Okay so a friend of mine asked me for a wee bit of clarification of terms to guide with her voting in the referendum on Saturday. If you’ve been hiding under a rock and wasn’t aware, we’re not just voting for a new government but also on how we vote for governments. There’s a lot of explanations of this around the place but I’ll churn out a version for fun/clarity? As an added treat, once you read about a system then you’ll get a funny picture of a cat to lessen the blows of reading about boring referendum stuff! So let’s get to it.
The referendum will give you two votes.
1. Do you want NZ to change the system it uses to elect governments? – Yes or no
2. If it is changed, what other system would you prefer?
Our current system is called MMP – Mixed Member Proportional. This means that you get two votes, one for an electorate candidate and one for a party. If a party gets over 5% of the vote then they get a proportion of the seats in parliament, if they don’t reach this threshold but get an electoral candidate in, they’ll still get some seats in the house. The trick with MMP is that it ensures that a range of views are represented in parliament, this can help minor parties to have a say and can prevent extremist policies. It also means that usually no party has a clear dominant rule, so they have to work with each other. The downside is that the system can be held to ransom as has been claimed by John Key in regards to Winston Peters.
First Past The Post is the old system, it means that you have one vote for your electoral candidate. Usually parties can rule without making any deals or having to work with any other parties. This system makes it harder for small parties to get a foothold in parliament, because if you think about it – Green Party is mainly campaigning for the party vote.
Preferential Voting involves ranking your electoral candidates (120 electorates) in terms of who you prefer most. This system strikes me as overly complicated and again is biased towards the major parties.
Single Transferable Vote is again kinda complicated, the electorates are made larger – so 24 electorates instead of the current 70, but each electorate receives more than one MP. Again you rank the candidates in order of preference and those who reach a certain quota of votes become MPs. If seats remain, They do something complicated by shifting votes around to fill the seats. This strikes me as a nice idea in theory but again overly complicated and difficult to tell what your vote would actually mean.
Finally, Supplementary Member is very similar to MMP. You have an electorate and party vote like with MMP. But unlike MMP, where the entire house is a representation of the proportion of votes obtained by a party and it’s candidates, Supplementary Member has 30 supplementary seats which are made up of the proportion of party votes, a party obtains. Unlike MMP it is more possible to govern alone with this system.
So what you vote for in the referendum will have alot to do with what sort of house you believe in. I personally like diversity and a range of views to be represented, and dislike the idea of parties being able to rule alone so I’ll be voting for MMP. If MMP is retained, there will be a reevaluation of how it works anyway to make it better. Single transferable vote and preferential voting I think is way too hard if you want people to participate in the electoral process and First Past the Post fails to allow minor parties a say.
Finally, if you’re not enrolled, you have until Friday. If you enroll go to this website and you can get free kiwi music thanks to Gareth Hughes from the Green Party! Also, there’s heaps more info on the referendum here, and the party policies here. Chur