Improving MMP: Dual-candidacy issues

This is one section in a planned series on “improving MMP”, as the New Zealand Electoral Commission sets up its process of reviewing the electoral system that New Zealanders voted to retain at the referendum in November, 2011.

Campaigners for “Keep MMP” in downtown Wellington,
the day before the vote.

The terms of reference for the mandatory review now underway include the question of whether to continue allowing dual candidacy–the right of a candidate to stand simultaneously in a district (electorate) and on a party list. In this essay, I will suggest that banning dual candidacy outright would be mistaken, but I will consider some possible provisions that would ameliorate the potential “legitimacy” problem that can arise from losing electorate candidates gaining a seat via the party list. I will caution against a “best loser” provision, which would allow candidates to win PR seats only if they have run close losing races in their electorate. Instead I will suggest an “incumbent defeat assurance”, whereby incumbent MPs who earn fewer votes that their party’s list in the district, and lose the district, would not be able to retain a seat via the list. I will also suggest an alternative form of “best loser” rule that rewards those electorate losers who outpoll their parties in their districts.


One of the most criticized aspects of MMP in New Zealand is the possibility that a candidate can lose an electorate contest, yet remain in parliament via the party list. This seems to be especially subject to criticism in the case of incumbent electorate MPs, who are perceived as having been defeated by their voters, yet reelected thanks to the closed party list.

One can argue that this is not really a problem at all. The idea of a mixed-member system is that there are two ways of winning election: being a local constituency MP, or being a party MP. It is sometimes alleged by critics that losing a district race but winning on the list is entering parliament “by the back door”. But that is not accurate, because MMP is a system that might be said to have two “front doors”, neither of which is less legitimate than the other. It is not as if the lists are secret. If voters do not like the list of candidates of a party, there are other parties to choose from. This is the advantage of proportionality–more choice of parties–and in a competitive inter-party context, parties that get a reputation for nominating bad candidates to their list are not likely to prosper. (Work by Jack Vowles has shown that, in any case, incumbent MPs who lose the district but remain MPs due to their list rank tend to last only one more term. That is, their parties do not renominate them, or do not give them a viable list rank, next time around.)

However, if one concedes that the presence of MPs who are district losers but list winners is a problem–whether of actual legislative performance and accountability, or simply bad PR (in the sense of public relations)–there are various ways to address it. One is to open up the lists so that list MPs also need to win votes. This is a separate issue, and one that I will address separately in a later section. There are also ways to address the issue within the context of closed lists.

Ban dual candidacy?

One way is simply to ban dual candidacy. Candidates, and their parties, would have to decide between electorate candidacy and list candidacy. This is the simplest approach. It is also the worst. It would mean parties needing to nominate close to the full 120 candidates rather than 70 to 75, as is currently typical.

The only sign I saw that was for both a party and (more subtly) also for a position on the referendum. Seen in central Christchurch.

A ban on dual candidacy would be especially disadvantageous to smaller parties that depend entirely or almost entirely on winning list seats. These parties would not be able to nominate their leaders in districts, because if they did, they’d have their leadership outside parliament. Thus banning dual candidacy would weaken the links of smaller parties to geographic constituencies, which would seem to go against the deeper preferences of those advocating changes to dual candidacy rules. That is, the criticism of MMP from these reform advocates is that list MPs are not “accountable”, but if a ban on dual candidacy results in smaller parties not contesting electorates with their best personnel, then the resulting elected members (from the list) are less accountable because they’d have little reason to pay any attention to geographic constituencies. And, yes, leaders and other candidates of parties that rely on the list vote to win all their seats do in fact campaign in the districts. I witnessed such campaigning by Greens, including their national co-leader Russel Norman, while I was in New Zealand prior to the 2011 election.

Choosing the compensation members from among the “best losers”?

A possible solution is to adopt a “best loser” provision, as advocated in the New Zealand Herald.

A party’s list seats could, for example, go to its candidates who came closest to winning an electorate.

