NZ MMP Review Proposals Paper

Elections New Zealand has released the Proposals Paper that it has prepared in response to the submissions to the review of the country’s Mixed-Member Proportional electoral system.

Rather than summarize it here, I will encourage interested readers to go read it themselves, and ask them to come back here and discuss.

For earlier discussion of the referendum and review, please click the words, MMP Review, in the “planted in” line above. A couple of the prior entries include portions of a submission I sent.

My submission is cited (under the last subheading on the page on dual candidacy); I am honored!

57 thoughts on “NZ MMP Review Proposals Paper

  1. Can’t a Best Loser MMP system be combined with an open list system?

    I always go back to this, what about a one vote MMP model using FPTP with a best loser system, or a one vote MMP model using Australian style preferential voting with an open party list allocation with the first count of votes for list seats, and the elimination of candidates until one wins 50% plus one vote for the district seat.

    Let’s say we have the NZ MMP using closed lists and the two vote method, however, It might be better to use a threshold method in the district seats, such as all candidates have the right to be on the party list if they surpass 5% of the vote in the district.

    At least minor parties who run in a district are force to campaign in a small district to win votes to be on the list. The party can set up the list as it is closed, but if any member of their party wins less than 5% in a district, then they are off the list. Then this may discourage some members of that small party not to run in a district if they are fearful of polling less than 5% in a district, as they would be off the list.

    This wouldn’t be a best loser method, but a minimal threshold method. Some may want to make this more elaborate and more complex, combining this with a an open list system would be interesting, but might lead to perverse results where the candidate wins lots of votes nationwide, but is rejected in their home district. I guess as they say all politics are local.

    This system would not hurt large parties at all, but make small parties candidates achieve at least over 5% in the district to be on the list.

  2. I think MSS is right that there is no real answer to this discussion — I originally wrote “resolution” but obviously there is a resolution, and that will be what New Zealand decides to do, independent of the opinions of non-New-Zealanders. [1]

    So let me just clarify a couple of things, and then I’ll stop.

    First, Nick asks why I think that it’s better for 45% of a constituency to be unrepresented than 15% of a different constituency. The reason is that the National MP (to keep with the example) with 85% of the vote has no particular need to be concerned with the minority who vote for other parties, while the Nat with a bare majority needs to watch out. (In other words, I would expect that constituency representatives in MMP would conform to the median voter model just as well — or not — as elected FP(T)P representatives.) That’s at least a testable hypothesis although I don’t actually know of any tests. I’ll look, though.

    Second, I think Vasi hits the nail on the head with his example of Montreal Conservatives. I don’t actually have any insight into the thinking of this rare breed, but if they are not otherwise different from other Montrealers I know, they would not feel themselves much represented by someone from Bloor Street, even a Bloor Street Tory.

    Furthermore, I don’t think you need to rely on the goodwill of the Conservative Party to put a Montrealer high on the list of a hypothetical supplementary closed list. They’d be slavering at the bit to do it — or at least, other political parties I’m more familiar with would have been.

    Why? Because political parties actually want to get elected. This motivates them to present attractive candidates. They have essentially no motivation to present unattractive candidates, which is different from presenting attractive candidates who lack a (geographical) constituency.

    How can you (supposing that you’re a political party) make inroads into a province if you don’t have anyone from that province in your caucus? Your only hope is to convince someone electable in that province to run in some riding in which they might just barely have a chance to win on their own merits. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to convince really good candidates to take you up on this offer, since the only ones eager to do it will be people with an inflated view of their own attractiveness coupled with an inability to work with their former colleagues in whatever party they came from. So it’s not a strategy without risks. (It is a strategy the NDP tried for years without success until it finally succeeded in spades, but I’m far too far away to guess what it means for the future.)

    If, on the other hand, you can pretty well guarantee to someone that they will be elected (by putting them high up on the closed list), then you can attract a much better range of candidates, and they will likely serve you well in your future attempts to be credible in that region.

