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That 5% threshold and recent polling

Written By: - Date published: 4:09 pm, August 18th, 2017 - 86 comments
Categories: election 2017, greens, MMP, polls - Tags:

Cross posted from lemattjuste.wordpress.com

There has been some discussion on Twitter recently about how to describe what happens if the Greens don’t clear the 5% threshold, which is beginning to look like a real possibility and not just right-wing trolling. To illustrate this, I’m going to use the results of the recent Colmar Brunton poll, but I don’t actually think it’s definitive yet that the Greens are really polling below 5%1.

You will know if you’ve followed my blog since last election, or have seen my commentary from previous blogs or elsewhere online from even earlier, that I am very opposed to New Zealand’s current threshold, and believe it should be lowered to somewhere around 0.8%. (the amount to win a single list seat outright) These facts bear obligatory mention because we shouldn’t even need to have this discussion, as the Greens have enough support that they shouldn’t risk going under the threshold.

Back to the topic at hand, the first and most simple way to describe what happens if the Greens don’t clear the threshold is that essentially every Green vote doesn’t count, so is ignored for determining who wins List seats. It’s still worth voting even if you don’t want to give your Party vote to anyone else, as 4.3% (+/-1.25%) is well within the margin of error for getting over the threshold, and I think it’s likely that any polls that surveyed later than this one will probably show the beginnings of a rebound. The recent low Green polling seems to be largely (but not entirely) attributable to the Jacinda effect. A month, as this campaign has shown, is an incredibly long time in an election campaign.

The second description is regarding what happens to the seats. Let’s, for a moment, pretend that there is no threshold in New Zealand. (because that’s roughly what Parliament should look like at every election. You can also call this the “Green Party wins Nelson” scenario, if you like) This is what the recent Colmar Brunton poll would indicate, assuming Dunne loses in Ōhāriu, and Seymour wins in Epsom, and either Marama Fox or Te Ururoa Flavell wins an electorate:

CBpollaugAct: 1 seat
National: 55 seats
New Zealand First: 12 seats
Māori Party: 2 seats
Labour: 46 seats
Green: 5 seats
Total: 121 seats, 61 seats needed to govern

I’ll get to how this is calculated in a minute, but the upshot of this is that the Greens would win the 11th, 34th, 58th, 80th, and 102nd seats in Parliament. (Yes, each one is calculated separately)

If we add the threshold back in, we get the following results:

ACT: 1
National: 56
New Zealand First: 13
Māori Party: 3
Labour: 48
(Total/government threshold both as above)

Note that National, the Māori Party, and NZF each get a seat that “should” belong to the Greens, making things even easier for them in coalition negotiations. Labour gets 2. It is a little bizarre that National should ever get any seats that “belong” to the Greens, but by ignoring under-threshold votes, that means the seats are re-allocated somewhat proportionally.

Things are even more complicated, of course, than where the seats go, as you may have noticed that one of the Greens’ seats went to the Māori Party when we implemented the threshold rule, when they really didn’t have enough of the vote to warrant it. This is because the system we use in New Zealand isn’t actually governed by percentage of the vote.


This is the third way to describe what happens if a party falls under the Threshold- to get into the weeds on what the Sainte-Laguë method (a mathematical system for allocating items using divisors) actually means. The image is a snapshot of my spreadsheet running the numbers for the seat calculation above (it’s a little primitive, I haven’t automatically coded it to cut off under-threshold parties yet, instead I just manually guarantee certain parties likely to win their electorates one seat in formulas, but it suffices with a little bit of checking-over for ties, (note there are two 116th seats here, those work fine as it will skip rank 117 in the formulas, but if there’s a tie for 120th it doesn’t note that, as there would be a tie-breaker then and it’s important to know who might lose a seat)

Essentially, we start off with the raw votes (it’s currently showing percentages multiplied by 1000, because it’s showing polling numbers, but in reality the first National Party number might by 1,000,000 or so) for each party, then we divide them by 3, by 5, by 7, and so on, until we’re satisfied we have a long enough list of numbers. (that’s usually by the time we get to dividing by 125 or so, which allows for 63 MPs for the largest party. If you were genuinely expecting a landslide you might go to) We then go through that list, and pick the largest number that hasn’t got an MP yet, and give that party the first MP, then the next largest for the second MP, all the way until we’ve got 1202. Because it’s sequential, it’s a little different to divvying up those seats according to the percentage of the total valid votes for over-threshold parties, as it doesn’t always exactly “round” the same way you would if you were looking at raw percentages of 120 seats.

