Alabama Senate election

It’s interesting to see so much interest in a US senate election here in New Zealand.

Alabama would normally be expected to be a safe Republican seat, but a controversial conservative candidate with a raft of sexual misconducts thrown into the campaign, sever splits in the GOP with some Senators openly saying they would vote against their own party candidate and if he won would seek to have him dumped from the Senate./

And then President Trump stirred up his own alleged sexual misconduct while endorsing and campaigning for the GOP candidate added more interest.

Especially now the results are in and he lost, and the Republican Senate majority is down to a bare 51, which make it even hard for Trump to progress his policies.

What are their names? Moore and Jones (the winner) I think from memory, but that doesn’t matter much here.

The Republicans have had a reality check, especially Trump and Steve Bannon of helped run the losing campaign.

But this is unlikely to do much to address the dysfunction in US politics.

Voter turnout by age group

Here are the final voter turnout totals and percentages by age band for the 2017 election:


Turnout is voters as % of total enrolled.

Under 30 turnout increased significantly more than older age brackets. This may be due to efforts to encourage young people to vote, and may also be influenced by increasingly easy advance voting options, including polling booths on university campuses.

It may also be that younger peoeple were more inclined to vote this time because Labour suddenly didn’t look hopeless any more, and Jacinda Ardern encouraged them to participate.

Whatever the reasons, higher turnout, especially of young voters, is a good thing.

Age band comparison of turnout:



The ‘largest party’ argument

Although The Standard has just lost stalwart author Anthony Robins they have gained another, Matthew Whitehead, who has previously commented there and has had the occasional guest post. While he is openly a Green supporter he will provide some good input at The Standard.

His first post is an intteresting Critiquing A Modest National Party Proposal

I’m going to be focusing on the suggestion, floating around National Party supporters on social media, that the largest party (“plurality winner” is the technical term for being largest without necessarily winning a majority) after an election should have some enshrined constitutional right at the first shot to form the government offered to them by the Governor General.

The obvious first thing to discuss here is that such an arrangement would favour National forming the government except in the most Labour-slanted circumstances, as right-wing votes tend to be much more concentrated towards the largest party when they feel like National is doing well, making them the most significant beneficiaries of the “come back to mother-ship” effect that both of the two largest parties benefited from this election.

Under the current mix of parties it may favour National but that situation may change. Obviously Labour were the biggest party when they were able to form the Government in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

Given that it is almost exclusively National supporters suggesting this change, we should probably fall back on the principle of electoral reform’s purpose not being to outright advantage any particular party, and count this as a strike against the idea.

That’s silly. Of course National supporters will be dwelling on why they lost power and the process that led to Winston peters decision to go with Labour, while Labour, NZ First and Green supporters are more likely to be rejoicing and looking forward to the new term. That’s not a good reason to “count this as a strike against the idea”.

…it’s simply a constraint on freedom of association for minor parties. It goes against democratic principles and constrains political speech to have our head of state direct coalition talks, and it rules out parallel talks which are simply more efficient and leave the country waiting less time.

It’s not necessarily restraining small parties from associating. It could be a simple guide to beginning negotiations.

It would have been useful for the Greens to officially rule out dealing with National up front in the recent process. But perhaps all parties should make it clear before the election what they would consider to properly inform voters.

It might not be a bad idea for parties to agree to some fair norms around coalition talks and Parliamentary reforms, but I think that’s a discussion that needs to be had on a more consensus basis between our four largest parties.

Why just between our four largest parties? That doesn’t sound very democratic. It should involve all parties in Parliament, any parties not in Parliament that wish to have a say, and the public.

If Greens had missed making the threshold I doubt that Whitehead would be suggesting “a more consensus basis between our three largest parties”.

Overall failing on every major point, this idea seems to be a non-starter, and is instead perhaps intended as just another front for National to attack MMP on, after it has tried and failed twice to defeat it at the ballot box- if they succeed in getting the measure through, they slow down and make coalition talks far less popular.

Questioning whether our current way of doing MMP could be improved is an important democratic process. Dissing it as “just another front for National to attack MMP” could be described as just another front to attack an idea Whitehead doesn’t favour.

They need to instead move on and accept that they can’t rely on strong plurality results to govern without eating up the electorate-based parties that support them, and perhaps even consider splitting into multiple parties themselves for more differentiated campaigning, as National has always been an informal coalition of urban right-wing liberals, right-wing conservatives, and a significant rural support base of many ideological flavours, and arguably could earn more of the Party vote under MMP by campaigning separately to each group.

