Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Infrequently asked questions

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    thinly veiled front for National who officially "didn't do local body elections"

    Yeah. So you get Kerry Prendergast, who was sufficiently National to run as a parliamentary candidate in 1999, but not to declare herself a National candidate for mayor. Even our current mayor was a Green councillor, but AFAIK is an "independent" mayor and any Green Party adoption process (or lack of) is shrouded in mystery.

    I think they should all run for, and be adopted by, parties - then we'd know what we're getting.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4359 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    What was the rationale behind giving more partly list seats to a party that gets an electorate?
    It seem the main weakness of our current version of MMP.
    What is the calculation for this?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 451 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Richard Aston,

    What was the rationale behind giving more partly list seats to a party that gets an electorate?

    It increases proportionality, and diminishes the unfair aspects of having a threshold at all.

    The basic argument is that the rationales for denying representation to voters who support sub-5% parties are far weaker if that party is going to be in Parliament anyway.

    e.g. the 5% threshold is there in part to stop there being a whole bunch of single-MP parties in parliament, which would be bad for stability.

    This need for stability is considered so important that we are prepared to say to some voters that their votes don’t count.

    But that rationale for denying the supporters of that party a voice in proportion to their strength diminishes substantially if that party is going to be in Parliament anyway. In short, well, they’re going to be there anyway, you might as well give them a chance of being effective (in proportion to their share of the party vote).

    Denying them their proportional voice doesn’t decrease the likelihood of largely useless one-MP party (indeed it increases it), but it also increases the likelihood of a an effective Parliament (limiting sub-5% parties with one MP to that one MP means that party is less able to participate in debates, select committees, the scrutiny of legislation, holding the government to account etc.).

    Other rationales for denying Parliamentary representation to parties with low level support apply too: e.g. the threshold keeps out extremists: well they’re there anyway. The threshold discourages splintering of party support and encourages parties to form groups large enough that if they make it into Parliament, they’ll have a big enough voice to actually be effective: well, they’ve already fractured, and have made it into Parliament anyway etc.

    I wrote a post a couple of weeks back about changing my mind about the single seat rule, which you can read here.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • annamarama,

    I have been FAQing asking this in my head for a while, but I have never found out the answer, so perhaps it is iF.

    When the peeps are grumbling about the illegitimate list MPs not being real MPs, blah blah, don't deserve to be there, etc., I generally retort that if people don't want to vote for list MPs, they can just *not use* their party vote.

    But if many people did that (or didn't do that, rather) -- say everyone on the electoral roll cast their electoral vote, but only half of them cast a party vote, would the overall no. of MPs change?

    (I'm guessing no, because I suppose that would wreck proportionality in other, different ways. Which means I probably need a better retort.)

    Thanks, Graeme.

    Kingsland • Since Apr 2010 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to annamarama,

    But if many people did that (or didn’t do that, rather) – say everyone on the electoral roll cast their electoral vote, but only half of them cast a party vote, would the overall no. of MPs change?

    (I’m guessing no, because I suppose that would wreck proportionality in other, different ways. Which means I probably need a better retort.)

    Your guess is correct. If even one valid party vote is cast, Parliament will just as big as usual.

    Which raises another good question: what happens if no-one at all casts a (valid) party vote?

    I believe the answer would be that all parties would share equally in the seats, with any leftovers decided by lot, but I suspect it would be something that the Court of Appeal determined.

    The retort you may want is that some people consider that that is a problem, but one of the things that will happen if we vote to keep MMP is that there will be a review of the details of MMP by the Electoral Commission, and that review will look at whether we should move to open lists, where voters get a say in which list candidates are elected.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    How few list MPs could we have without adding constant overhang?

    99 MPs (29 list) in 2008 would see
    National 41+6
    Labour 21+15
    Green 0+7
    ACT 1+3
    Māori 5-2
    Jim 1+0
    United 1+0

    101 seats, Nat+ACT+Uni at 52, 2 overhang same as now. Still bugging me about that advert in your next post Graeme. One more overhang for Māori Party at 89 seats, but down to 84 before National gets an overhang, with only 14 list MPs! "Can have 99 MPs"!

    Since Nov 2006 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Phil Lyth,

    Conservative in 2011 similarly have ex-MP Baldock with one term of experience as a candidate.

    And Gordon Copeland in Hutt South.

    ACT in 2011 do not have a current MP as a candidate.

    John Boscawen is standing in Tāmaki.

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to annamarama,

    I generally retort that if people don’t want to vote for list MPs, they can just *not use* their party vote.

    Better would be a "no confidence" option (on both sides of the ballot).

    So (and I bet this is a very infrequently asked question), if a party wants to contest the party vote, does its list have to be non-empty?

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    if a party wants to contest the party vote, does its list have to be non-empty?

    Yes. Section 128(1)(c) of the Electoral Act requires the Electoral Commission to reject a list if it does not contain the name of at least 1 candidate.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    they’re going to be there anyway, you might as well, give them a chance of being effective (in proportion to their share of the party vote).