If a party falls below 5%, we essentially just don’t bother to calculate their numbers for the list, and they get no seats allocated even though if we plugged them into the calculation they would likely be entitled to a fair number.

This divisor method is very friendly to small parties who aren’t discluded, but pretty proportional for parties that are polling in double digits. This is why I generally advocate for a 0.8% threshold- removing the threshold altogether would likely have awarded a seat to satire parties if people voted like they currently do, which seems a reasonable cutoff to me. There’s also something inherently fair about making it hard to win that first seat, but easier to grow larger from there.

So, in conclusion: don’t panic yet, and even if this poll result is real, there is plenty of reason to keep voting for the Greens, it just means there’s more campaigning to do, not the least is that if they don’t secure that 5%, my vote and plenty of other people’s votes won’t be counted towards changing the government, as I’m not Party voting Labour this election under any circumstances. And I won’t even start in the main article about the whole “I’m voting Labour so they’ll be large enough to form a Government” mess3.

Before your Regularly Scheduled Annotations, I will make a brief apology for not talking about other recent events in a timely fashion. I’ve had stuff going on personally that put me off writing about politics online for a while, but it’s now sorted.

1 Firstly, because the margin of error has plenty of room above 5%,
Secondly because this is only the first poll showing that and you need at least two polls to confirm this sort of thing, and
Thirdly because the Colmar Brunton is one of the least friendly polls to the Left in general, with Reid Research’s one coming in a close second, ie. TV news polls slant a bit to the right on average. That’s not to say they’re hugely likely to be out by more than the margin of error, but it is to say that they are more right-wing than the overall polling trend.

That said, Green supporters who want them in Parliament, and Labour supporters who don’t want Green votes wasted should be acting strategically right now as if this result is exactly as disastrous as it looks because you can’t afford to waste time when you might dip below the threshold.

There are likely several things going on here- I suspect the biggest one is that Ardern’s popularity is letting Labour eat a lot of the left and centre vote. This poll also started in the period where Metiria’s resignation was fresh, and a lot of the newer and lower-information Green supporters may have gotten the impression from bad news coverage that the Party had pushed her into resigning, rather than that she did so because she could no longer bear the disproportionately severe media attention on her private life. Add to that circular coverage regarding poll results, and it’s no surprise that this result was even worse than the previous one; I had expected polls to go down before coming back up, and I am genuinely hopeful that this will be the lowest poll the Greens will get in the campaign.

2 Or less if any independent MPs are elected. For instance if Raf Manji defeats Gerry Brownlee in Epsom, only 119 list seats will be allocated, as independents reduce the proportional size of Parliament instead of creating overhangs like electorate parties do. I’ll probably talk about this some more in an upcoming post, as I think it’s actually a bit of a silly rule.

3 I will of course concede that there are genuine reasons one might vote for Labour. Thinking they need to be the largest party in order to form the government is not one of them. It’s actually far more important that you give your vote to the party you want to have the strongest voice in government or opposition, rather than to the one you think is most likely to be the biggest party in the type of government you would like.

86 comments on “That 5% threshold and recent polling”

  1. mpledger 1

    The Greens will bounce back.

    Some people will have taken the media’s side on the Metiria Turei debate and switched their vote from Greens but on reflection they’ll begin to see it’s a beat-up and switch back again.

    They’ll also be sympathetic to the Greens environmental philosophy and will want to keep that in parliament and so they will switch back to get them over 5 (which will put them well over 5).

    But it may be quite volatile for a while until things settle down.

    • I believe so too, but I think it’s important to ground that sort of thing about polling. There shouldn’t be any doubt that the Greens have taken it hit- whether it’s temporary or not, and whether that’s Colmar Brunton being a bit off or not, is certainly up for debate.