But that might require them modernizing, an idea which is always deeply unpopular with the National Party, who still have no direct democratic impact on important decisions like electing leaders.

“An idea which is always deeply unpopular with the National Party” – that’s a ridiculous claim and hints at Green arrogance. It’s possible for parties to modernise without being just like the Greens. It would be alarming if parties didn’t modernise in their own ways.

A party in power for none years is always going to tend towards sticking to what succeeded, as long as it works.

I’m sure if Steven Joyce remains he will modernise his campaign strategies, but he is unlikely to favour a modern kamikaze attempt to outmanoeuvre their MoU partner party leading into the campaign, like Metiria Turei and the Greens did. They came close to not being one of the largest parties in Parliament.

Whitehead will no doubt be happy with the outcome of the election and how that came about. But the situation could be quite different after the next election, as it has been after each of our eight MMP elections. It could be the Greens that fall apart as a small party in Government.

Considering whether we can do our democracy better should be encouraged, not blown away because what is being suggested wouldn’t have suited your favoured party’s current situation.

We have just seen a situation where three parties stood back, allowing one small party dictate how negotiations would be conducted, and putting themselves in a position where they made the key decision and the key announcement.

Surely there is a better way of doing things, the public tends to not like tails calling the shots while the dogs cower.

We don’t need hard and fast rules, but if we had accepted guidelines (arrived at by consensus of course) for how post-election negotiations and decisions are made I think the public and the media would be happier with the process of forming a government.

Did the losers win the election?

There have been claims that the losers won the election and we now have a Government of losers. This is all nonsense of course, usually bleated by poor losers.

No won ‘won’ the election. No party has won an overall majority in an election ever under MMP (in New Zealand at least and I suspect everywhere in the world).

National formed a government in our first MMP election in 1996 after getting just 33.87% of the vote. They came closest to an overall majority in 2011 with 47.31%, and similarly in 2014 with 47.04.

The recently ousted National Government needed the support of other parties to get a majority – they successfully negotiated the numbers required to rule.

National were easily the most voted for party again this year but slipped back a bit. Here are the party results again:

  • National 1,152,075 votes, 44.45%, 56 seats
  • Labour 956,184 votes, 36.89%, 46 seats
  • NZ First 186,706 votes, 7.20%, 9 seats
  • Greens 162,443 votes, 6.27%, 8 seats
  • ACT 13,075 votes, 0.50%, 1 electorate seat

As we know Winston Peters led the post election negotiations and ended up allowing Labour to form a government with NZ First and Greens. This is completely acceptable under our rules.

MMP elections aren’t won, MMP governments are formed with a majority of willing parties.

A reasonable argument can be made that the party with the largest number of seats should have been the first to try and form a government. If we had a rule like this it would take away some of the uncertainty, game playing and dog wagging by small tails.

A reasonable question could also be asked as to why National didn’t take control of the negotiations straight after the election, and also why Labour didn’t also play a more prominent role. The two top dogs rolled over and let their tails be tweaked.

Whatever, we have what we have, a Labour-NZ-First-Green government who between them have 63 seats, a clear majority.

It could be said that Labour were awarded the winner’s prize by Winston Peters. This was a bizarre way of announcing the outcome of the negotiations, but Labour and the Greens allowed it to happen that way.

James Shaw sounded like he thought the Greens were the biggest winners, even though they were disrespected by Peters in negotiations and in his announcement, and not allowed any ministers in Cabinet.

However this will be the biggest role the Greens will play in a government ever in their existence, with three ministers outside cabinet. Any legislation Peters and Labour want to pass will need Green approval, unless National supports it.

In his speech after losing the Winston contest Bill English emphasised that National had clearly won the most support and seats, but he didn’t claim that National had won the election. He conceded governance with in a dignified manner, and won quite a bit of dignity and respect for what he had achieved, or how he hadn’t quite achieved it.

The country could well be a winner with this result. In many respects things are going well ion New Zealand, our economy is one of the healthiest in the the world. This provides a good platform for the incoming government.

National promised to address some of the pressing issues, in particular housing, inequality and crime. They had already worked to try to improve on the problems we face as a country.

Labour and NZ First and the Greens promise to do more, and if they do it well then the country will have won, or at least we will have improved our position, life and governance are ongoing challenges.

Sure there are some risks if the new government tries things that don’t work out – there is no difference to the risks for government than in the past.