This has some appeal, in that it more closely ties every MP and serious candidate to a geographic constituency. Thus on the face of it, it seems like a good “accountability” corrective. However, as I already noted, many list candidates already campaign in electorates (single-seat districts) even if they are unlikely to win that way. If New Zealand currently had a clear division between plausible electorate winners, who campaigned personally in their districts, and likely list-only winners who avoided getting out and meeting voters, then a “best loser” provision might be a corrective. But it seems like a solution to a problem New Zealand does not actually have.

Moreover, the unintended consequences of a best-loser provision could be worse than the status quo. A similar provision exists in Japan, and the experience there should give advocates of “best loser” MPs pause. By rewarding a candidate for driving up his or her vote even in a district where the candidate has little realistic chance of winning, best-loser allocation exacerbates some of the worst features of FPTP. Whereas under current MMP rules, the two big parties have a strong incentive to seek to position themselves near the center of the nationwide electorate to maximize their party vote, under the best-loser rule, they would be back to the old days of targeting districts and seeking to appeal to voters located in relatively closely contested districts. They would want to do so because, even if they are not likely to win such electorates, those are the electorates where their highest quality candidates have the best shot at entering parliament despite losing the district race.

In seats that are “safe” for one party, the other major party likely would run a very weak candidate, as the party’s candidate there would have less hope of being among the several “best losers” who would enter parliament. Under current MMP rules, there is no strong disincentive to running a quality candidate in the electorate (who is also on the list). I can’t say how often it happens that a “quality” second-party candidate contests a seat that is safe for another party. It would depend on how we define “quality”, but the point is that parties now have no reason not to run a good candidate even if they aren’t likely to win the electorate. With a best-loser provision, they would want to avoid “wasting” such candidates on districts that are relatively weak for the party, who would be unable to enter parliament unless they ran close to the electorate winner.

The best-loser concept also has a clear “top two” bias in it. The provision might make sense for candidates of the big parties, where the provision might let the candidate who loses, say, 48-47, enter parliament, but keep out one who loses on the order of 52-35. Yet for the smaller parties, they may not have any electorates in which they are close to winning. Thus their “best losers” might be those who lost “only” 50-35-15 instead of 50-40-10. What is gained by ensuring that a candidate who loses by 35 points is elected ahead of one who loses by 40 points?

A proposal: Incumbent defeat assurance

Here is a proposal that could address the (perceived) problem of the so-called back-door MP: Incumbent electorate MPs who fail to win the plurality of votes in their reelection bids are skipped on the party list if their own electorate votes fall behind their party’s vote in the electorate. In this way, if the MPs in question lost because their party became less popular (which will often be a nationwide swing, and not a specifically local effect) they can retain their seat if they are sufficiently valued by their party as to have a list rank that permits their election. However, if they lose because they are less popular than their party, they are done–the list can’t “save” them from rejection by their electorate.

As noted by Kate Chapman in a Fairfax NZ article

In November, Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove lost the Waimakariri seat and National’s Chris Auchinvole lost West Coast-Tasman, but both returned to Parliament.

Sign for Chris Auchinvole near Greymouth.

Under my proposed incumbent-defeat assurance (IDA) provision, Cosgrove would have remained a list MP, but Auchinvole would not have been returned to parliament. In Waimakariri, Cosgrove won 16,145 votes, while Labour won 8,431 party-list votes. In other words, even as a loser in the district, Cosgrove was almost twice as popular with his constituents as was his party! Why should he be considered unqualified to continue when he is both popular in his district, relative to his party, and sufficiently highly regarded by the party to have earned a high list rank?

The National winner in Waimakariri, Kate Wilkinson, was less popular than her party: she won 16,787 votes, this beating Cosgrove by just over 600 votes, but her party won 20,489 party-list votes in the electorate. She won fair and square, by getting more votes than Cosgrove. But, if the IDA provision were already in effect, she would now be on notice: she would have to improve her personal standing vis-a-vis her party’s voters in the district, or she could be out next time.