    • Ed1 1.2

      I agree – there will be people that vote Green rather than another party just to ensure those votes are not wasted. Didn’t something like that happen with NZ First at a previous election? I also agree that the 5% threshold should be reduced, but there do seem to be some bizarre potential results in the complex formuae then used. Perhaps a wider fix is needed. Has any party talked about at least investigating changing the MP system? If so I would also include the right for people to register at any time right up to and including election day. The worst that could happen is that the count takes a bit longer. And also to reverse the changes National pushed through to disenfranchise many prisoners.

      • The Sainte-Lague method is actually pretty close to just looking at the percentage of the countable vote each party receives and rounding it. Most deviations from that happen when there are parties with 1-3 seats, so it’s pretty friendly to say, the Māori Party or ACT, but not really distorting proportionality much with regards to NZF or the Greens.

        I know most of the electoral reform advocates ended up in the Green Party, but I don’t think anyone has any official policies on electoral reform atm. I will canvass though as I am writing about that soon. The only recent electoral reform policy I remember was Labour’s old commitment from 2014 that they wanted to ditch electorate lifeboats and lower the threshold to 4%.

    • bwaghorn 1.3

      yeap they are a solid 8% party , bet my LAST CIDER on it

  2. esoteric pineapples 2

    “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” – John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829.

  3. Apologies for not catching the fact that NZF isn’t labelled in the graph btw, (Well, they actually are, it’s just the text is coloured the same shade of grey and is over their section of the pie. With a larger Green vote this didn’t happen, and I didn’t notice it at the time of posting) they were 12 seats as per the text. I should probably have put a bit more manual effort into making sure the labels were easily visible.

  4. Peter 4

    Unfortunately, the Greens have now lost their moral high ground.
    They are now seen to have feet of clay, just like all the other political parties.

    • In Vino 4.1

      Only among the superficial.

    • Katipo 4.2

      The recent Metiria, Green, ‘welfare blugers’ hate seems to be been trending during the past 30years of social experimentation, empathy is in short supply. I think it’s due to how neolib policies set up a positive (as in increasing) feedback loop with people’s inherent ‘Actor-Observer bias’.
      Hopefully the positive Jacinda message will galvanize those on on the left to get out and vote, to help turn the judgemental meaness around. If we keep down this path, at best, we will continue treading water and at worst, we only need to look at somewhere like the US.

  5. Andre 5

    Matthew, why have you got 121 seats in both your scenarios? Where’s the overhang seat coming from, if you’re assuming Dunne is done?

    ACT is still likely to get over 0.5ish %, so Seymour won’t be an overhang.

    • It’s probable that ACT will have some of the remainder 0.7%, but CB haven’t released their full results yet, so I have assumed ACT will be an overhang for now. Labour would lose a seat to ACT if I recall correctly if they were to qualify for a list seat.

      (TOP is also under threshold at 2%)

  6. Sans Cle 6

    Thanks for this post. Very informative, regarding allocation of list seats.

  7. Ad 7

    ” It’s actually far more important that you give your vote to the party you want to have the strongest voice in government or opposition, rather than to the one you think is most likely to be the biggest party in the type of government you would like.”

    Spare me the repetititve prose poem about your principles, and vote something that will actually BE the government. Don’t be the salt: be the main course and you can forget all the futile righteous minority victim behaviour altogether.

    • DoublePlusGood 7.1

      Uh, what? People should vote for the party they want in parliament. Not who they think will be the largest party so they can say they voted for the winner.

    • Listen, I want the Greens to be the party of the left in the future. But to get there you have to change people’s minds about FPP mentality or they’ll keep voting Labour or Bust, or flocking to a Strong Leader all the time.

      Also, why discuss politics at all if not to share your values? It’s a pretty uncontroversial statement that, ideally speaking, the electoral system should allow people to vote for the person or party that they legitimately want to win. I’m for further electoral reform beyond MMP, so it’s as much a statement about how voting should work as it is about what voters should do with their vote.