No one wins from being pessimistic, that just drags you down. If there is too much pessimism and despondency it drags communities and countries down.

Prime Minister election Jacinda Ardern says she will lead a government for all New Zealanders. I think she and her fellow leaders will do what they think is best, for individual problems and for the country as a whole.

In any population there will always be some losers, that can’t be avoided. But a good government will minimise it, and it will do what it thinks is best to maximise opportunities and well being for the majority.

If we wish them well, and it they do well, then most of us will be winners, and we collectively will be winners.

There were no winners from the election. A government was formed from the election results according to our rules.

Losers whinge.

We will all win by doing things better, and that will be helped by hope, optimism and hard work.

It’s our government. It’s our country. We all play an important part. We should all play to succeed.

Disallowed special votes

Relatively very small numbers apart from ‘not enrolled anywhere’.

Government forming negotiations in progress

After the final election results were released on Saturday negotiations to form a new government began in earnest. NZ First had meetings with both National and Labour yesterday, and these are expected to continue over the next few days.

Winston Peters still says he expects to announce his choice by Thursday, when the formal election result, or “writ”, is returned. That was always an odd target date.

But whether he meets that target or not that may not be the final outcome as other parties may need time to consider what has been negotiated. The Greens in particular say they are committed to taking any decision to a special general meeting for the party members to decide.

Some of the media are getting a bit precious. There was complaining yesterday about being blocked from seeing how was attending negotiation meetings in Parliament, with complaints of secrecy and non-transparency, but that seems ridiculous to me. I think that most people won’t care who attends, al they will be interested in is the final outcome. It’s not that we have any say in what is going on.

I’m really getting fed up with media coverage of not much happening, and I’m avoiding a lot of their coverage. If something interesting or important happens can someone please alert me in case I miss it.

There is no urgency. The caretaker government is operating fine. We don’t get another vote for another 3 years, unless NZ First negotiate referendums on their policies.

Speculation has been in overdrive – in the absence of any news of importance all I will speculate is that media speculation will continue unabated to fill the vacuum.

Power by percentages

Now the final numbers are in for the 2017 election they can be scrutinised – number crunching is a lot more fun than watching the media go into another frenzy of speculation while they wait for parties to sort out our next government.

Power is supposed to be approximately proportional, but any government will have received just over half the votes, which is substantially less than half the eligible voting population.

  • Estimated eligible voting population: 3,569,830
  • Total enrolled: 3,298,009
  • Total valid votes: 2,591,896

Voting percentages:

  • Percentage enrolled: 92.39%
  • Percentage of enrolled voters who cast valid votes: 78.59%
  • Percentage of eligible voters who cast valid votes: 72.61%

Percentages of power if National and NZ First form a government:

Votes % of vote % of Govt votes MPs
National 1,152,075 44.4% 86% 56
NZ First 186,706 7.2% 14% 9
Total 1,338,781  65

National has about 6 times the number of votes and MPs as NZ First, so theoretically should have about 6 times the power and 6 times the number of ministers (20-21 for National, 3-4 for NZ First).

Votes % of vote % of Govt votes MPs
Labour 956,184 36.9% 73.3% 46
NZ First 186,706 7.2% 14.3% 9
Greens 162,443 6.3% 12.4% 8
Total 1,305,333  63

Labour has about three quarters of the vote, with NZ first having just over an eighth and Greens just under an eighth.

This equates to about 17-18 Labour ministers, 3-4 for NZ First and 3 for Greens.

If Labour and NZ First form a government with Greens supporting them from outside government:

Votes % of vote % of Govt votes MPs
Labour 956,184 36.9% 83.7% 46
NZ First 186,706 7.2% 16.3% 9
Total 1,142,890 55

Labour has about 5 times the votes of NZ First so NZ First would be theoretically a bit stronger in this arrangement in forming a government, but with Labour would have to get green approval for any legislation.

But of course the reality is things come down to negotiating ability and strength.


2017 General Election – Official Result

As predicted National have slipped after special votes have been counted, but perhaps more than expected, by 1.6% to 44.4%. They have dropped two seats to 56.

Both Greens and Labour have picked up a seat each, with a combined total now of 54 seats, still short of National.