In West-Coast Tasman, on the other hand, IDA would have seen Auchinvole tossed out, despite his high list rank. He ran behind his own party in the district, by getting 13,214 votes in a district in which there were 15,462 National party-list voters. As for the district race itself, he lost it by 2,539 votes (7.5%) to Damien O’Connor, one of the few Labour candidates not to be dual-nominated. That Auchinvole ran so far behind his party looks like repudiation by the voters who know him best–including those who voted for his own party–and yet he continues via the list. ((Another, and potentially more plausible interpretation is not that Auchinvole fell victim to outright repudiation, but that he was expected to win as a list MP anyway, so voters felt free to vote for the Labour electorate candidate–who was not on his party’s list–thus ensuring the district would have two representatives, one in each major-party caucus. It might be thought that this is a type of strategic behavior that should be discouraged, and IDA would indeed discourage it. (As an aside, it should be noted that this electorate actually has three current MPs, as the Green candidate, Kevin Hague, was elected from his party’s list. Green list votes were more than twice as high as Hague’s electorate vote. The difference must be overwhelmingly Green voters who tactically voted for O’Connor; without them he would have lost narrowly to Auchinvole. Yet his margin was much greater than just Green tactical votes; he evidently won some significant share of the National list voters who did not vote for Auchinvole.) ))

Sign for Damien O’Connor along the main highway on the West Coast.

So the most recent election gives us examples of both an incumbent against whom IDA would bite, and one who would still be allowed to remain via the party list. Both examples come from large parties. What about small parties? There is one key case of considerable importance, Jeanette FItzsimons, then Green co-leader, in 2002. She still almost doubled the Green Party vote in Coromandel that year, when she lost the electorate seat she had won in 1999. So she would have remained in parliament; more generally, a small party that has a leader who is popular enough in her district base is not necessarily doomed to be tossed out if she can’t retain the seat in the face of tough competition from the bigger parties. ((In 1999 in Coromandel, Fitzsimons won 13,682 votes (just under 40%, and a margin of 250 over the second-place National candidate). The party votes were Green 2,640, Labour 12,390, National 10,747. In 2002, her own vote fell to 7,724, losing to a National candidate with 14,706, but her votes were still more than double the 3,232 Green votes in the district. There can be little doubt that Fitzsimons owed her win in 1999 to Labour voters tactically voting for her to help ensure the Green Party would have seats in parliament–the party ended up barely over the nationwide threshold, so it was almost dependent on her win to have any seats. Yet even in defeat in 2002, she remained personally far more popular than her party.))

Before concluding that the incumbent defeat assurance provision is viable, it would be useful to know just how common it is for an electorate winner to trail his or her list in the district. If it is relatively common for candidates to underperform their party’s vote, then it might be the case that IDA could prove overly punitive (even though we have already seen that it would have cost only one MP in 2011).

I have readily available the necessary electoral data in spreadsheet form only for 2002 and 2005 (for now). These are actually good years to investigate, due to the very different patterns of competition between the two big parties. In 2002, the election was not close nationally, as Labour easily secured the leading position. In 2005, by contrast, there was a very close contest between Labour and National.

In looking at these two elections, I find 16 legislators who won fewer votes in their electorate races than their party won in the electorate, yet who won the electorate. An asterisk indicates an incumbent.

    year, name, party, district
    2002, *Tizard Judith, Labour, Auckland Central
    2002, Pillay Lynne, Labour, Waitakere
    2002, *Mahuta Nanaia, Labour, Tainui (Maori electorate)
    2002, Fairbrother Russell, Labour, Napier
    2005, *Tizard Judith, Labour, Auckland Central
    2005, *Hodgson Pete, Labour, Dunedin North
    2005, *Benson-Pope D, Labour, Dunedin South
    2005, *McCully Murray, National, East Coast Bays
    2005, *Field Phillip, Labour, Mangere
    2005, *Hawkins George, Labour, Manurewa
    2005, *Williamson M, National, Pakuranga
    2005, Clarkson Bob, National, Tauranga
    2005, Hayes John, National, Wairarapa
    2002, *Mahuta Nanaia, Labour, Tainui (Maori electorate)
    2005, *Horomia Parekura, Labour, Ikaroa Rawhiti (Maori electorate)
    2005, *Okeroa Mahara, Labour, Te Tai Tonga (Maori electorate)

These sixteen candidates, twelve of whom were incumbents, were all less popular than their own parties, yet they are obviously legitimate winners due to a basic provision of how MMP works: they were more popular than any other candidate in their district.

These sixteen represent 20.3% of all candidates of the two big parties in 2002 and 2005 who were “list-trailers”; there were an additional 23 National and 40 Labour list-trailers who lost their electorates.

