Explained: The MMP referendum

Last updated 13:56 23/10/2011
referendum sample
Your choice: Sample of referendum voting paper. The first question asks whether you want to keep MMP or not. The second question asks which of four other voting systems you would choose if New Zeala

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MMP referendum

NZ's MMP referendum: what you need to know MMP has made a difference Explained: The MMP referendum MMP: Is it time for a change? MMP mixed signals confusing voters The case for and against MMP Exploring the myths about MMP Campaign for MMP begins Editorial: Parties risk sullying MMP's reputation Wellingtonians want to keep MMP

If that little orange guy has done his job and gets you down to the polls on November 26, you should know that more box ticking is needed this year.

As well as the usual orange form to elect Members of Parliament there is also a special purple form.

This purple form is a Referendum on New Zealand's Voting System. It's basically asking you what you think of the present
MMP voting system.

"MM what?" you say.
A little background on MMP (Mixed Member Proportional)

By the 1990s New Zealanders had become frustrated with the long-held system of First Past the Post [FPP] system.

Parties that gained the highest percentage of party votes did not always win enough electorates to govern. And smaller parties were gaining high percentages of votes but not getting represented in Parliament.

In a 1993 referendum we chose to replace FPP with MMP.

We've now had It took a while for the voters and politicans to get to grip with the system with a
How does MMP work?

  • 120 Members of Parliament and 70 electorates
  • Voters get two votes. One for a politcal party and one for an electoral candidate
  • 50 MPs come from the party vote and are called list MPs
  • Coalitions or agreements are usually needed before a government can be formed
  • Parties get a share of the seats in Parliament that is about the same as its share of the party vote

You will no doubt hear more about the good and bad of MMP in the coming weeks as campaigns for and against gain momentum.

Some say MMP is good because minor parties are given better representation in Parliament whereas others say minor parties may end up with more power in decisions whereby "the tail wags the dog".

On Election Day your purple referendum form asks you two questions:

You can answer both or either the first or second questions.
1.    Do you want to keep MMP or change to another voting system?
2.    What voting system would you choose if New Zealand did decide to change?

If more than half of New Zealanders want to get rid of MMP there will be another referendum in 2014.

Here are the four voting systems:
First Past the Post (FPP)

  • 120 Members of Parliament and 120 electorates
  • One vote for your preferred electorate MP
  • The winning party usually wins a share of the seats in Parliament larger than its share of all the votes across the country

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Preferential Voting [PV]

  • 120 Members of Parliament and 120 electorates
  • Voters rank electorate candidates in order of preference 1,2,3
  • A candidate who gets more than half of all the first preference votes (that is votes marked "1") wins

Single Transferable Vote [STV]

  • 120 Members of Parliament and 24-30 electorates
  • 120 MPs divided up between the electorates
  • Voters rank electoral candidates either by personal choice OR previously decided rankings by parties
  • Coalitions or agreements between political parties are usually needed before governments can be formed

Supplementary Member [SM]

  • 120 Members of Parliament and 90 electorates
  • One vote for electoral candidate and one vote for political party
  • The share of the remaining 30 supplementary seats each party gets reflects its share of the party vote

Want to know more?

The Electoral Commission has set up an interactive website and a YouTube channel to help explain the issues.

A public meeting will be held in Wellington on Tuesday, November 15 at 6.30pm at Lecture Theatre 1, Rutherford House, 23 Lambton Quay, Wellington.

- The Dominion Post

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