The case for SM

Next month’s election will decide who governs for the next three years.

The referendum on the electoral system which is to be held the same day could determine how we’re governed for decades.

The anti-change movement has been more vocal until now but people encouraging a vote for change are beginning to speak out.

Jane Clifton has an MMP guide in this week’s Listener  (it included a an error which Graeme Edgler corrected). Sir Geoffrey Palmer put the case for MMP and Roger Kerr put the case for change.

The Maxim Institute which published Kicking The Tyres Choosing a Voting System for New Zealand last month has today issued two more papers.

The first is “A Better Mix: Why SM strikes the best balance and should be New Zealand’s voting system.”

The second is   “Enhancing MMP: How to improve New Zealand’s current voting system.”

They correctly point out all systems have their faults:

“There is no perfect voting system. Deciding which system is best for New Zealand involves making trade-offs among a whole range of criteria—local and interest group representation, legitimacy, accountability and stability of government being just a few of those criteria. After evaluating all the systems on offer at this year’s voting systems referendum, we believe the system that strikes the best balance is SM (Supplementary Member),” says Steve Thomas, Researcher at Maxim Institute. “We also believe that if MMP is kept it could be improved in several ways.”

“There are two broad types of voting systems: majoritarian systems and proportional systems. SM, like MMP, mixes elements of both majoritarian and proportional voting systems. But where MMP is designed to be more proportional, SM is the opposite—it generally produces majoritarian outcomes,” says Thomas.“Mixed systems are a good option for New Zealand, as they allow people to vote for both a candidate and a party to represent them, but we think that SM is the better option.”

“Majoritarian systems sometimes get a bad name, with a perception that proportional systems produce‘fairer’ outcomes. This argument sounds intuitively right, but it does not actually stack up. Majoritarian systems, like SM, can produce a ‘fair’ outcome because the result is representative of which parties most people voted for in their electorates—it all depends on what is meant by ‘fair.’”

“We also think that SM would be beneficial for representation. There would be 90 electorate MPs if SM were used in New Zealand, so it would be weighted more towards electorate representation than MMP is. We think that electorate representation is important for providing a direct relational connection between parliament and local communities. Parties and list MPs can only provide for this kind of representation indirectly. The 30 list MPs that there would be under SM would still enable various non-geographic communities, such as ethnic, minority and interest groups, to be represented in parliament.”

“Under SM, it would also be more likely that single-party majority governments would form. This would provide for stable government and bring clarity of focus to government policy, as the major parties would not have to make policy concessions to the minor parties in return for their support. The reduced influence of the minor parties would decrease the instances of interest group politics unduly influencing parliament and the government’s agenda. Obviously this has other negative trade-offs but we believe that, on balance, this is the best way to go.”

“Proportional representation is not the only factor that should be considered in choosing a voting system. When all factors, like legitimacy; effectiveness and stability of government; representation; accountability; and the need for opposition and oversight are taken into account, we believe that SM strikes the best balance.”

I voted against MMP and opted for FPP in previous referenda.

I don’t want a return to FPP but I do want change from MMP and agree with the points made above.

Electorates are far too big under MMP, reducing representation for people under a system which increases the power of parties.

SM gives, more and therefore smaller, electorates while still allowing for an element of proportionality and a better chance for the wee parties to be represented than FPP.

8 Responses to The case for SM

  1. Don McKenzie says:

    Would hardly matter what system of voting we had if BCIR Swiss style was also part of electoral reform.

  2. So, do you prefer MMP or FPP in a runoff?

  3. homepaddock says:

    Don – the system always matters.

    Dave – That’s a toughie. I haven’t thought about it sufficiently yet, but a gut reaction is the disadvantages of MMP outweigh those of FPP for me.

  4. Andrei says:

    How does SM fix anything – we still have the repulsive list MPs, we still have, unless the law is written to prevent it, Repugnant toe rag MPs kicked out by their electorate returning via the list etc.

    I want all MPs to be accountable to the electorate not elite list committees.

    We need to take this country back from wacko pressure groups and put it back into the hands of the rational and sane – if we can, which I doubt

  5. Adolf Fiinkensein says:

    The problem with Dave Crampton’ question is that you don’t know what sort of MMP he is referring to.

    The question should be ‘do you prefer current MMP, adjusted MMP or FFP?

    In my view this whole referendum is deeply flawed because people do not have a chance to pit an amended MMP against FFP.

    My own preference is for an amended MMP where defeated electorate candidates cannot slide back in on the list and the threshold for gaining list seats without an electorate seat is pushed up to at least seven or eight percent.

    Good night Winston and maybe good night Greens

  6. bulaman says:

    Still does not reduce the size of our parliament to 60. Put that on the ballot and see how it goes!

  7. homepaddock says:

    Not all list MPs are awful, Andrei.

    Adolf – that won’t make electorates smaller or reduce the power of parties.

    Bulaman – we’d have more than 100 electorates now if we’d stayed with FPP. Only 60 would make them even bigger than they are now.

  8. bulaman says:

    If the answer is more politicians then it was a silly question!

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