they won.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6208 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I had always assumed that electorates were based on voter numbers, not total population, but that makes a great deal of sense.

    It's an old National Party "rort". Back in the day, rural National-Party-voting people had larger families, by setting boundaries by reference to overall population, there were more safe National seats.

    It's certainly defensible on other grounds, and overall, I support it, but the reason it is that way now is that it has been that way for a while.

    Because having larger electorates makes it impossible for voters to vote tactically for their own advantage? Seats like Epsom or Tauranga or Coromandel, are all examples of larger electorates.

    I'm not talking about tactical voting, I'm talking about overhang. Larger seats are less likely to cause overhang. Maori-party caused overhang is substantially a result of low voter turnout in the electorates the Maori party represents, not tactical voting in those electorates.

    Lots of voters vote tactically: only 16.4% of Act Party voters voted for an ACT candidate. This was clearly a tactical vote, primarily exercised to try to ensure that local representation was more likely to be by a National Party MP. In contrast 60% of Maori Party voters voted for a Maori Party candidate.

    I suggest sufficient Maori voters used their votes tactically to increase their representation.

    As I pointed out above, the lower voting numbers in Maori electorates can easily result in an overhang even in the total absence of split voting.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    The voters in an average Maori electorate have enough party votes between them to elect 1.051 MPs. The voters in the average general electorate (because there are many more of them per electorate) have enough party votes between them to elect 1.849 MPs.

    I'm still not sure how useful these numbers are. It sounds like a round-about way of saying that voters in Māori electorates have a disproportionate influence on the distribution of electorate MPs; as you point out, individual voters in Māori electorates have as much influence as any other voters on the overall proportionality of Parliament --- unless their disproportionate influence on numbers of electorate MPs causes an overhang.

    No, it disadvantages the Maori Party. We have a 120 seat Parliament. The Maori Party won 5 of those seats. That's 4.17% of Parliament. But we have an overhang. Which means the Maori Party get 4.10% of Parliament, despite winning 5 seats.

    To answer my own question about this, the Māori Party got 2.39% of the party vote. In a system that's meant to be proportional, how are they disadvantaged by having 4.10% of Parliament?

    At the moment, I'm not saying anything about whether proportionality is good or bad, I'm just trying to assess our version of MMP by its own standards --- as an allegedly proportional system.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Eventually the list vote would give them 5 MPs, which is the number of electorates they won.

    But, as Mikaere shows above, "eventually" does not happen until the Maori electorates are have more voters than general roll electorates.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    I'm not talking about tactical voting, I'm talking about overhang.

    There's no difference, overhang is tactical advantage. Both increase the chance of a voter getting their representatives into government.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    But, as Mikaere shows above, "eventually" does not happen until the Maori electorates are have more voters than general roll electorates.

    Mikaere's numbers are wrong (my apologies for not noticing his comment earlier). He assumes that you earn a seat with c. 20k votes. This is false. Without a threshold, at the last election, a party could have earned a seat with 9,160 votes. Three seats would have been earned with 46,611 votes, and five seats with 85,411 votes. That's just how the Sainte-Laguë method works out, which I note isn't applied in his analysis.

    Re-reading what I said, I may have inadvertantly caused him to make an 'error'. When I said "voted in the same proportions as those already there" I meant voted for each party in proportion to the votes already cast. I was not assuming, as he has done, that Maori-seat enrolled voters would still stay away from the polls in the same proportions. His analysis has been done on the basis of equalising the number of enrolled voters; mine was based on equalising the number of actual voters (i.e. the same level of turnout in general electorates and Maori electorates).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Another way of looking at it is (at the 2008 election): a vote for NZF was worth nothing (despite being over 4% of the party vote) while a 2% Maori Party vote got them to overhang/hang over the parliament.

    I read that as that the Maori Party vote was also "worth nothing", but that was created by overhang and the threshold, rather than just the threshold. I expect a lot of Maori voters saw this and cast party votes to something they thought would not be a waste. If there was no overhang and/or no threshold, this kind of tactical voting would not seem like such a good idea, and the Maori Party might get a lot more of the party vote. I very much doubt that their real support is only 2%.

    - Does that mean Maori voters are worth infinitely more than NZFP ones?

    That's reductio ad absurdum on the idea that a vote that doesn't yield representation is a wasted vote. It's akin to the idea that voting for anyone but National or ACT was pointless in the last election because they won, so everyone else got no power. Every vote, including "no vote", has some worth, transmits some information, generates some mandate.

    - Should Winston Peters campaign in Maori electorates only since that would have yielded seats instead of wilderness?

    Good luck with that, Winston.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

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