Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Voting Referendum: Jus' Sayin'

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    p.s. it is my intention to be a fact-checker of referendum advertising (and coverage?) over the course of the referendum campaign. If anyone sees something they want checked, flick me a message.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    And I’m going start with this piece from the NBR:

    New Zealand parliamentary specialist Dr David Lindsey, of the University of Auckland, said business favoured FPP because it delivered a government on election night and certainty for the few years.

    “FPP is great if you want stability and certainty for three years. You know what policies you are going to get,” Dr Lindsey said.

    He said SM would get some support, not because it would result in a more stable government but from a business point of view would not make a material difference.

    “SM may have an attraction in the general population because it minimises further the wasted vote. It takes the MMP wasted votes and re-allocates them.”

    1. Except in very close elections, Supplementary Member (SM) is likely to result in a single-party majority government by whichever party wins the most electorates. It will usually give a government no different from first past the post (FPP).

    2. SM does not take the MMP wasted votes and re-allocate them. This statement is so wrong I have know idea where the suggestion comes from. And compared with MMP, it does not minimise the wasted vote.

    The 2011 referendum is not proposing any voting systems that change the number of MPs in Parliament or the number of Maori seats and all voting systems would have at least 120 members.

    3. Every one of the alternatives to MMP in the referendum would change the number of Maori seats. Currently 7 under MMP, FPP, PV, and STV would see 12 or 13 Maori seats and SM would see 9 or 10. The 2011 referendum does not propose to change the method of calculating the number of Maori seats, but the results of that calculation would certainly change.

    … the supplementary member systems means voters elect a certain number of MPs in straight first-past-the-post electorate races.

    A number of MPs are also elected from party lists depending on the proportion of votes the party gets.

    This can be done through a second vote or using the vote for the electorate candidate as an indication of party preference.

    4. The Electoral Referendum Act says that if we adopted supplementary member, it would be the two vote version. The Electoral Commission’s advertising makes this clear:

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Thanks Graeme -- this looks really useful and I appreciate you stepping up as a fact-checker.

    I say "looks" because there's no way you're getting me to engage with STV after 5pm on a Friday ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • vangam, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Thanks Graeme -- this looks really useful and I appreciate you stepping up as a fact-checker

    So useful it'll take days of re-reading for a proper understanding to be realised.

    Rangiora • Since Jun 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    there's no way you're getting me to engage with STV after 5pm on a Friday

    Ae, not even with videos

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • bmk,

    STV does suffer from the unfortunate thing that it can also stand for Sexually Transmitted Virus. I am sure this will cost it some votes in the ballot box. Who's gonna vote for a STV?

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Curran,

    I find it annoying that there's only ever talk of wholesale change, never the option of tinkering with what we have. It seems rather excessive when with a little tinkering we'd have a system everyone but Garth George would be happy with.

    I'd love a version of MMP where parties had to get over the 5% threshold to get any list MP's.

    Since May 2011 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Anything but FPP - too vulnerable to statistical distortion and gerrymandering. Some form of preferential voting system would be the best of a bad lot.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Ben Curran,

    find it annoying that there's only ever talk of wholesale change, never the option of tinkering with what we have. It seems rather excessive when with a little tinkering we'd have a system everyone but Garth George would be happy with.

    That's kind of an option. If "keep MMP" gets at least half the votes on the first question in the referendum then the Electoral Commission will conduct a review of MMP which will look at tinkering with it. The review will look at:

    1. The threshold for gaining list seats (5% of valid party votes or a win in an electorate);
    2. The overhang (when the size of Parliament increases if a party wins more electorates than its party vote would entitle it in seats overall);
    3. Dual candidacy (the ability for someone to contest both an electorate and on a party list AND the ability of MPs to contest by-elections);
    4. Open lists (whether the party or the voters, or some combination, should determine the order that MPs are elected from the lists);
    5. The ratio of list seats to electorate seats, and this has on proportionality;
    6. Anything else the Government or Parliament later decides it wants them to look at, or they themselves want to look at, at except Māori representation, and the number of members or Parliament.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Ben Curran,

    I would actually prefer a zero threshold. To me it wasn't undemocratic that Act had MPs as a result of Rodney Hide winning Epsom, what was undemocratic was that NZ First didn't have any MPs despite winning a larger share of the vote.

