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Donald and Pat Scott
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Submitted on 20/02/2012 - 11:12pm relating to the issues Basis for eligibility for list seats (thresholds), By-election candidates, Dual Candidacy, Order of candidates on the list, Overhang, Proportion of electorate seats to list seats
Should the 5% threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?:
The threshold should be brought down to 4%. The present threshold(5%) means that a party achieving 4.5% receives about 100,000 votes but is not represented in parliament so all these voters' list votes are not taken into account in the allocation of list seats. This also distorts the percentages of the other parties so they are over represented. On the other hand if the threshold is too low there could be a proliferation of small parties which could make coalition governments unstable.
Should the one electorate seat threshold be kept or changed? Why? If you recommend change, what should it be and why?:
All parties should have to meet the same threshold regardless of whether they win an electorate seat or not. The present system distorts voting patterns and gives the people of certain electorates, eg Epsom, an undue influence on the final outcome of the election.
Should there be a different combination of thresholds? What should they be and why?:
There should be a single threshold value so all votes are equal.
Should list MPs continue to be able to stand as candidates in by-elections? If so, why?:
List MPs should not be able to stand in a by-election for 2 reasons. .
If not, why?:
Firstly they have anunfair advantage as they are standing as an MP when all the other candidates are not MPs. Secondly if they win, their party gets to bring in the next person off the party list
Should dual candidacy be kept? If so, why?:
Yes candidates should be able to stand in an electorate and on the list. The candidates higher on the party list are the ones the party considers to be their best candidates. If they could not stand in electorate seats they would not be heard at candidate meetings and those attending such meetings would not hear the best exponents of the party's policies. Furthermore the candidates from other parties would face a weaker candidate and this would give them an advantage. At present there is a historical bias remaining from FFP in favour of National and Labour. Smaller parties like the Greens and New Zealand First, would be disproportionately disadvantaged if dual candidacy was removed.They are already disavantaged because list MPs are regarded by the public as of lower status than electorate MPs and have fewer parliamentary resources. MMP is the most proportional and democratic system. That proportionality is based on the list vote and yet list candidates are for some reason regarded by many New Zealanders as "unelected", second class MPs. This is reflected in an unwillingness of organisers of candidate meetings to include list candidates on the platform. These myths need to be dispelled perhaps by a public advertising campaign. Electorate MPs are just as much chosen by the Party as are the list candidates.
In an election, should voters be able to alter the order of candidates from the list order decided by political parties?:
Allowing the voters to alter the order of the candidates from the list order chosen by the parties, sounds like a more democratic system but carries risks. If the voter is to make an informed rearrangement of the list they have to be well informed about over 40 candidates on the list of the party they wish to vote for. Very few voters have the time or expertise to become so well informed. Allowing voters this responsibility also demands that all voters act in good faith and this cannot be guaranteed. As long as the list is determined by a genuine democratic system within the Party, voters can be confident that if they want to vote for a Party, the list, as determined by that Party will be the one most likely to be made up of the most effective Party MPs. The systems the parties choose to order their candidates could be more open to public scrutiny and be subject to strict scrutiny from the electoral commission or whoever has that responsibility. This should dispel the myth that the parties make decisions in smoke-filled rooms and choose party "hacks". Voters should be encouraged to pay more attention to the names on the party list prior to deciding which party to vote for. The literature which is sent to each voter by the electoral commission should contain some biographical details of each candidate on all party lists.
What should happen when a party wins more electorate seats than it would be entitled to under its share of the party vote?:
This anomaly is unlikely to happen in most parties. The only situation where this seems to happen in New Zealand is in the Maori electorate seats. An overhang is the only fair solution but it would be possible to distort the election result in a close result. Suppose party A has 43% of the list vote and party B has 44% but party A has several more electorate seats than party B which gives it a majority and so it can form the government, especially if no other party breaks the threshold. It is a possible but most unlikely scenario and is a real distortion of democracy. It is hard to see how this can be countered. However it is much more likely to happen if the number of list MPs is reduced in proportion to the electorate MPs. This dealt with in the next question.
Is this a problem, and what should be done to fix it?:
We would like to see the number of list seats be the same as the number of electorate seats, this is MMP functioning as it should, but the trend is for the proportion of list seats to get smaller. There are a number of factors which over time would be likely to lead to an increase in the total number of seats in the House. With a limit on the number of voters in an electorate and an ongoing increase in the total population the number of electorates will increase. However a certain percentage of the population strongly object to any increase in the number of MPs and would even like to see a decrease. The temptation is to reduce the number of list seats as the number of electorates increases. There are already fewer list than electorate MPs and if that pattern continued then there would be an increased likelihood of an overhang with the possible distortions discussed in the previous question.
Please use the space below for any other issues you want to raise:
One issue which has not been addressed is the possibility of electing electorate MPs by STV. Because of the large number of candidates standing in each electorate, and the high quality of the top few candidates, a candidate can be elected as MP with as little as 30% of the electorate vote. This means 70% of the voters did not vote for them. With STV the winning candidate would achieve 50% of the vote which would make them more acceptable to the majority of voters in that electorate.