Strangely democratic – Labour’s voting rules

Labour’s new system for voting for party leader has revealed some interesting aspects of their voting system. All voters are not equal.

It’s well known that there are three main ways of voting.

  • 40% of the vote is from the Labour Caucus (currently 34 MPs)
  • 40% of the vote is apportioned from individial members votes
  • 20% of the vote is apportioned by the membership of six affiliated unions.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog breaks this down into individual vote comparisons in How the Labour leadership vote will work.

Caucus Vote 40%

There are 34 MPs, so effectively each MPs vote is worth 1.18% of the total vote. If the vote is after Lianne Dalziel resigns then there are 33 votes worth 1.21% each.

Members Vote 40%

Labour have not revealed how many members they have, but let’s say it is 10,000. If they all vote they get 0.004% each. So an individual vote counts for little, but the overall vote of the members does count for the same as the caucus.

Union vote 20%

The affiliated unions gets 20% of the vote. This is proportional to the number of affiliated members each union has. Again this is not publicly known but we can estimate it. Basically the number of affiliated members is their total number of members multiplied by what percentage voted to affiliate with Labour when they voted to do so. This by definition is a proportion between 50% and 100%.

If we assume all the unions had a similar proportion in favour, then we can estimate their relative voting strength based on their latest returns of members to the Registrar of Unions. The six unions in order of size are:

  1. EPMU (Engineering etc) 36,987 members, 41.5% of union vote, 8.3% of total vote
  2. SWFU (Service Food etc) 22,351 members, 25.1% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote
  3. MWU (Meat) 15,313 members, 17.2% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote
  4. DWU (Dairy) 7,000 members, 7.9% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote
  5. RMTU (Rail) 4,747 members 5.3% of union vote, 1.1% of total vote
  6. MUNZ (Maritime) 2,635 members, 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote
    (more details on the unions at the bottom of this post)

But it doesn’t end there. Only one union has a full membership vote, in the others it’s on the union delegates who vote.

  1. EPMU – 1 delegate per 1000 members, 45 delegates
  2. SWFU – full membership vote
  3. MWU  – 1 delegate per 350 members, 54 delegates
  4. DWU – 1 delegate per site with more than 30 members, estimate 70 delegates
  5. RMTU – determined by previous conference so unknown
  6. MUNZ – 1 – 4 delegate per branch (13 branches), estimate 30 delegates

But if delegates or members are members of political parties other than Labour they are ineligible to vote.

How delegates vote will vary. ‘Skinny’ at The Standard describes how one opinion was sought to determine one vote:

I had a delegate come see me this morning, he is not into politic’s and as I am, he asked who do I recommend he vote for? I outlined my opinion of each candidate and what they bring for our collective of members. So Cunliffe fits our brief & he will join in and vote accordingly as he best suits our needs.

And it gets even more complicated – some party members can have multiple votes. Jenny Michie:

According the rules which I’ve just printed off (3.3 and 3.4) members who are separately entitled to vote in more than one section of the College can do so. So that’s MPs and affiliate members. However affiliate members who are members of another political party can’t vote.

‘Te Reo Putake’ explains his multiple voting

I’ve got two votes, could have been 3. One as an LP member, one as a SFWU member. I’m also a member of the EPMU, but not a voting delegate to conference, which is how it’s done under their rules.

Labour MPs can vote once as an MP and once as a pary member. If they also belonged to a union they could presumably vote there too, or influence a delegate.

Oh, and some of it is not a straight majority vote, STV is used:

As it’s an STV vote, you would distribute 2nd preferences of the 3rd-placed candidate after the first round if none of the 3 candidates got over 50% on the first round.

How Labour manage all this I will be interesting. Party members will be able to postal vote, and also put their votes in boxes at meetings – as will one of the unions.

An inadvertently amusing comment from Te Reo Putake:

Poor Brett, he’s obviously someone who’s never been to a union meeting, let alone got his head round how democracy works in practice.

Democracy in practice Labour/union style.

Here’s more detail on union voting as per a comment at The Standard:

DWU

The ballot will be exercised by delegates to the National Conference according to the Rules of the DWU Te Runanga Wai Inc. In the case of a delegate being ineligible to vote due to membership of another political party then the vote will be exercised by their duly elected deputy.

EPMU

The ballot will be exercised by the delegates to the National Conference. In the case of a delegate being ineligible to vote due to membership of another political party then the vote will be exercised by their duly elected deputy.

MUNZ

The ballot will be exercised by delegates to the National Council, representative of every branch of the Union. In the case of a delegate being ineligible to vote due to membership of another political party then the vote will be exercised by their duly elected deputy.
MWU The ballot will be exercised by delegates to the National Conference. In the case of a delegate being ineligible to vote due to membership of another political party then the vote will be exercised by their duly elected deputy.

RMTU

The ballot will be exercised by delegates to the National Conference. In the case of a delegate being ineligible to vote due to membership of another political party then the vote will be exercised by their duly elected deputy.

SFWU

All eligible financial members of the Union will be indirectly informed through FaceBook, e-mail (where on record), text (where on record), worksite notices and through workplace delegates that they have a vote and how to vote in the process. The vote can be activated in two ways. The members can either turn up at any of the advertised election husting meetings, where they can be issued with and can cast a ballot (to be administered by SFWU staff), with the ballot being sealed at the end of the meeting; those voting will be checked off against a full list of eligible members by the Returning Officer or their appointee. The SFWU will appoint a Deputy Returning Officer for each meeting, and the Returning Officer may also appoint a scrutineer for the SFWU voting. If the member lives more than 32km from the location of any of those meetings/they have a personal emergency/they have a disability that prevents them attending and voting at a meeting, they may apply to the SFWU Deputy Returning Officer for a postal vote prior to the round of meetings commencing; if approved, that will be issued by the NZLP, and will be returned in the normal way. The SFWU will make available appropriate resources to the Returning Officer to enable this process to occur.”

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Messy numbers means less will look too closely at it. I thought the 40+40+20 was strange – though a good illusion. I will be keen to see the after vote totals to see if this really does work.

    Reply
  2. Bryan

     /  29th August 2013

    NZ Labour’s new leadership vote contains in-built biases –
    # 34 MPs are influenced by who appeals best to Labour VOTERS, both existing 600,000 plus particularly potential 200,000 extra needed to become Government, and by who will best build most able team from opposition Front-Benchers into capable Cabinet Ministers.
    # Labour MEMBERS (about 2,000 voting) prefer whoever promotes their particular policy preferences. Problem is current Labour members are totally unrepresentative of their voters
    # Union delegates (except SWFU) will vote on their narrow agenda of legalistic issues. The SWPU members are most likely to reflect existing & potential Labour votes, like the MPs.

    Reply

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