      • Ad 7.2.1

        This is MMP. The Greens are within margin of error of fucked. Forget your principles. Welcome to the age of compromise – you’ll love it after a good shower.

        Vote to change the government.

        Vote Labour.

        • DoublePlusGood

          If the Greens were out, then Labour wouldn’t get to decide who forms the government, New Zealand First in.

          So stop bloody bagging the Greens with hysterical arguments.

          • red-blooded

            Hey, I want the Greens in parliament and in government. I have to say, though, that when it comes to bagging the other party in the MOU, Greens supporters pour shit all over Labour on this site regularly. I quite often speak up about it.

            Ad’s comment isn’t bagging the Greens, anyway. Where’s the criticism? He/she is just talking tactics under MMP. Maybe you disagree with the comment, or maybe you follow Ad’s commentary and see a motive I don’t, but on the face of it I’d say you’re over-reacting.

          • Wayne

            There are virtually no circumstances where the Greens (assuming they get more than 5%) decide the government.
            That situation belongs to New Zealand First as has been clearly apparent from the polls for over a year.
            Now, even if the Greens do get in they will be relegated to the margins, since they almost certainly will be weaker than NZF.
            As you have seen it is relatively easy for Labour to take the voter friendly Green policies (water, trains, light rail and no doubt others).
            And there will be plenty in Labours core team who will prefer NZF as the sole partner. Much easier to work with since they are more pragmatic than the Greens who will always want to make a stand on some issue or another. They would be a real headache in government.

            • WILD KATIPO

              As an old Jim Anderton era Alliance voter I will be voting Green just to annoy duffers like you Wayne. Was going to vote Labour under Little but I reckon they will stand on their own now , and the Greens will be in some form of coalition with them despite the naysayers .

              And guess what ?… if my vote goes to shore up the Left ,… my vote will never be wasted.

              Ultimate goal? edge out the neo liberals and help turn the tide back to a Keynesian based social democracy. Just like the one we used to have when we were a prosperous nation before Douglas. Sound cool?

              I think so.

              • BM

                Do you honestly believe you’re going to see change under Ardern, mate she’s the lefts “smile and wave”.

                There will be no boat rocking, Neo-Liberalism is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

                • In Vino

                  Thank you concern troll BM. But I agree with Wild Katipo. The more votes for Green, the closer we come to the eventual purging of the neoliberal evil that is a pox upon the face of our current society. Hope you like that phrase.

                • … ” Neo-Liberalism is here to stay for the foreseeable future ” …

                  L0L !

                  I guess you are right , however, its seems to be coming in for quite a bollocking as of late… you know ,… Brexit , Trump etc…

                  And … especially when the IMF came right out and stated ‘ neo liberalism is a failure’…

                  Do you have a few mates in the IMF that you could have a quick yarn with for us , BM ? ,… we’d just like to clear a few things up…

                  But don’t panic yet , mate.. yes we are a small easily manipulated, biased media far from all the rest of the action country , and yes,… it does take a little time for us to catch up … so you’re OK ,… you have a little time left to feel secure, I guess…

              • Tamati Tautuhi

                100% right Wild Katipo in the 1970’s we were in the top 5 in the OECD until the National’s Mad Piglet got hold of the cheque book and the country’s finances and assets, followed up by Labour’s Lange & Douglas with the quick fire sale of NZ State Assets to their cronies ?

              • Wayne

                The Greens will be like the Alliance in govt. They will blow apart themselves on some issue just like the Alliance did over Afghanistan. At least Jim Anderson knew NZ could not stand apart on such an issue.
                It is for that kind of reason why Labour will prefer NZF to the Greens. A safer and more predictable bet in the serious business of government.

                • You’re so up yourself – serious business of government lol and where has it got us. Climate change do nothings, pollution do nothings, poverty do nothings, inequality do nothings. Waste of time that has made personal fortunes on the degradation of so many things. But business made money. Your attitude shows why the system must be changed and the Greens can begin that.

                • Anne

                  You’re not taking into account The Greens are a different party at a different time with different personalities involved. Jim Anderton was a somewhat bullying and polarising leader in those days – a far cry from the milder and non strident James Shaw. Also, the Alliance Party was a mishmash of several smaller parties which came from different social and political backgrounds. It was inevitable they would eventually “blow apart”.

