Oddities in MMP submissions
I’ve just been flicking through submissions received to date by the Electoral Commission on the MMP voting system. Most suggestions are quite sensible—even ones I disagree with—but there are some bizarre claims made by a few:
(I’m only picking on political parties in this post.)
National Party: electorate seat threshold
The National Party is one of few to support retaining the one electorate seat threshold. They say that abolishing it would be “unworkable in practice”, since it would necessitate “greatly increasing the risk of overhangs or reducing the list allocations of other parties”.
Neither is necessary: we can just say that a party missing the 5% threshold should get its electorate seats, as currently, but what would have been its list seats now just go to the parties next in line to get a seat. The details are non-trivial but possible. (I explain how it would work in my submission.) Compared to the status quo, overhang is the same and the list allocations of other parties increase. Workable, easily.
The Conservative Party also made this mistake, saying that if the one electorate seat threshold is abolished, we would have an overhang of 6 seats. We could design the system like that, but it’s not hard to just keep Parliament the same size while reallocating “coat-tailers” to other parties. (In 2011, there were actually no coat-tailers, so it would have made no difference.)
NZ First: the overhang anomaly
NZ First advocates introducing a 4% threshold for parties who win one electorate to gain additional list MPs. (The status quo is no threshold.) That’s all well and good, except when they say “this threshold… would go a long way to eliminating the likelihood of the overhang anomaly”.
This was probably just a proofreading oversight. But their proposal wouldn’t have any impact on overhang. Overhang parties never have list MPs (since electorate winners took all their seats), so the question of receiving additional list MPs doesn’t really bother them.
ALCP: representing cannabis users
The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party criticises the 5% threshold as leading to the people “not being properly represented”, which is well and fine. But their evidence is that “not one single MP is standing up for the cannabis consumers who represent 16% of the adult population”. Given that 16% is greater than 5%, this seems odd. Maybe these cannabis users just decided they had more important ways in which to spend their vote?
ACT: the thresholds
The ACT Party supports the 5% threshold to “limit and rationalise voter choice” and “assist with government formation”. It’s unclear how, but presumably by preventing too many minor parties from messing things up. But they go on to say that the one electorate seat threshold should be retained because it “allows more votes to count”. It’s unclear how this reconciles with their support of the 5% threshold, which renders many votes useless. It’s also unclear why they think waiving the threshold for electorate-winning parties has “contributed towards stable government formation”, while waiving the threshold for other parties would detract from it.
The ACT Party goes on to say that most advocates for abolishing the one-seat threshold do so for partisan reasons. The ACT Party, which in both 2005 and 2008 had “coat-tailers” on their Epsom victory, has more incentive than any other party to advocate its retention. They were also scant on reasoning of their own, largely conceding that the thresholds are arguable, “arbitrary” or “subjective” judgements and deferring to the 1986 Royal Commission, which didn’t actually explain why they proposed for the threshold to be waived for parties winning a constituency seat.
Impressively, both the Greens and the Labour Party managed to avoid any internal inconsistencies in their submissions, or at least ones that I could pick up.