On the other side of the coin, the two big parties in these two elections had 60 candidates whose votes surpassed those of their list, yet did not win the electorate. (Eighteen, or 30%, of these won anyway, due to the list.) Electorate-losers are 53.5% of all list-surpassing candidates. So losing the electorate race when you run ahead of your party is far more common than winning the electorate despite trailing your party. This indicates that the IDA provision would hit relatively few MPs, but those few are precisely the ones that are most a lightning-rod for critics of dual candidacy.

Taken together, this partial analysis of the patterns of electorate-level votes for candidates and their associated lists suggests that there is no noteworthy tendency of candidates to be “rejected” by voters in their electorate yet be “saved” by the list–the proverbial “back door” MP. Further, the analysis suggests that a simple rule would solve whatever legitimacy problem there might be with incumbents who trail their list vote, yet are ranked high enough to win anyway: the incumbent defeat assurance provision would have such incumbents skipped on the list.

Another possible provision, and conclusions

Finally, I want to propose one other provision that the above analysis suggests could be beneficial. One could offer an alternate form of the “best loser” provision that defines a good loser not by reference to his or her margin of defeat at the hands of another party’s candidate in the electorate, but rather by the margin by which the candidate surpassed his or her party’s list vote in the electorate. Such a provision would reward those who are more popular with their own district’s voters than their own party. It would thus be the mirror image of the incumbent defeat assurance provision, which punishes those incumbents who lose the electorate race by trailing their list. Under this concept, when filling the list seats for a party, the first winners would be list-surpassing electorate losers with the greatest margins over their own party list. If a party still has more list seats earned after all list-surpassers have been elected, the remaining seats would be taken from the party list by rank order. Or, if preferred, one could continue to fill out the list with candidates who trailed their list by the narrowest margins–still skipping any incumbents among these list-trailers.

The bottom line is that if New Zealanders conclude that there is a problem with candidates losing one way (in the electorate) but winning another way (via the list), there are several ways to address it without banning dual candidacy. An outright ban on dual candidacy undermines one of the main beneficial features of MMP: the incentive of parties to have most of their candidates campaign among local voters even if they are unlikely to win the electorate seat. A ban on dual candidacies would be especially harmful to smaller parties, who necessarily have smaller pools of quality candidates to draw from in the first place, and would be deterred from running their top candidates in electorates at all. Those wanting to improve MMP should drop consideration of banning dual candidacy and instead consider the proposals outlined above: incumbent defeat assurance, and list-surpassing provisions for filling list seats.

All photos included by this post are by Matthew Shugart. Some rights reserved. Many more at the Flickr set.

42 thoughts on “Improving MMP: Dual-candidacy issues

    • Thanks, Vasi. I wonder if there is polling on that question. I have not seen any, but then I have not exactly gone looking, either.

  1. Any polls will likely be reported at
    I can’t remember any on this point, but the comments on public perception in the Stuff and NZH editorials linked to in MSS’s article seem right to me.
    Very thought-provoking article MSS, thanks.

  2. Interesting (and epic!). I have a couple thoughts. It seems to me that candidates outstrip their parties mainly in two cases. Either they benefit from strategic voting, a la Duverger, by voters who most prefer small parties and split their tickets, or they have a strong personal vote. The former benefits big parties. The latter could produce the same incentives as the best-loser provision; that is, candidates fearing a negative party swing could turn into pork-patronage-pandering machines (or at least try to). They might also try to run against their own unpopular parties. Not sure that’s what would be reformers have in mind.

  3. Excellent points, Mike. I don’t think NZ parties and legislative organization can service the demand for porcine personal votes. And MMP is a pretty strong antidote to the party-driven pork-barreling that we see with FPTP parliamentarism (UK or former NZ).

    So while I agree with your concerns in a ceteris paribus way, I think it’s not a worry in a system such as New Zealand has.

    (“Epic!” Wow.)

    • Back to Mike’s points: because of the risk of enhancing particularistic incentives, I am less confident about my suggested “list surpassers” manner of filling out the list seats. (In fact, it was conversations with Mike that led me to see the vote-grubbing risk of the “best loser” provision in Japan.) I assume this is less an issue with the incumbent defeat-assurance, if only because it seems unlikely to affect large numbers of politicians.