Party Votes % of Votes Electorate Seats List Seats Total seats
National Party 1,152,075 44.4% 41 15 56
Labour Party 956,184 36.9% 29 17 46
New Zealand First Party 186,706 7.2% 9 9
Green Party 162,443 6.3% 8 8
ACT New Zealand 13,075 0.5% 1 1
The Opportunities Party (TOP) 63,261 2.4%
Māori Party 30,580 1.2%
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 8,075 0.3%
Conservative 6,253 0.2%
MANA 3,642 0.1%
Ban1080 3,005 0.1%
New Zealand People’s Party 1,890 0.1%
United Future 1,782 0.1%
NZ Outdoors Party 1,620 0.1%
Democrats for Social Credit 806 0.0%
Internet Party 499 0.0%
Total 2,591,896 71 49 120

We are in for another round of speculation and positioning as the negotiations get under way.

Here are the interim results for comparison:

Party Votes % of Votes Electorate Seats List Seats Total seats
National Party 998,813 46.0 41 17 58
Labour Party 776,556 35.8 29 16 45
New Zealand First Party 162,988 7.5 9 9
Green Party 126,995 5.9 7 7
ACT New Zealand 10,959 0.5 1 1
The Opportunities Party (TOP) 48,018 2.2
Māori Party 23,456 1.1
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 5,853 0.3
Conservative 5,318 0.2
MANA 2,775 0.1
Ban1080 2,440 0.1
New Zealand People’s Party 1,631 0.1
United Future 1,471 0.1
NZ Outdoors Party 1,333 0.1
Democrats for Social Credit 732 0.0
Internet Party 464 0.0
Total 2,169,802 71 49 120



Compulsory voting isn’t a solution

A lot has been said about getting more people to vote, especially younger people. Campaigns to get more people enrolled and voting have not achieved much.

Usually it seems that political activists and commentators who are pushing for more voting think that it will get different results – the results they want.

It’s hard to argue with the decisions of those who vote (although it’s not uncommon to see people who don’t like election outcomes to accuse those who voted differently to their preference of being stupid or ill-informed).

While it’s unknown what the preference of non-voters is but some seem to assume that  they must think like them (except about the importance of voting) and if they can be forced to vote it will give them the result they want.

Lizzie Marvelly writes: Why voting shouldn’t be a matter of choice

Trends from the last few elections have shown a dwindling number of people voting in younger age groups, and they’re not suddenly voting when they get older.

Voting is habitual behaviour, and if you don’t get into the habit when you’re young, it’s statistically very unlikely you’ll hit 40 and suddenly develop a hankering to skip down to the ballot box.

That’s wrong, according to the 2014 election turnout statistics.

Age range Voters Non-voters Non-voters Total enrolled
18 – 24 212,204 126,065 37.27% 338,269
25 – 29 152,409 92,967 37.89% 245,376
30 – 34 169,899 82,190 32.60% 252,089
35 – 39 187,856 70,302 27.23% 258,158
40 – 44 226,110 70,534 23.78% 296,644
45 – 49 234,758 64,065 21.44% 298,823
50 – 54 248,257 59,117 19.23% 307,374
55 – 59 226,927 45,589 16.73% 272,516
60 – 64 204,604 33,377 14.03% 237,981
65 – 69 185,803 25,198 11.94% 211,001
70+ 362,030 60,156 14.25% 422,186
Total 2,410,857 729,560 23.23% 3,140,417

It’s possible that non-voters predominantly die young, but this suggests strongly that a significant number of people start voting as they get older.

Though the breakdown of voter demographics in this election hasn’t yet been released, it’s unlikely it will reveal any evidence of a significant and lasting reversal in our dismal youth voting statistics.

Enrolment statistics for this year show that by mid to late 30s about 97% of people are enrolled.

As such, it’s time to start thinking about future-proofing our democratic tradition.

As I’m no stranger to controversy, I’m just going to come out and say it. I think it’s time that we talked about compulsory voting.

It’s not controversial, as Marvelly later shows.

Former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore have all supported the idea of New Zealand following Australia’s lead and introducing compulsory voting, and indeed, more than 20 other countries around the world also have compulsory voting systems.

Compulsory voting has often been suggested as a solution to a problem that we may not have. Many more than 20 countries manage without making voting compulsory.

To me, voting is not simply a right, but a responsibility. If we enjoy the privilege of living in New Zealand, it is our responsibility as citizens to make sure that our nation is governed by the parties that truly represent the will of the people.

If course a democracy needs a significant number of people to vote. But if the will of some people is not to care about who governs the country, if the will of some people is not to vote, then forcing them to vote is forcing them to do something against their will.

Only 78 per cent of eligible voters had a say this year. That’s nearly a quarter of us who had no input into the team that will lead our country for the next three years. That’s not good enough.

