Wrong objection

David Farrar falsely equivocates when he asks the following:

Why do so many people who complain that ACT got five seats in Parliament on only 3.65% of the vote, never complain that the Maori Party got five seats in Parliament on 2.39% of the vote?

The issue isn’t so much that ACT didn’t deserve seats for their share as that, for proportional consistency’s sake, NZ First deserved seats for their share as well. From there, people work backward to ‘If NZF didn’t get them, why should ACT have gotten them?’

The overhang is a misdirection away from the fact that the 5% threshold is the main source of entropy in our proportional system (and its neighbour SM). The two types of electedness he suggests are the same — winning an electorate and coming in on the list — aren’t, as David well knows, and this is a capricious argument from him. To prevent an electorate member from sitting on proportional grounds directly disenfranchises the electorate who voted for her. The solution to a system which arbitrarily disenfranchises a large number of voters on the basis of other voters’ decisions surely isn’t more disenfranchisement — it’s less.

As I’ve argued before, removing or lowering the threshold would reduce voter regret among the supporters of marginal parties, and embolden those electors to vote for their chosen party, resulting in truer representation. The possible impact on an overhang party — one which has traditionally won more seats than its share of the vote would otherwise entitle it — is an interesting case, and would force people who now vote tactically to re-evaluate their decisions.

I have an upcoming post asking what factors people value in an electoral system, and issues like these are germane to the forthcoming discussion about MMP.


9 thoughts on “Wrong objection

  1. Not sure what you mean by “entropy” here. Entropy, in its information theory sense, is a measure of uncertainty; an election result is just a count with no inherent uncertainty (actually there’s some measurement error in the counts, but we kind of have to sweep this under the rug).

    The main source of disproportionality in SM is the FPP component. A SM system with no threshold will very usually be less proportional than an MMP system with a 5% threshold. MMP with no threshold is significantly more proportional than either.

    SM with no threshold may or may not be less disenfranchising than MMP with a threshold, depending on the particulars (and on how you’re defining/measuring disenfranchisement).

  2. Lew:

    I thought Pablo said “no criticising David Farrar on Kiwipolitico”? tut tut!

  3. Nome:

    Fair criticism is just that. Personal invective is another thing entirely, and not accepted on this site..

  4. Brad,

    The count, as you say, isn’t at all uncertain: it’s the vote which introduces the uncertainty, and what I’m talking about is the effect the threshold has both on voter behaviour and on the eventual representativeness of parliament. The main reason for people not casting their party vote ‘true’ (for their preferred party regardless of other considerations) is the threshold. That’s my point: while 4.mumble% of people voted for NZF in 2008, there were undoubtedly others who would have done so if the risk of such a vote being wasted was lower.

    When you say that the FPP component of any mixed system is the biggest source of disproportionality, how do you mean — that the people who voted for unsuccessful candidates with their electorate vote didn’t get their representation? I think this is orthogonal to my objection, rather than germane to it.


  5. The justification of the threshold is that gaining a single seat provides influence disproportionate to the elected MPs popularity. A lone MP (such as Peter Dunne or Jim Anderton) can achieve a ministerial post that they would never get as a member of a larger party (in the case of Dunne, they get to keep their post through National and Labour governments).

    This also applies to electorate seats – we have this irrational belief that a small group of voters living in one place has a more legitimate claim to influence than the same size group scattered around the country.

    The modification I’d suggest to MMP is to remove the dual vote. Voters would then vote once for a candidate identified by party or independent affiliation. Their “party vote” would then go to that candidates party. So Ohariu/Belmont or Wigram voters would need to make a call between voting for their favoured candidate or party. I think this would also remove the tendency for overhangs, but haven’t done the math.

  6. The change should be to preferential voting in the electorate seats.

    As for proportional voting – I prefer a change to the 4.9% zero seats, 5.0% 6 seats impact on voting behaviour.

    This by a gradualism in seat allocation up to 5% of the vote.

    2.5% of the vote 1 seat
    3% of the vote 2 seats
    3.5% of the vote 3 seats
    4% of the vote 4 seats
    4.5% of the vote 5 seats
    5.0% of the vote 6 seats.

    Parties with an electorate MP and gaining less than 5% of the vote

    2% of the vote 2 seats
    2.75% of the vote 3 seats
    3.5% of the vote 4 seats
    4.25% of the vote 5 seats
    5.0% of the vote 6 seats

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  8. Now this is a conspiracy theory. A move to SM will not remove the Green and ACT voice from parliament, it just means their voting importance in parliament will diminish. So at a superficial level the move enables the possibility of a return to one party government. Which is what Brash tried to achieve by uniting the right back in 2005 but which is only really plausible via a SM or FPP electoral system.

    However, the real target may be over 65 universal super. While NZ First exists (and via MMP its return is always a possibility should anyone move against universal super at or over 65% net average wage for a couple), this is not an option. National cannot cut income tax without increasing the cost of over 65 super. They cannot even afford tax cuts unless they cut over 65 super.

    The Kiwiblog host has beat the drum for winding up the Cullen Fund and placing the money into compulsory Kiwi Saver accounts (this fits with the 10 year hiatus on contributions and continuing with the billion annual cost of Kiwi Saver fund subsidy to encourage take up and smooth making these accounts compulsory). No doubt the end game involves increasing the age to 70 and ending the link to 65% net average wage (before the tax cuts) and returning to Shipley’s formula of CPI indexation. This would save billions and enable large tax cuts once should this government successfully use the recession period deficit to justify on-going cuts in the cost of government throughout its term.

    With SM in place they could return to the 2005 policy and seek a mandate for large tax cuts (and gutting over 65 super) to the haves funded in this way (possibly for the 2014 election).

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