  4. What if the electoral law simply banned candidates who registered for election from a constituency from being elected to or selected for a list seat for that same parliament, but made an exception for the party leaders?

  5. How are candidates generally chosen for the district seats in NZ-selection by district associations from a centrally chosen short list, as in the UK? Or is it as centralised as the list selection process?

    • On candidate selection for the electorates, it’s only the two big parties that really matter here. I was told by more than one person I interviewed that Labour uses centralized selection. National, on the other hand, has a process that involves pre-selection by local party organizations. However, in practice, the center has a great deal of influence.

      Others with more experience may have additional information, or may contradict some of what I have said.

  6. Can’t NZ just leave this dual-candidacy issue alone?

    Why are people so bothered by a candidate running on both the list and electorate scream when that candidate is in 2nd place and gets into parliament on the list seat?

    MMP is not a hybrid system, it is a system of proportional representation with the list seats fully compensating for the disproportionate aspects of the SMD.

    Other countries that have MMP seem to not think that this is a problem. The Germans don’t think it is a problem. List and Electorate MPs can go back and fourth. The NZ solution to this problem seems to possibly make the electorate and list MPs even more divided and separate.

    The only problem with the NZ MMP system that I see that needs to be fixed is the 1 electorate rule to get list seats should be changed to at least 2 seats.

    The electoral threshold could be lowered to 3%.

    Other than that, the NZ system of MMP works great.

    Is there going to be a referendum on the new and improve MMP system as well?

  7. Labour has the ability for the centre to over-ride a local preference by ‘bussing-in’ Union members. The most notable recent example was the Mana by-election. Doing this too much obviously has an impact on local membership…
    There have been quite detailed posts on Kiwiblog about National’s process, which certainly has the appearance of being much harder for Head Office to game.

  8. Even though the “list surpassers” proposal seemed very neat at first, it increasingly seems to me as something that bring with it (to some degree) the disadvantages associated with the Japanese system.
    I think that because the problem with dual candidacy is largely letting in losing constituency-candidates through the list ‘lifeline’, the system must solve the problem through a list-based solution, one that encourages candidates to campaign for list votes as well so that they ‘deserve’ that lifeline. I suppose that inevitably, this can only really be done with open lists. I’d propose using the Dutch system of all votes being for candidates, and all candidates getting more than half a quota being moved to the front of the list. In this context, a constituency-candidate can only get a list seat when being moved to the front of the list by virtue of a large-enough personal list vote. I would also apply MSS’s proposal of omitting the constituency candidate from the list in his constituency.
    But… there is indeed a large practicality issue when open lists are considered in NZ, because of the huge lists. The simplest solution that occurred to me would be splitting the two votes to 2 separate ballots, with the party-list ballot being by party, that is: each party has a separate party-list ballot, as I believe is done in a number of European countries.
    MSS: I hope to see your take on open lists for NZ.

  9. They then presumably went with closed lists as it allowed for the greatest proportionality but also I assume tied in with the prevailing, somewhat centralised, political culture, at least in the two main parties?

    • DC, open vs. closed lists have no impact on proportionality. I’d have to look back at the Royal Commission report to see if they specifically gave a justification for list type.

      I suspect closed lists were preferred because they are simpler, and because there was already a candidate-voting element through the electorates anyway. And because that’s the system used in Germany, the one longstanding MMP system, which is known there as “personalized proportional representation”. There is some logic to the argument that having open lists is redundant, although there are also reasons to doubt that. Anyway, it is a matter for a subsequent section of my series, so wait for it (not to say you can’t keep commenting here–in fact, please do).

      I call your attention to a much older post where I address some related issues: Look over at the left sidebar at the link on “MMP and dual candidacy”.

      JD, you mention the Netherlands, which, as you further note, has a quota of personal votes needed to upset the list order. Thus it is not an open list, but a “flexible” list. Over the years it has not been very flexible in practice, although recent changes in the quota have allowed increased numbers (but still not very many) candidates to be elected whose party-given rank would not have been sufficient.

