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A quick note on overhang in Lees-Galloway’s bill

The MP for Palmerston North’s bill is laudable in intent, but really needs to have the overhang thing sussed out.

Iain Lees-Galloway had his bill drawn from the ballot today. The bill seeks to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission’s MMP review, which the National-led government discarded, citing a “lack of political consensus”. I didn’t write about it at the time, but as you might have guessed, I thought the Commission’s recommendations were excellent and was outraged when the government gave an excuse that was almost certainly caused by itself. (There’s also all the hours I spent writing my submission and follow-up submission, which now just seem like a waste of time.)

Mr Lees-Galloway’s Electoral (Adjustment of Thresholds) Amendment Bill is pretty short, and pretty clear. Lower the threshold to 4%, and do away with the electorate seat threshold (popularly known as the “coat-tail” rule).

The problem that, if you just do that, you open up potential for a lot of overhang seats. Every party that gets below 4% wouldn’t get any list seats, which is great*, but if they won any electoral seats, they still get to keep them. Under current rules, these are overhang seats. If applied to the 2011 election results, that would be a whopping six overhangs, increasing Parliament’s size to 126. Because the sub-threshold parties no longer have a party allocation to fill, every electorate they win is an overhang seat.

Assuming you think this is a problem, there are a number of ways you could fix this. I won’t analyse them all (I did in my submission), but in my opinion the second-best way—and the way the Commission proposed—is to abolish overhang, full stop. So for every sub-threshold party (and party that would otherwise get overhang seats), you set aside their seats, then forget about them and allocate the remaining seats proportionally.

Of course, Mr Lees-Galloway might have decided that he didn’t want to do this. But given that he wanted to implement the Electoral Commission recommendations, I’m guessing this should be a part of it too.


* Okay, not so great. I actually support abolishing the threshold, but that’s another matter.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. speters855 #

    Could you clarify what you mean when you say “Every party that gets below 4% wouldn’t get any list seats, which is great*, but if they won any electoral seats, they still get to keep them”.
    But isnt this how the one seat threshold works, which the Lees -Galloway amenndment seeks to abolish?
    Surely if a candidate wins an electorate seat, thats is theirs to keep
    Equity should demand that in calculating their seats from the party vote, the electorate seat be included in that calculation, by a measure that is fair to them, as well as other parties.

    17 November 2013
    • Chuan-Zheng #

      The crucial difference is whether the seats would be overhang or not. Under Mr Lees-Galloway’s proposal, since they’re not included in the proportional allocations, they would all have to be overhang seats. Under the Commission’s recommendations, you would grant them the electorate seat and only allocate the remaining 119 seats (or whatever) using the proportional algorithm (we use the Sainte-Laguë method in NZ), so that there are still just 120 seats in total. It would be “at the expense of” (so to speak) some party that did cross the 4% threshold.

      17 November 2013
      • speters855 #

        I see. Therefore his amendment promotes inequity between parties, ie particularly between those small parties who gain an electorate and those who dont, but have the same % level of party vote. In my mind, the equal representational value of each vote should be paramount, within the bounds of possibility. Your recommended ‘no party vote threshold’ would deliver this. However, most disappear on that argument, so a compromise seems necessary, say a 2% to 3% pv threshold, or better still a three MP entitlment (2% of pv approx) or four MP (2.85% of pv approx) .
        Have you been following John Key and his new found attraction to and courting of the Conservative Party?

        17 November 2013
        • Chuan-Zheng #

          It doesn’t really—the comparison is the status quo, in which two parties that get the same party vote, say 3.8%, but one of which wins one electorate seat, would get five and zero seats respectively. Ideally we’d abolish the threshold, but there’s no support for that (and there are semi-valid reasons not to), so the question is: given that we will keep a party vote threshold, what is equitable among parties that don’t reach it?

          17 November 2013
          • speters855 #

            My undersatnding is that Lees Galloway wants to abolish the one seat threshold, therefore if a party win an electorate seat, and get 3.8% of the party vote, they only get the one electorate seat , because 3.8% is under the pvt. Under the status quo they would get, on top of the electorate seat, another three or four seats from their party vote, whereas another party getting 3.8% (but not an electorate seat), get nothing.

            17 November 2013

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