                • Stuart Munro

                  Terrible thing principles – good job you have none eh. But how can you represent a constituency that does have them except by deceit?

            • Matthew Whitehead

              1) You assume that “deciding the government” is the point of being in Parliament as a list party. That is not necessarily true, and is definitely not the Green Party’s focus. The Greens are quite happy to take a political beating for policy wins, as we have seen recently. It’s the policy change that’s the important part.

              2) It’s still a month out. I wouldn’t assume anything regarding the relative positions of the Greens and NZ First just yet.

              3) Why vote for a pale imitation when you can get real Greens that are driving policy change through both Labour and National governments, without even once being in coalition? *shrug* Labour are doing well right now because the media get obsessed over “strong leaders” and their coverage drives attitudes for some low-information voters. We’ll see if that sticks, but as long as the Greens hang on above the threshold, I’m not particularly worried about a temporary Labour ascendancy in the polls.

              NZ First are not pragmatists. They might, arguably, be political realists, but that is a different thing. The Greens are in fact focused on pragmatism over ideology, which is why, for instance, they haven’t ruled out working with NZ First in the future, despite significant pressure on their left flank to do so.

              It is true that right now NZ First are in the kingmaker position. But if the bleed from National accelerates at any point, they are in serious trouble, as they are getting closer and closer to not even being able to go into coalition with just NZF.

        • marty mars

          Right so it isn’t just the right that want the Greens gone. Yawn – the Green base is above 5% AND now is the time to work very hard to reinforce that.

          I’d also like the electoral system to be further reformed especially a lowering of the threshold. Thanks for this post. The only ones panicing are the right wingers and so they should be imo.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            I think Ad’s panicking that Labour plus Greens will be able to form a government.

            • marty mars

              He’s sounding like hooton – I hope he doesn’t do a complete cv on us.

            • Ad

              Labour are panicking. That’s so last month.
              Top work.

              Greens need to get to work. – just to survive.

              Get to work.

            • weka

              The other person I saw today going hard on vote Labour, destroy the Greens was Phil Quinn.

              • Anne

                Oh hell, he’s back in the mix? I suppose that means Josie Pagani is also back in the picture. Talk of fair weather friends. When the going’s tough they can’t wait to sling the arrows. When the tide turns they want to be back in the fold. What’s the bet they will try to take some credit for the change.

                I don’t think Jacinda will be fooled by them.

                • weka

                  Just some minor blather on twitter but he was explicit on wanting the Greens exterminated. Not that that’s new, but the lines are being drawn along with the knives and it’s not just the Hooton’s that are the problem.

                  I hope you are right about Labour (I expect you are).

              • BM

                Quinn is an ex Labourite.

                Weka, it’s not the right trying to take out the Greens, it’s Labour they’re going for the kill, they’ve decided to copy the same strategy that National used to destroy ACT.

                Far better for the Left to have one large party with the Greens just there to make up the numbers, this power sharing stuff was never going to work, I can honestly see the Greens disappearing unless they develop the ability to bridge both sides of the political spectrum.

                • weka

                  In other words, you want the GP to disappear.

                  Labour will do whatever they can to maximise their vote. I don’t blame them for that. But it’s not enough for the left to just have Labour, because there are things that Labour simply won’t do.

                  “I can honestly see the Greens disappearing unless they develop the ability to bridge both sides of the political spectrum.”

                  What, work with National? We’ve been over this a thousand times BM. The members get to decide positioning in the bigger picture, and if the caucus went with National it would destroy the party because the party wants a left wing position.

                  • BM

                    I don’t want the Greens to disappear I want the left vote to be as splintered as all possible.
                    While it’s like that the left hasn’t got a shit show of being elected.

                    • weka

                      in other words, we can now treat all your concern trolling as bollocks. Thanks for that, I’ll link from now on 😆

                    • If that wasn’t concern trolling, it was certainly poor electoral strategy, as spreading the same amount of votes between two parties tends to get more seats than over just one party, lol.

