MMP options

Amongst the mad dash to an election we are also supposed to consider our voting system.

  • The first question asks whether you want to keep Mixed Member Proportional (MMP, which is the voting system we use at the moment) or whether you want to change to another voting system.
  • The second questionasks you which of four other voting systems you would choose if New Zealand decides to change from MMP. The four alternative voting systems you can choose from are called:
    • First Past the Post (FPP);
    • Preferential Voting (PV);
    • Single Transferable Vote (STV); and
    • Supplementary Member (SM).

The answer to that is easy for me, MMP enables the most representation of views and parties. Better to improve what is working reasonably well rather than introduce something new that will have it’s own deficiencies.

What will happen as a result?

If at least half of voters opt to keep MMP, there will be an independent review of MMP in 2012 to recommend any changes that should be made to the way it works. The Electoral Referendum Act specifies that the Electoral Commission must review:

  • The 5% party vote threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats;
  • The one electorate seat threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats;
  • The effects of population change on the ratio of electorate seats to list seats;
  • The effect of a party’s candidates winning more seats than the party would be entitled as a result of the party vote;
  • The capacity of a person to be both a constituency candidate and a list candidate;
  • A party’s ability to determine the order of candidates on its party list and the inability of voters to rank list candidates in order of preference;
  • Other matters as referred to it by the Minister of Justice or the House of Representatives.

The size of Parliament and Maori representation will not be reviewed, but the Commission may consider any other aspects of the MMP voting system. The Commission must report back to the Minister of Justice by 31 October 2012.

It’s useful to look ahead at these options if that’s the option we are thinking of deciding on.


I think the 5% threshold has proven to be too high and excludes significant numbers of voters. Last election NZ First got 4% of the vote and missed out, four parties got fewer overall party votes but got a total of 12 seats between them.

Option 1 – reduce the threshold to 4, 3, 2?
Option 2 – make the threshold the % of votes of the lowest polling party that gets a seat?

Determining order of list

While giving voters the ability to rank the lists sounds good in theory I don’t see how it will work in practice – it would end up forcing on a party a mix of candidates that don’t best represent whatb it stands for.

When losing electorate candidates getting in on the list

One of the biggest complaints about MMP is when losing electorate candidates still get into parliament via the list. Some electorates, for example Ohariu and Dunedin North, have in addition to their winning eledctorate MP have got another three MPs from this list.

Stopping losiong electorate candidates from getting in on the list would make some electorate contests farcical. For example in Dunedin North Michael Woodhouse (National) and Metiria Turei (Greens) are assured of being list MPs so would not risk standing for the electorate, making the electorate contest even less important.

Tail wagging the dog

This is mostly myth – the amount of power in a coalition is usually equated to the number of party MPs.

Small parties that don’t get into parliament dream of being able to wag the dog but never get the chance to see how hard it is in practice.

List MPs doing nothing

Another myth – there is as much chance of getting an underperforming electorate MP as there is a list MP. Many list MPs are virtual electorate MPs anyway, with electorate offices and electorate duties.

Tweak MMP perhaps, use better for sure

I think some tweaks may improve MMP, but the biggest improvements will come from voters being smarter about how they use their MMP votes. I’ll discuss that in my next post.

Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Re: threshold, you can’t make it option 2. If a party wins a seat but receives only 0.2% party vote (however unlikely that may be) then the threshold is 0.2% – which cannot happen (min would be 0.8%ish eg 1/120).

    • Yeah, you’re right. Not sure how to get the fairest balance there. MAybe have to accept there is no way of getting it right for every situation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s