    Thanks for the explanation of the single seat exemption Graeme - I am still not convinced of the rationale above, it seems a bit wooly compared to the generally rigorous efforts to facilitate proportionality and ensure a stable parliament. They are in parliament anyway so we will give them a few bonus seats ... In practice it seems to give distorted power to those small parties that gain one seat and as the Epsom case is showing this distortion is deliberately being used to gain disproportionate power in parliament.
    Sorry but I still don't get it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 451 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Richard Aston,

    They are in parliament anyway so we will give them a few bonus seats

    They’re not bonus seats, they’re the seats they earned by getting tens of thousands of people to vote for them.

    In practice it seems to give distorted power to those small parties that gain one seat and as the Epsom case is showing this distortion is deliberately being used to gain disproportionate power in parliament.

    It gives disproportionate power to the voters in one electorate, but proportionate power to the party in Parliament.

    If you think of the party vote like this: 85,000 votes? That’s enough for 5 MPs. But let’s tell the people who voted for that party that their votes don’t count because not enough of them voted for that party for it to get 6 MPs (which 5% would get you). The party also won an electorate? Okay, we now we won’t tell the people who voted for that party that their votes are meaningless and irrelevant.

    The connection between the two might be weak, but the effect of the one-seat rule is that parties get the right number of seats instead of having their parliamentary strength artificially limited.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    John Boscawen is standing in Tāmaki.

    It always amused me that MPs stand for elections and then become a sitting MP.
    LAZY.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    It’s not lazy, it’s realistic…. they only have to stand for a month or two, and then sit for the next three years. :)

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 786 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to FletcherB,

    mmmmm MP....

    It’s not lazy, it’s realistic….
    they only have to stand for a month or two,
    and then sit for the next three years.

    from poll position
    to income bent...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Even our current mayor was a Green councillor, but AFAIK is an “independent” mayor and any Green Party adoption process (or lack of) is shrouded in mystery.

    Wade-Brown is a member of the Greens, but ran on an independent ticket. She hasn’t hidden the membership and is quite open about it, but the positioning is more than symbolic – she doesn’t consider herself beholden to the party, and considers herself a mayor for all Wellingtonians. There’s no firewall, but she does her own thing. People can be their own judge, but I think a similar precedent is found every time someone with a religious affiliation runs for public office. Rarely do they run as politically affiliated Christian (etc) candidates, but rarely do they hide their faith.

    This raises another arcane question – I’m pretty sure cross-party miscegenation is forbidden, but could one be a member of a political party and run as an independent in the general election?

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Richard, as I see it, the single electorate rule reduces disproportionality in some instances, but not in others (no electorate, <5%). It's this uneven application that seems wrong to some. Though there is reasoning behind it, it's certainly contestable, and based on a set of ideas and assumptions I don't share.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    @Richard, regarding small parties getting disproportionate power, that's increased by the 5% threshold in the first place. More small parties gives the Majors more ways to get a majority when things are tight, but the margin keeps them out and some of their seats go to the remaining smaller parties to give them more say.

    It's helped New Zealand First quite often, even though it killed them in '08.

    2002's a good example: with the threshold only Lab+NZF could realistically make a majority (with United and Greens being deeply opposed). Without it they still can, but so can Lab(+Jim) with either Green + Alliance or United Future + Christian Heritage, giving each small party much less power and the big ones more options. Someone like Michael Appelby sitting alone for the ALCP would have no real power, but could still act as a safety valve against any labour party defectors.

    Heh, with 99 MPs in 2002, the LGP option would pull ahead on Labour's 5-seat overhang. I would've liked that, even though it wasn't proportional. 8]

    Since Nov 2006 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    from poll position to income bent…

    Nice.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4613 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Section 128(1)(c) of the Electoral Act requires the Electoral Commission to reject a list if it does not contain the name of at least 1 candidate.

    That's a shame. Otherwise someone could start a no-candidates Ninja Party. Pirates vs Ninjas!

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    And another infrequently asked question: When are you going to stand as an independent candidate, Graeme?

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    And another infrequently asked question: When are you going to stand as an independent candidate, Graeme?

    Not before we adopt STV, which is the only system where independents seriously have a chance of being elected in New Zealand.
    [And probably not then, either]

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Tim McKenzie,

    That’s a shame.

    I agree. Someone could run a no confidence party with an empty list that reduced the size of Parliament by one for every MP they earned.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I'm not sure, a strong NC party would run candidates who voted down everthing untill there was a loss of confidence and a new election. (unless they got a majority of course)

    I bet if a NC party became a regular part of NZ politics the major parties would start competing NC parties to split the vote

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2031 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    a no confidence party with an empty list that reduced the size of Parliament by one for every MP they earned.

    A curiously attractive suggestion as a regular part of the system, though it might ultimately bring selfish California/Colorado-style consequences.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16272 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I guess there's an intermediate version that runs electorate candidates (who promise to resign asap) and an empty list

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2031 posts Report Reply

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