NZ MMP referendum announced

As Errol noted in a previous thread, the New Zealand government has announced the schedule for public consultation on whether the country should retain its mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system.

Somewhat mirroring the process of double referenda that led to MMP’s adoption in 1992-3, there will be an initial referendum with the questions, “do you want a change from MMP?” and “if changed, what to?” This will be concurrent with the 2011 general election.

Then, if a majority say they prefer not to retain MMP at the first referendum, there will be a second referendum on MMP vs. the leading alternative identified by the first one. This second referendum would happen with the 2014 general election.

The alternatives and exact question wording are still being developed. Will the alternative to be pitted against MMP be chosen by plurality? That could have some perverse outcomes and incentives, if there is not a consensus on the best alternative (as there was when MMP was pitted against other alternatives to FPTP in 1992). NZ uses ranked-choice ballots (with STV) at some local elections, and one or more of the alternatives is likely to be one of ranked-choice ballots. So why not use AV to choose the electoral system?

12 thoughts on “NZ MMP referendum announced

  1. AV appears to me to be most suitable for the second 2011 question as well. IMO, there is potential for STV to come out as ‘compromise’ alternative.
    Things that concern me about the process are:
    1. No clear provision for a proper review and discussion on the detail of MMP (thresholds etc).
    2. possible lack of clarity on the detail of the alternatives – you could come up with a STV method that was clearly inferior to our current MMP setup, as well as ones that I would prefer.

    My personal order of preference (in general terms, subject to detail) is STV, MMP, MMM, FPP.

  2. Looking at the full background papers
    both of my concerns have been raised. The second looks very likely to be addressed, to the extent that the required legislation will be in place, available to be triggered by the 2014 referendum result.

    No mention of AV for 2011 2nd question, but nothing specifically ruling it out either. Time for me to engage with the consultative process I think.

  3. I would suggest AV for the second “alternatives” question, although one could also just have a straight AV contest among all alternatives, including the status quo (I suppose). But then it would all be over in one voting act; I am not sure that is a good idea here.

    I rather like the idea of having a full term to weigh the consequences of the change before possibly leaping. As long as that alternative really is a consensus in the hypothetical MMP-less world.

    Agreed that the details of MMP and how it could be improved should not be overlooked. Could the second referendum (in 2014) possibly involve a reformed MMP model against the preferred alternative? Or would it be this MMP vs. the alternative? That could make a difference.

    Yes, Errol, engage in the consultation.

    I have been planning to be in NZ myself at the time of the 2011 elections. But now I may have to go back for 2014, too!

  4. Some useful history is that the implementation of MMP was not as good as it could have been. For instance, people that voted in the wrong district had their list vote disallowed in the first MMP election. The long consultation period gives plently of time to make sure the details are right – especially needed if STV is chosen, many changes will be required.

  5. > “people that voted in the wrong district had their list vote disallowed in the first MMP election”

    The German Bundestag election law (Art 39(2)) specifically validates the list vote in that case, as long as it’s for the same Land.

  6. I suppose calling STV “Choice Voting”, Rick Ritchie-style, might be interpreted the wrong way by NZ-English speakers…

  7. The last parliamentary review of MMP in New Zealand looked at Bavarian-style open regional lists, but didn’t bite. By contrast, Scotland had an independent review, and the Arbuthnott Commission suggested a Bavarian-style system; but even then it failed to design one. The best alternative to MMP in New Zealand is an improved MMP. Will the National Party manage to keep it off the ballot?

  8. For the classic Canadian example of rigging a FPTP referendum, consider the 1969 vote on the name of the amalgamated city named Thunder Bay, Ontario.

    Thunder Bay District was created in 1871. Port Arthur was the district seat, and became a city in 1907. But meanwhile, the smaller town of Fort William next door boomed after the CPR relocated all its employees and facilities to Fort William to escape a tax dispute with Port Arthur. (As early as 1892 Port Arthur built Canada’s first municipally-owned electric street railway, and both cities established their own municipally-owned telephone systems in 1902.)

    The twin cities became commonly known as The Lakehead. Lakehead Technical Institute was founded in 1946, Lakehead College of Arts, Science, and Technology was founded 1957, and became Lakehead University in 1962-5.

    But when they finally amalgamated in 1968, the provincial government preferred the more judicial name of Thunder Bay, while public opinion favoured The Lakehead, or the simpler Lakehead.

    Ahah! When the polls opened Monday, June 23rd, 1969 the three names on the referendum ballot were “Lakehead”, “The Lakehead”, and “Thunder Bay”. The final vote count was:
    “Thunder Bay” – 15,870
    “Lakehead” – 15,302
    “The Lakehead” – 8,377.

    As blatant as one could ever see, but the result stood.

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