    So, yes, regions matter.

    Finally, I don’t see how best-losers without a fused vote can save you from the delinking problem. Given that every (large) party has some number of really secure districts, they only need to run “non”-party candidates in those districts. Even with a fused vote, this strategy can provide some advantage, but not nearly as much.

    I’ll agree that best-loser with a fused vote does help, but then I’ll argue that strategic voting for the fused vote (further) distorts the meaning of the “best” loser’s vote, to the point where its correspondence with voter preference becomes, to coin a phrase, illusory🙂

    And with that, enough. Back to the New Zealanders, if any.

    fn1. I’m also Canadian, although I now live in Perú, which has a simple open-list system.

  3. MSS, I guess I’m too dumb to figure out how the comment editor is supposed to work, so if you can fix that italic error (it was supposed to just be “wants to get elected”), I will be (even more) in your debt.

  4. @Suaprazzodi: I think your idea of using a best losers method with a 5% district threshold in order to be elected on the party list actually makes alot of sense!

  5. Rici,

    A couple of points and some further analysis.

    “First, Nick asks why I think that it’s better for 45% of a constituency to be unrepresented than 15% of a different constituency. The reason is that the National MP (to keep with the example) with 85% of the vote has no particular need to be concerned with the minority who vote for other parties, while the Nat with a bare majority needs to watch out. (In other words, I would expect that constituency representatives in MMP would conform to the median voter model just as well — or not — as elected FP(T)P representatives.) That’s at least a testable hypothesis although I don’t actually know of any tests. I’ll look, though.”

    Your method is overvaluing the wish to pander to marginal consistuencies under MMP. Because MMP is proportional (for the most part) parties are less concerned with pandering to a riding than under FPTP. The bigger thing is to simply get more votes.

    You are right that the local member from the Nationals in the marginal constituency may be very concerned with appealing to his community he represents (assuming he’s not a dual candidate).

    However, how will he do this in all reality? The closed list system does lead to a significantly more powerful party whip. I think we’ve alluded to this above.

    The only means for a compensating member to be able to go against his party (when standing up for his local constituents) is to have the moral authority to do so. If the prospect of a bad list position is dangled over his head, he is much more likely to not have that fight.

    Moreso, in a marginal seat you’re creating a much harsher punishment for losing by a few votes.

    Best loser creates more of a continuum in lieu of threshold in terms of chances of winning a seat. If I lose my SMD by a few votes, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m screwed, because I may still have a good chance at a compensating seat.

    “Second, I think Vasi hits the nail on the head with his example of Montreal Conservatives. I don’t actually have any insight into the thinking of this rare breed, but if they are not otherwise different from other Montrealers I know, they would not feel themselves much represented by someone from Bloor Street, even a Bloor Street Tory.”

    I agree with this. But I think it’s better served by a regional allocation of compensatory seats which makes a decision based on verifiable quantitative facts. This works on the basis that compensatory seats can be allocated to regions which each have some specified amount of compensatory seats (accross all parties).

    These are then allocated based on wasted votes (total votes less seats received*party’s hare quota).

    I’ve worked on a model which I ran for the 2011 election. It gave the Conservatives two compensatory seats in Quebec (out of 10 nationally for the Conservatives and out of 32 in all of Quebec). This was based on 70% of the seats coming from SMDs nationally which produced a Gallagher Index of 1 (mainly coming from small parties and independents).

    This model could be run to fine tune intra-province allocations (Montreal v. Quebec v. ROQ). I have not had the time to set that up because it requires some data input of riding results. But would function the same way as the national to province allocations. On the face it appears likely that it would give one of the compensatory seats to Montreal (I think it would be Larry Smith).

    The point really is that a regional allocation system would be better because it would leave the choice of where list seats are given to the voters.