    I feel if enough people vote for a party to get them a list MP (I am guessing about 0.8% - would this be right Graeme?) then those people deserve a list MP.

    I don't agree with the idea that if a party gets say 5.0% of the vote they are entitled to 6 MPs whereas a party that gets 4.9% of the vote get none. By doing this you are in effect saying to people your vote doesn't count even though you make up nearly one in twenty people.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to bmk,

    I feel if enough people vote for a party to get them a list MP (I am guessing about 0.8% - would this be right Graeme?) then those people deserve a list MP.

    Around 0.4% will get you one MP under our current system. ~1.2% will get you 2 MPs. ~2.0-2.1% will get your 3 MPs. ~2.8-3.0% will get you 4 MPs.

    However, I suspect that if we were to adopt a zero threshold, we'd make it slightly harder to get the first seat.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    FPP may be great if you want stability and certainty on election night, but I don't see that it automatically follows that it delivers greater stability or certainty over the 3 year term. Last time I looked at any academic research on this (a year or two back), the academic in question, David Farrell, came to the conclusion that FPP offered no discernable advantage so far as stability goes (although how stability is defined I cannot remember)

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    How does that work exactly? 120 seats suggest to me that every 5% should get 6 seats. Mathematically I get that if all seats were to be allocated evenly every 0.83% earns one seat. But obviously it doesn't work that way? How come?

    I want a zero % threshold but then I don't think someone should get a seat with 0.4% of the vote because this would mean that despite having got only 0.4% of the vote they would make up 0.83% of the parliament. This is equally undemocratic.

    I think a zero % threshold should be introduced but then the seat allocation should be purely mathematic. So for each 0.83% you get one seat. At the end whatever seats are unallocated go to whoever was closest to their next 0.83 point.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to bmk,

    How does that work exactly? 120 seats suggest to me that every 5% should get 6 seats. Mathematically I get that if all seats were to be allocated evenly every 0.83% earns one seat. But obviously it doesn't work that way? How come?

    Simplifying a bit: rounding. You get the first seat at ~0.41% and each seat thereafter is an additional ~0.83%.

    It's one of the foibles of the Sainte-Laguë method, but it does result in a more proportional parliament.

    All vote allocation counting systems will have weird effects under certain circumstances. Your one from the Alabama Paradox, for example.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Is the fact that it is possible to get some seats with less than 0.83% also the (ultimate) source of overhangs, or am I mixing up two entirely independent features of the system?

    Winning a first electorate seat requires merely a plurality of electorate votes (for which, in most cases, ca. 40% of votes cast will be sufficient); and there are more electorate than list seats at present – which means that this threshold must also be considerably less than 0.83% of the total, and in some circumstances (such as a smaller electorate, with many candidates having non-negligible support) could even be less than 0.41%.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1942 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    2. SM does not take the MMP wasted votes and re-allocate them. This statement is so wrong I have know idea where the suggestion comes from. And compared with MMP, it does not minimise the wasted vote.

    I presume they're referring to the electorate vote, which is basically a FPP vote. Not fair to compare MMP with anything by picking up the FPP electorate vote however.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Is the fact that it is possible to get some seats with less than 0.83% also the (ultimate) source of overhangs, or am I mixing up two entirely independent features of the system?

    The overhang is caused by having won more electorates then your list vote entitles you to. It's the instance in which it's impossible to maintain proportionality. So no, it doesn't really relate to the low threshold of list votes.

    If we no longer had any 5% threshold and a party won 0.5% of the vote, therefore getting one list seat, there wouldn't be any overhang. If they won 0.2% of the vote, but won 1 electorate seat, there would be an overhang however.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I voted for MMP last time (apparently the only person in NZ to admit that) and I feel I will vote for it again. The alternatives seem to range from sexually transmitted disease to an accountant’s wet dream with the people in charge not able to grasp the finer points
    MMP could do with some tiding up, I am not happy with the power it gives parties via the list, so maybe a smaller list and more electorate seats and of course the threshold which if lowered could lead to a multiplication of smaller parties and instability. So maybe try lowering it and see what happens

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    ..my “what voting system should I choose” tool (chocolate fish for the person who can come up with the snappiest name)

    Hmmm... MMP, FPP, PV, STV & SM...