  10. Thank you, Matt, for a very interesting and thoughtful post. I hope you’ll formally submit it and the other ideas that you have for reforming MMP to the Electoral Commission. Therese Arseneau and I have been appointed as expert advisors to the Commission, and high-quality, well-argued, empirically-sound submissions will be of considerable assistance to all concerned with the review of MMP.

    • Nigel, thanks for commenting. I have been meaning to contact you to direct you to my thoughts, but I see you found it on your own. I need to send Therese a link, too.

      So, submissions from foreigners are accepted?

  11. I remembered your old post (“MMP and dual candidacy”), although more in the context of the provision where the constituency candidate is omitted from the list. I’ve now re-read it.

    Flexible is indeed a better term for the Dutch system. It hasn’t led to many real personal-vote candidacies there but I think it would happen in a NZ context where constituency-candidates could only enter through the list ‘backdoor’ if they got the quota personal vote.

  12. Could the lists be broken for the two islands of New Zealand? North List, and South List. Would this make an open party list more viable?

  13. I meant the “nationwide” part of the nationwide closed list was more proportional-I assume that what they were going for, rather than regionalising the list element, or just having multi-member constituencies. Very interesting discussion all told.

  14. The Islands are very uneven in population, and becoming more so (only accelerated by the Christchurch earthquakes). The number of districts is defined by a minimum number in the South Island (NI then gets the number required to make their’s the same size.) Any splitting of lists would be artificial, and not align with existing entities or self-identification (except maybe Auckland vs everyone else, which I don’t think we want to encourage).
    I think there has been previous discussion here on lack of NZ regionalism?

  15. DC @19
    I meant the “nationwide” part of the nationwide closed list was more proportional
    Yes, Scotland is odd, too many lists! NZ also has the Maori seats, which is a further argument for a nationwide list.

  16. While New Zealand is an usually unitary state, though this probably shouldn’t be surprising when you remember the small size of the population, I think three regions would work: Auckland and the Banks Peninsula, the rest of the North Island, and the South Island. I think the North Island has something like three times the population of the South Island, so the disparity wouldn’t be so bad if you split the North Island in two. But I suspect New Zealanders themselves wouldn’t be very interested in the idea.

  17. I think when considering regional lists, the big question is indeed, where do you put the Maori electorates?
    Especially in light of the fact that their boundaries don’t coincide with those of the general electorates.

  18. The Royal Commission rejected open lists for the same reason it rejected STV (and MNTV): that apparently having candidates from the same party competing for votes at the polls would bring about the downfall as NZ democracy as we know it.

  19. Ed: I think that would essentially entail doubling the number of Maori-reserved seats, which would be problematic. On the other hand, it might alleviate some of the Maori-Party-related overhang.

  20. Just a few responses:

    1. Yes, we have discussed NZ regionalism; in the first thread about the referendum results, there are several comments on regionalism.

    2. Issues related to the special Maori districts are explicitly excluded from the current review of MMP.

    3. To be clear (in response to JD, #17), it is not the case that “flexible” or “semi-open” lists, such as those in the Netherlands and many other countries, ensure that candidates elected on a party list have obtained a quota of personal votes. In fact, it is almost the reverse: candidates are elected according to the party-given order, with the exception that candidates whose list rank would be too low for them to be elected may vault over others with better pre-election ranks if they have obtained a stipulated quota of preference votes.

    4. Please, there is no entry via the “back door” in mixed-member systems. There is one door, but two paths leading to it.

  21. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

  22. Not to nitpick, but surely not all issues “related to” Maori representation are excluded. Many potential changes, including those involving dual-candidacy, would have effects related to Maori seats, however tangentially. Overhangs are explicitly included in the review, and it would be hard to even talk about that without mentioning the Maori parties. My impression is that the taboo applies only to the existence of separate Maori constituencies, and their number.

  23. The Commission overview says, “Parliament excluded two matters from the review – Maori representation and the number of members of Parliament.”

    I will let others be the judge of what this means.