    The question would still remain which candidate within a sub-provincial district should be given the compensating seat that’s been allocated to it. This again could be done by any system (closed list, open list, or best loser)

    And I still think that’s better decided by the voters then the party HQ. But hey I beleive in democracy. It allows these decisions to be made through quantitative voting patterns. Basically, it approximates open lists, without logistically having to put it on the ballot.

    It also better legitimizes the compensating seat winner as representing a group of people and not simply party policy.

    In my ideal structure, the allocation would be detailed enough to go so that each set of 2/3 SMDs would have a compensating member, while still maintaining national allocations.

    “Furthermore, I don’t think you need to rely on the goodwill of the Conservative Party to put a Montrealer high on the list of a hypothetical supplementary closed list. They’d be slavering at the bit to do it — or at least, other political parties I’m more familiar with would have been.”

    You’re right in that they may be wishing to put a Monreal member high on their list. But this come at the cost of Conservatives in another area who may be equally underrepresented. The best means to judge that fact, and thereby make decisions, is through a quantitative mechanism based on actial votes, not based on what a party deems important.

    “If, on the other hand, you can pretty well guarantee to someone that they will be elected (by putting them high up on the closed list), then you can attract a much better range of candidates, and they will likely serve you well in your future attempts to be credible in that region.”

    You mean you can guarantee someone a seat without him getting the confidence of voters. That sounds awesome. I’m sure that will seem very credible to voters. If it gets abused a few times, people will scream bloody murder.

    “Finally, I don’t see how best-losers without a fused vote can save you from the delinking problem. Given that every (large) party has some number of really secure districts, they only need to run “non”-party candidates in those districts. Even with a fused vote, this strategy can provide some advantage, but not nearly as much.”

    How does the use of best losers versus any other intraparty allocation system affect the strategic de-linking issues. It is a common issue to all MMP systems. Germany has the issue with regards to CDU/CSU right now and it’s not closed list.

    This argument is like debating first-past-the post versus alternative vote and saying, “The problem with AV is that the minority isn’t represented. That’s why FPTP is better in this circumstance.”

    “I’ll agree that best-loser with a fused vote does help, but then I’ll argue that strategic voting for the fused vote (further) distorts the meaning of the “best” loser’s vote, to the point where its correspondence with voter preference becomes, to coin a phrase, illusory ‘

    Let’s be clear, you don’t need a fused vote for best losers to function any better/worse. You could easily have the members chosen based on their proportion of district level votes (or first votes), after intially determining national allocations to regions based on party votes (or “second votes”).

    The only issue would be that people may choose to vote for one the top two candidates in the district election, while saving their party vote for their “true” choice. This could slightly distort small party choices (parties who have no chance in those ridings) under a best loser system.

    However, in the context of some type of regional allocation system (on wasted votes), this would be somewhat “self-regulating” in that parties would be allocated seats where they were marginal losers.

  6. Suaprazzodi,

    This type of threshold would pre-suppose that all candidates would have to be riding candidates. Please confirm.

    An issue I could see is that you may well force small party voters to “waste” their nominal tier vote, making sure their candidate gets on the list.

    This would have the benefit of discouraging “vote doubling” like we see in German elections and more importantly decoy lists. However, many (especially on this site) seem to worry that this leads to a drawback that smaller parties’ voters are much less likely to have an influence on the local race.

    An issue is that small parties around the threshold could easily not have enough qualified candidates to fill the positions they’ve won in the list tier. Basically, there would be an “underhang”. I’m not sure that’s a great thing, as this would dispropotionately fall on small parties and not big parties.

    And this would really not solve the issue of big party “yes men” as the threshold is still quite low for a big party candidate.

    The best part versus other list-based systems is that it requires candidates to run in SMDs. This at least ties list winners to an SMD, and legitimizes then somewhat.

    However, you don’t really need the 5% threshold to achieve that.

  7. Yes, my proposal of a 5% threshold to be on the list will require small parties to be in the SMD. It may be better to make this a one vote MMP system, then at least small party candidate has to win more than 5% to be on the list.

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