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New Zealand Governmental Voting System Referendum, 2011

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A New Zealand Governmental Voting System Referendum was held on November 26, 2011 for citizens of New Zealand.

Preliminary results had the current MMP system being approved with 55% of votes in favor.[1]

This referendum asked New Zealanders if they wanted to keep the current election system, mixed member proportional (MMP), or change it. There were four other election systems to choose from, one of them being first past the post, the system which was in place before MMP was adopted. The government had started a referendum education program, estimated to cost near $5 million, in order to be able to inform voters of all the choices which will be presented on Election Day and to ensure they had all the facts in order to make an informed decision. Two questions were asked, first if voters wanted to keep the MMP system and second if they did not want it then which of the four other systems would they prefer.[2]

In order to help newcomers to the country and immigrants a seminar on October 12 was held to talk about the referendum. The Settlement Support Center was the group hosting the seminar, in the hopes that more people will be informed about the issue and make a better choice when voting.[3]

This referendum was brought forth because the current government had promised to hold a vote on the MMP system by the end of 2011. If the MMP option gets more than half the vote, then the Electoral Commission will make an independent review of the system in the next year. But if more than half of the votes are against the MMP system, Parliament will then hold another election in 2014 which will be binding, which would place the MMP system against whatever other choice received the most votes in this election.[4]

Opposition to MMP

The Prime Minister of the country, John Key, had noted that he had voted against the current MMP system, stating that a coalition of four different political parties could still form a government even if his National Party obtains nearly half of all votes in the country.[5]

Support of MMP

Those in favor of the MMP system noted that it ensures a consensus approach in the government rather than putting all the power into the hands of one political party which gets the most votes at an election. In a recent poll conducted by Colmar Brunton, 1,005 residents were polled during the period of Nov. 5- 9; 51 percent of the people polled supported keeping the current MMP system and 37 percent thought another system would be better for the country.[5]

Other Voting options

One of the other proposed systems was Preferential Voting. This system would make it that all 120 members of Parliament would be elected from single member constituencies and would need over 50 percent of the votes to be elected into the position. If no one candidate gets over 50 percent, then the candidate with the lowest amount of votes is eliminated and their votes are distributed to the second option those who voted for him gave on their ballots. This process would continue until one candidate got over 50 percent of the votes. Advantages include ensuring that candidates get 50 percent to be voted into office, allowing for major parties to be elected most often. Disadvantages include making it harder for minor parties to get into Parliament and voters not paying attention to other candidates after their first choice.[6]

Another proposed system was the Supplementary Member option. This system would have just 90 of the Parliamentary members being elected by a single member basis and the rest, 30 members, would be elected through voters choosing a political party they would like to hold the supplementary seats; the 30 seats would be distributed on a proportional basis. Advantages include introducing a single party government and leading to a more stable government, proponents argue. Disadvantages include that it is not completely fair in the proportional distribution of seats as well as not allowing for as much diversity as other systems would allow.[7]

Another proposed voting system was the Single Transferable Vote. This system would divide the country into electorate districts and voters would rank their candidate choices. For a candidate to win they would need to obtain a set amount of votes, as determined by a mathematical formula. If a candidate does not reach the quota, then the candidate with the lowest votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the other candidates. Advantages include being directly proportional and less wasted votes as in other systems. Disadvantages include taking longer to determine who wins elections and could lead to candidates focusing on constituency votes rather than debate national issues.[8]

Additional reading