                  • JustPassingThrough

                    An environmental party should be neither left wing or right and should support the party whose environmental policies they most agree with.

        • You don’t get to tell me how to vote, Ad. Under no circumstances. Especially not when I have already told you who I am voting for in the main post and that I don't plan to compromise on it, and I have also laid out that I am an electoral reform advocate who thinks that enforced compromise beyond the level of "well, I don't like any option but this one is my best choice" is a sign of a broken system.

          It's rude and it borders on bullying.

          PS: I am voting two ticks Green. 😛

        • Psycho Milt

          Vote to change the government.

          Vote Labour.

          Even if we take this poll at face value, that’s 4.3% of the vote removed from the left and redistributed to other parties, something like 40% of them going to National. You’re effectively advocating for National here.

          • weka

            Or he’d prefer Lab/NZF over Lab/Green

          • Matthew Whitehead

            That’s not actually how seat allocation works. No vote for a party trying to change the government can actively help National. The worst that can happen is that it isn’t counted, and even then, sending a message that your party is near 5% can be important- we saw that when NZ First was kicked out of Parliament for a term on a 4.5%ish result, and then returned next term.

            I wouldn’t count the Greens out even if they do get an under-threshold result, as it will be at least as plausible for them to manage to get back as it was for NZ First.

            • dukeofurl

              Yes it is how it works.

              A 4.3% vote which is under the threshold, means 45% ( depending on final result) of that goes to national.

              of course the ‘lost votes’ in totality are accumulated, so it might be 6-8% depending how many are lost to TOP as well. Its telling that there is no right wing party running like last time, the nationals made sure of that with their destruction of Colin Craig and his big funders

              • …you do know that I’m about as big an expert you can get on election systems for someone who doesn’t have an actual degree or professional experience with them, right? You’re essentially preaching to a theology major here, to repurpose a metaphor.

                It’s not how it works. It might have a similar effect, but it’s not how it works.

                Under-threshold votes are not redistributed. They are effectively discarded. What are redistributed, when compared to a List or MMP system without thresholds, are the seats that would have been awarded to an under-threshold party. This is not the same thing as your vote actively helping National. It is your vote passively helping National by not being counted for seat allocation. It is in effect exactly the same as not voting, except everyone else can see how close or far away from the threshold your party were, if they want to, which means you might have a better or worse chance next election.

                The Conservatives are still running, by the way. They’re just not going to get a significant result this time.

      • Sans Cle 7.2.2

        Matthew, could single transferable voting, (preferential ranking) work outside of constituency vote?
        Any reason why it wouldn’t work in our system for party voting? E.g. ranked party vote, and if party doesn’t reach threshold, those party votes go to second/third/fourth party?

        • DoublePlusGood

          STV is designed for consitutencies of 3-6 members (i.e. big electorates really).

          For overall party vote, why would you do what you propose instead of just doing it proportionally without a threshold?

          • Sans Cle

            Well if there is always a threshold (even if its 0.8% or whatever it takes to get 1 seat), there may still be people who don’t get representation in Parliament, if their first choice does not get 1 seat. I think that’s the only reason it would be useful in a “no” threshold scenario (although there always is a threshold).

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Actually you can run MMP without a threshold too, it lowers the amount needed to get a single seat significantly, to like 0.4%. 0.8% is a nice compromise between “we should be able to have single-seat parties frem the list vote” (which is very difficult to get with a 1% threshold) and “but there should be some sort of hurdle to getting that first presence in Parliament.” In reality it actually takes a lot of campaigning and co-ordination to earn even 0.8% of the vote- both ACT and United Future have been solidly under that threshold in polling recently, for instance.

              And no, having no threshold is fundamentally different from having a low one. It actually makes the amount you need to qualify for parliament vary based on how much of the Party Vote is wasted.

              I think having some barrier to entry, and some consequence to voting for a party that genuinely is too small to get a list seat, are actually healthy things that encourage parties to make a serious stand or not register at all.

              • lurgee

                The 5% threshold is completely bonkers in a 120 seat parliament. It could be scraped altogether, and the limited number of seats available would do the rest.