  24. Although arriving somewhat late to the discussion, I thought to bring up very quickly a pair of points. First that I believe one of the motivations for keeping lists closed (if it wasn’t one of the motivations for creating them that way) is to encourage diversity within those lists. If you look back at records of how many Maori, Pasifika, Asian and/or female electorate candidates have successfully contested seats, the numbers are in fact quite low, and opening lists has the potential to be damaging to those numbers. This is also something that the concept expressed at the end (of lists being filled by the most successful electorate candidates) strikes me as potentially having a negative effect on.

    The second point is the potential effect that measures like “best loser” or lists effected by personal votes might have on campaigning. In both the 2008 and 2011 general elections the Greens campaigned very hard for list votes, while actively discouraging electorate votes so as not to undermine Labour candidates. This was meant to avoid splitting the left-wing vote as much as possible, while allowing the parties to exist independently. Without a form of Preferential Voting in the electorates, surely this would be made far more difficult with lists that were so closely tied to electorate votes, whatever that tie may be?

    Maybe that wasn’t particularly quick, but I would love to hear any thoughts on the matters.

  25. @NZvoter

    Surely then the solution is preferential voting in multimember districts. I’ll run and hide now.

  26. NZ voter @31: ” one of the motivations for keeping lists closed… to encourage diversity within those lists”

    Diversity is certainly a by-product of multi-member districts, whether local, regional or nationwide. I don’t know that closed lists are the deciding factor. I seem to recall Lakeman two decades ago pointing out that Malta, Ireland, Switzerland and Finland fared quite well in female representation compared to Norway and Germany.

    I’d hazard a guess that open lists may have helped female candidates in the early days because the usual candidate-selection rule is some form of limited vote. With no surplus tranfers, it helps to be “the” (sole) female candidate on the list because you will attract all the votes of those who are specifically seeking to elect women. (One reason why African-American electoral reformers like Lani Guinier favour cumulative voting over STV.) Probably less assistance these days when there might be seven or eight female candidates on a 15-candidate list.

  27. I think the idea is that a party that feels committed to diversity can demonstrate it, and use that as a campaign issue. “Look, we have zippered lists, and the other party doesn’t! Vote for equality!”

  28. Alan: it generally can, depending on the ballot design – that is, if the party actually presents its preferred order and whether that is presented in any form. But even then, there is absolutely no assurance that the eventual list order (based on candidate aka personal votes) will be anything like the party’s own zippered list order.

  29. My understanding of the political science literature on the question raised here in recent comments–gender and ethnic balance in list systems–is that closed lists are much “better” than open in producing this sort of descriptive representation.

    The reason is pretty straightforward: with closed lists, parties can pre-structure their caucus by putting their desired number of candidates of certain characteristics in electable ranks. With open lists, this is impossible, because the list is not ranked until the preference votes won by individual candidates are tabulated.

  30. While I think that you’re mostly right about the effect of open vs closed lists on women’s representation, I’m not sure that the relationship between list type and representation is as clear-cut as you suggest. I would argue that closed lists are only better at electing more women under circumstances of cultural bias against women. So, if the culture is relatively unbiased, then open or closed will have the same effect- it doesn’t seem to matter in terms of women’s representation.

  31. Not much to post about, except the suggestion that 36.66% list seats are required for proportionality. Minimal changes. The threshold drops to 4%, the one-local-seat loophole is abolished, and the provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold. That’s all, folks.

    The 4% “reflects the Royal Commission’s original recommendation. It would compensate for abolition of the one electorate seat threshold. It is in line with comparable democracies such as Norway and Sweden. And it is in line with public opinion and the weight of submissions received by the Commission.”

    No open lists. “Widespread concern was expressed among submitters about the adequacy of list candidate selection processes and practices, and the suspicion that in at least some cases parties have not followed their own rules. Therefore we encourage parties to reflect on this and consider whether they need to take any action in this area.” Even though 45% of submitters were opposed to dual candidacy, because list MPs are ‘unelected’, ‘appointed’ by parties or are the Parliamentary representatives of parties and accountable to them rather than the electorate, the Commission says political parties remain essentially private organisations; hands off.

  32. I just put up a post about it, as soon as I saw the e-mail from the commission. One of the proposals on dual candidacy in my submission was referenced in the Proposal Paper.

    So let’s resume the conversation at the new entry.

  33. Pingback: On District-Ordered Lists: in reaction to Éric Grenier’s proposal | Fruits and Votes

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