Why isn’t it good enough? If people choose not to have any input what’s wrong with that?

Voting is one of the few things Australia does better than we do, and that really bugs me.

While their voting is ‘compulsory’ their voting rates dropped to a nearly 100 year low of 91% in last year’s election – actually a low since voting was made compulsory in 1925.

I think the quality of governments voted for by Australians over the past decade bugs more people. Voter turnout doesn’t matter if quality of options is poor.

I’m not saying that I think people should be forced to cast a vote for the sake of it if they don’t feel that they can support any of the parties or the candidates — voters should always have the option to “spoil” their votes.

I think there’s a good case for a ‘non of the above’ option, simply spoiling a voting paper doesn’t count in any meaningful way.

Another important step we should take to safeguard the future of our democratic society is one I’ve written about before. I’m a strong supporter of lowering the voting age to 16 and implementing civics education in our curriculum.

That is controversial, both lowering the voting age, and having civics education in our curriculum. Education young people about our system of democracy and government is worthwhile, but it would have to be done impartially, if that was possible in schools.

If young Kiwis formed the voting habit while still at school, we’d likely see our youth turnout statistics rise almost immediately.

Maybe, maybe not. The younger voters are the lower the turnout, so going younger still may reduce the % turnout.

Also, when faced with a whole new demographic of voters, politicians would finally have to take young people’s concerns seriously.

That may be the crux of Marvelly’s argument – she wants her concerns taken more seriously and thinks that young non-voters will share her concerns. Young people who don’t vote may have different concerns.

But if voting is made compulsory more older people will vote, quite possibly more than younger people. It could backfire on Marvelly having her concerns addressed.

I would theorise that the impact on environmental policy would be particularly profound, as politicians who will be dead when the worst ravages of climate change sweep the planet would be forced to do more than pay lip service to tokenistic environmental policy — or face the consequences on election day.

But young people in particular are notorious for not thinking about the future. Making them vote won’t make them consider what state the world might be in for their grandchildren.

Marvelly seems to think like many disappointed with election results – that non-voters will share their concerns. I’m not aware of this being based on any research at all.

Whatever the methods, it’s time that we created a culture in which voting was an expectation for all, rather than an exercise in self-selection. The voices of the missing 22 per cent are just as important as those of the people who showed up to the ballot box, and it should concern us all that they’re not being heard.

That statement is highly debatable. It doesn’t concern me that many people don’t vote, either by choice or by slackness or by disinterest.

It seems that what Marvelly really wants is her concerns heard, and instead of encouraging more people to share her concerns and vote accordingly she thinks that compulsory voting will do the job for her.

And as for those who argue that compulsory voting might skew the vote one way or another (which is an illogical argument given it would essentially involve bemoaning a truer representation of our society than our currently older-skewed voting population), Australia’s pendulum swinging political landscape suggests the will of the people can go either way, no matter how many people vote.

Marvelly argued that she wants voting skewed more towards her own concerns, by compulsion.

Because that’s what democracy is really about. The people. Nga tangata. Not Winston. Not just the 78 per cent who voted.

All of us.

Actually 78% only applies to enrolled voters, about another 8% choose not to even enrol, or just don’t get around to it.

Is democracy really about making people do something they don’t want to do or don’t care about doing? I think people should have a right not to vote if that’s what they choose.

If Marvelly wants more young people to vote she should find out what appeals to them.

Making things compulsory for young people often has non-intended consequences. They tend to not like being forced to do something they don’t care about.

As far as democracy goes making voting compulsory seems to be trying to fix a problem we don’t have. It is more like individuals trying to force results they aren’t getting by democratic means.

Media mania continues despite politics on hold

It was clear soon after the election nearly two weeks ago that not much could happen regarding the formation of a new government until the final results were in. They are due by 2 pm tomorrow (Saturday).

Instead of having a break after a hectic few months leading up to the election media kept going, looking for stories that weren’t there, and making up stories to fill the void.

Yesterday NZ First’s negotiation team met with both Natikonal’s team and Labour’s team. These meetings were always going to be little more than formalities that set things up for after the results are known, but media mania ramped up as if aliens were invading.

Mots voters have moved on from the election. there will be a bit of interest in the formation of the next government but that is out of voters hands, and it will make little difference to most of us.

Apart from the bullshit that is published and broadcast, the media mania about nothing much of importance makes it likely that real news is missed – avoided by the usually politically averse majority.

When there is some actual news how will a turned off audience be able to tell?