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.