Referendum tool helps sort out options


Confused about the referendum on electoral systems? Not sure which one to opt for?

Legal Beagle Graeme Edgeler has come up with a referendum tool which could help you work out which system is best for you.

He explains about it here.

If you want to skip the explanation, the tool is here.

As you click on each question, the tool ranks the options based on your answer.

I did it very quickly and finished with Supplementary Member ahead followed by First Past the Post then Preferential Vote, Mixed member Proportional and Single Transferable Vote was a very distant fifth.

No to MMP not necessarily no to proportionality


Those opposing a referendum on MMP seem to be saying it will mean a return to First Past the Post. But there are other alternatives which may be considered including Supplementary Member, Single Transferable Vote and Preverential Voting.

The chances of us getting a referendum aren’t high because National, which will campaign on the issue, would almost certainly need the support of at least one of the wee parties to do it and Act and United are the only other parties which say they trust us to choose our voting system.

If we do get a say, I’d prefer to be able to rank the choices rather than just tick one because that could split the vote and allow a less popular system through, which ironically is one of the criticisms of FPP.

However, regardless of the referendum, MMP can’t continue forever without some changes because proportionality declines after each census and it will eventually be too far out of kilter.

That happens because when the boundaries are reviewed more electorates are created in the North Island, to keep the number of people in them equal to the number in the 16 South Island electorates which are determined by law. This means every six years the North Island gets more general seats and there is a corresponding decrease in the number of list seats.

We started with 60 electorate and 60 list seats in 1996; after this election there will be 70 electorates (including the Maori seats) and only 50 list seats.

Another problem with the boundry revision under MMP is that rural electorates are getting too big. I am not suggesting we should change from one person one vote; but I do want a system which recognises there is a limit to the area we can expect an MP to service.

People in an electorate covering 38,247 square kilometres (as Clutha Southland, the largest general electorate does) can not hope to get the same ease of access to their MP as those whose MP has to cover an area of just 23 square kilometres as Epsom, the smallest general electorate.

It doesn’t matter who the MPs are nor which party they represent, it is humanly impossible to service these huge rural electorates as easily or effectively as the smaller city seats.

P.S. For more on this issue see the Herald where Clare Trevett backgrounds the case for a referendum on MMP and looks at alternatives.

What’s wrong with letting us choose?


Labour won’t support  National’s plan to hold a referendum on MMP.

What are they afraid of?

A referendum is a very blunt instrument for a very important matter and I’d prefer a Royal Commission or something similar to investigate the options before it goes to the people, but I don’t have any problem with giving people a choice.

It’s our voting system and many people believe that we were promised a referendum two terms after MMP was introduced. We weren’t – all that was promised was a review which was done by the politicians who had most to lose by any change. However, the belief that we were promised a say persists and even if it didn’t, a chance to look at the pluses and minuses of MMP and alternatives such as Single Transferable Vote or Supplementary Member is welcome.

If MMP is working well and people are happy with it the referendum will give it a stronger mandate than the 1993 one which brought it in; if people have problems with it then we’ll get something which might be better.

Labour isn’t comfortable with giving people a say but that’s not surprising, they’ve spent nine years proving they think they know what’s best for us, whether or not we agree.

[Update: I’ve just found today’s Herald editorial which supports the referendum too. It’s here.]

DCC Leaves STV/FPP Decision on Table


The Dunedin City Council  decided its decision on whether to keep the Single Transferable Vote system or return to First Past the Post should stay on the table until it receives more information.

The decision has to be made by September 12th but a review of the ward system won’t be held until next year and councillors want to know if both the voting and ward system can be reviewed at the same time.

Dunedin residents voted for STV for council elections but Labour imposed this system on all of us for health boards and it hasn’t worked. Health board elections are a farce anyway because the majority of the board is appoitne, and elected or appointed the Board is responsible to the Minister, not the people in its area.

But STV made the elections even more of a farce. It works best in big electorates so did away with wards but in areas like Otago,  Dunedin city voters far out-number the three and a half rural Districts together. It also requires sufficient knowledge of enough of the candidates to make an informed choice and few if any of us have that.

I knew enough about six of the candidates in last year’s election to vote for only two of them – and I discovered later than my positive view of one of them was misplaced.

STV proponents say the system means no votes are wasted and gives those elected more of a mandate. But in the first health board election under STV one person gained a place on a board with a 19th preference – that doesn’t seem like a very good mandate to me.

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