Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm voting for MMP

Of all the decisions I’ve had to make about voting in the election this year, one was never in doubt: I’ll be voting to keep MMP. Naturally, I hope all other New Zealanders will, too.

When we vote next month, we’ll face a two-part referendum. Part A asks, “Should New Zealand keep the MMP voting system?” I’ll be voting to keep MMP.

No matter how one votes in Part A, voters then will be asked in Part B: “If New Zealand were to change to another voting system, which voting system would you choose?” The options are First Past the Post (FPP), Preferential Voting (PV), Single Transferable Vote (STV) and Supplementary Member (SM). I will choose STV.

If MMP wins a majority in Part A—if a majority of New Zealanders vote to keep MMP—it will trigger an independent review of MMP to make it better. In this way, we can iron out any problems with MMP. If it loses, it will face another referendum pitted against the alternative voting system with the highest number of votes.

So, if MMP wins, we can fix the things we don’t like while keeping the fairest, most democratic voting system I’ve ever experienced.

I come from a country that uses First Past the Post (FPP) almost exclusively, and many of its problems are directly traceable to that fact. FPP is a system in which the candidate with the most votes wins, even if they received only a minority of all votes cast. That’s not fair or democratic and results in FPP frequently electing candidates without majority support. So, there are usually large numbers of Americans who are completely unrepresented. It also ensures the continued duopoly of the two big parties, the only ones with any reasonable chance of election nationally (or even on the state level of most states).

MMP fixes all that. The main way it does that is through proportionality: The make-up of Parliament exactly matches the desires of voters because the proportion of Parliamentary seats held by each party is directly related to the share of the Party Vote they get (it also encourages multiple parties so that no one party becomes too powerful). Also, MMP has increased the representation of women, Maori, ethnic minorities and GLBT people, and that means Parliament looks much more like New Zealand than could ever happen under FPP.

Because MMP encourages multiple parties, it makes it likely that governments will be coalitions, which has several benefits. First, we don’t have dramatic jerks to the left or right, and the more extreme policies of any party are softened which, again, better reflects New Zealand than the constant chopping and changing and 180 degree turns under FPP. This also makes governments more consultative than they would be if they didn’t need the support of other parties.

All of this makes New Zealand’s government remarkably stable and predictable, while still allowing governments of different ideologies to make major changes when in power. Best-case scenario, in my opinion.

So, what we get with MMP is a diverse, highly representative government that is more consultative and democratic than anything FPP could deliver. It’s also a very simple system and, frankly, much easier to understand than STV.

STV would be my distant-second choice. Because it doesn’t have proportionality like MMP does, it’s less fair or democratic than MMP. It also encourages a two-party duopoly. Preferential voting and Supplementary Member are both less democratic again, with FPP, obviously, being the least democratic or fair.

Auckland University has a calculator to suggest how the same percentages of support would translate into seats in Parliament under the different systems. MMP is the only one to match the percentage of support.

For more information on keeping MMP, the Campaign for MMP is a great place to start. They also have more information about the system.

Keeping MMP is the obvious choice, I think.

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