    - Don't know who to vote for?
    At last no more acronymbly dithering!
    Cast away with confidence on the
    GE ElectroElectoralNominator

    or

    - Get straight to the point of order
    with the Edgeler Pick Axe

    or there's always
    Robotic assistance

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Out of interest I made a spreadsheet and calculated the 2008 election with a zero percent threshold using 'my' (sure there is an actual name for it) allocation method and came up with this being the result:
    National 54
    Labour 41
    Green 8
    Maori Party 5 (be entitled to 3 - thus creating overhang of 2)
    NZ First 5
    ACT 4
    Progressive 1
    United 1
    Bill & Ben 1
    Kiwi Party 1
    ALCP 1

    Does anyone know how this election would have looked with a zero percent threshold using our St Lague method of allotment? Would be interested to see how/if it differed from what I have above.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to linger,

    Is the fact that it is possible to get some seats with less than 0.83% also the (ultimate) source of overhangs, or am I mixing up two entirely independent features of the system?

    No. Indeed, it means overhang is less likely.

    Overhang is, as noted, what occurs when a registered party that is contesting the party vote wins more electorates than its party vote would give it overall seats. If a party wins 1 electorate, but has to get 0.83% of the party vote to “earn” it’s first seat, then it is more likely to cause overhang than if all it needs is ~0.41% of the party vote.

    Overhang is caused by two things:

    1. Split voting – voters voting for a party with their electorate vote and a different party with their party vote. If enough people do this, in the same electorates, a party can win ‘too many’ electorates, and cause overhang.

    2. Low voter turnout: caused by either people not voting, or people not be able to vote (e.g. because of youth). We draw our electoral boundaries with respect to population as a whole, not voting age population, which causes some electorates (the Māori electorates in particular, due to the relative youth of the Māori population) to have substantial lower numbers of eligible voters.

    Māori Party candidates received 76,836 electorate votes between them. Had these been evenly spread over the Māori electorates, and had all these voters also party voted Māori Party, and no other person in the country had party voted Māori Party (i.e. no split voting at all, same turnout as now), then the overhang would be three.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to bmk,

    Does anyone know how this election would have looked with a zero percent threshold using our St Lague method of allotment?

    Here's one I prepared earlier.

    New Zealand National Party – 55 seats
    New Zealand Labour Party – 41 seats
    The Greens – 8 seats
    New Zealand First Party – 5 seats
    Māori Party – 5 seats
    Act New Zealand – 4 seats
    Jim Anderton’s Progressive – 1 seat
    United Future New Zealand – 1 seat
    The Kiwi Party – 1 seat
    The Bill and Ben Party – 1 seat

    Which might have led to the following blocks:

    National, ACT, United Future, Kiwi Party - 61 seats
    Labour, Progressives, Greens, New Zealand First, Māori Party - 60
    Bill - 1

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    So the only difference between the two methods in this case would be that under the St Lague method National get 1 more seat and ALCP don't get a seat. This makes me think 'my' method is superior to the St Lague method:)

    Which would have actually made a huge difference in voting blocks. The only realistic easy governing solution would be a National-Green coalition because I couldn't see the National party getting the Family Party and ALCP happy with each other.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to bmk,

    Which would have actually made a huge difference in voting blocks. The only realistic easy governing solution would be a National-Green coalition because I couldn’t see the National party getting the Family Party and ALCP happy with each other.

    How about the one we have now?
    National + Māori Party + Act (+ United Future) = 63 (or 64) seats.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Of course that was the initial one I saw last night then forgot about that today. That would be in fact be the most likely scenario.

    So I disagree with people who say that a zero threshold will mean that stable governments cannot be formed.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

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