As I have previously mentioned, I don’t believe that any of the alternatives on offer in this year’s referendum are better than MMP. However, I would like to propose an alternative Electoral System: Proportional Representation. Please keep in mind that this is intended as an initial discussion piece that could evolve into something more solid.
Proportional Representation, as the name suggests is a system to accurately represent the voters choices in the same proportions that the votes are cast. In other words, if a party gets 50% of the votes then they get 50% of the seats in parliament.
The system would employ a form of Single Transferable Vote to reduce the number of wasted votes. Each voter would select the party that they wish to vote for as well as two alternatives in case the first vote would otherwise be wasted. Seats in parliament would directly reflect the percentage of votes received. There would be no threshold, if you have enough votes for at least one whole seat, then you’re in.
Seats in Parliament would be a 90/30 split of electorate MPs to list MPs. How individual MPs are chosen is where things get a little bit complicated. Each electorate would be scored out of 100 based on two factors: percentage of voter turnout and the percentage of votes received by party that receives the most votes in the electorate. Eg: Voter turnout in the electorate is 75% and the party with the most votes is Party A with 40%, the score calculation is 100 × 0.75 × 0.4 = 30. This Representation Score gives us an indication of how well the party with the most votes represents the electorate as a whole.
Electorates are then ordered by their Representation Scores, from highest to lowest. Moving down the list, the MP for the party with the most votes is assigned a seat in parliament. If a party runs out of seats, then the candidate with the second highest number of votes will be assigned the seat. If this candidate’s party has also run out of seats then it would move to the candidate with the third highest number of votes and so on. Once all 90 electorate seats have been assigned, the remaining 30 list seats would be assigned according to each party list.
The fact that the MP with the most votes might not necessarily win the seat is probably a shocking concept but this is likely to happen in only a small number of electorates and, because of the ordering by Representation Scores, it would happen only in seats with a combination of low voter turnout and where the vote is heavily split. Remember that under most other systems, the winner usually has less than 50% of the votes anyway.
The resulting parliament would be one that better represents all of New Zealand. The bigger parties would probably have more electorate seats and less list seats. The smaller parties would probably have mostly list seats, because geography is not a limitation of Proportional Representation.
Before anybody complains that this method wouldn’t reduce the number of MPs in parliament or remove the Maori seats, no method in the referendum does either. This is merely a proposed alternative, offered with the same criteria as the existing ones. However, I do believe that Proportional Representation would allow for the removal of dedicated Maori seats as it already ensures fair representation of Maori.