                If you got rid of an official barrier but put a firm cap on the number of seats, that would effectively stop nonsense parties getting into parliament.

                Working it what that means for the parties is just a spreadsheet.

                • MMP can’t put a cap on the number of seats while still guaranteeing that every electorate candidate who wins gets a seat in Parliament. Removing the overhang option without putting some similar rule (and the only alternative I’ve heard, removing the last list seat(s) instead, is even worse because it’s completely unpredictable who wins and loses from doing so) fundamentally undermines the electorate contests, even more than the threshold undermines the party votes. It’s better to remove electorates altogether than to keep them but selectively de-seat winners without a fair criteria.

                  This is the fundamental contradiction of MMP: those who want proportionality dislike overhangs. Those who want local candidates dislike indirectly elected list MPs. It is a hybrid compromise, and nobody is perfectly happy with it.

                  It may be that over time list voting wins out in popular opinion, and we switch to an Open List system. But it would take a big opinion shift to get there.

              • mikes

                I don’t get why it has been made so difficult. There should be 100 list seats and a 1 percent threshold. So whatever percentage of the party vote a party gets is directly proportional to the number of list seats it gets. That way you don’t end up with parties that have more votes than others but no representation. The electorate seats should have no affect or bearing on the list seats. Surely that’s the fairest way of doing it?

                (Obviously they would have to come up with a fair way of rounding the numbers)

                • What you’re talking about is sometimes called Additional member, where winning electorates is actually a guaranteed gain of a seat regardless of your list vote. It doesn’t even pretend to be a proportional system on a national level like at-large STV electorates do, so it’s actually very unfair to parties whose support base is spread more thinly around the nation- so basically, every party but Labour and National.

                  In MMP, every seat is a “list seat” until you get an overhang. Adding the overhang seats is done to preserve the ratio of list MPs from each party to each other while still allowing electorate winners to always take their seats. (because why have electorate contests at all if you ignore the winner, essentially?) This means that these electorate seats effectively lower the ratio of number of seats to number needed to form a government equally for every list party, rather than simply taking away a seat from whoever was allocated one last, like we will do (for some reason that seems daft in retrospect!) if we ever elect an Independent to Parliament.

                  The 0.8% threshold I talk about is the equivalent of a 1% threshold in a 100-member house. A no-threshold system with 100 members could potentially elect someone with as little as 0.5% of the vote. The reason I don’t support removing any of the extra 21 MPs we got with MMP is that our population has increased, and we actually have less MPs per person than we had when we had 99 MPs, so in per-capita terms, parliament has shrunk. I think someone did the maths, and if we had maintained the ratio of MPs from when we only had 99 on a per-capita basis, we should now have 138 MPs with our increased population. I think we should stick to 120 for now, and review things in a decade or so with a view to adding even more total default seats to Parliament.

                  The reason I talk about the numbers to get elected varying is effectively that every party that gets votes but doesn’t qualify for a seat effectively is removed from the party vote total, whether they’re actually under threshold or just too small to round up to even a single seat. So without a threshold, there’s no certainty what exact percentage you need to get elected. Basically, it’s complicated because of maths, not simply because the rules are arcane.

        • DoublePlusGood has essentially answered this the same way I would. I’ll elaborate a little, but I plan to get into Where To Next From MMP next time I blog, so I won’t reply in super detail.

          STV (whether you mean the Aussie/Irish type or the type used for Wellington Mayor) could be made into the constituency half of a hybrid list system that resembles MMP, but there is not enough to gain for it to be worth even considering it for the Party vote. If the threshold is that much of an obstacle, it should be relaxed or lowered. We inherited it from the German system, where it was deliberately set too high in order to prevent nationalist movements from resurfacing, and oh look it didn’t even work in New Zealand.

          Excluding small parties hasn’t seemed to buy us any more stable a government in New Zealand- that largely seems down to the practices of the governing parties.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.3


      Temper temper.

      Tell us what you really think. No, wait, you just did.

      • Ad 7.3.1

        Hold that pen, and two ticks for Labour.
        You’ll enjoy it.
        Positively exhilerating.

        • Tamati Tautuhi

          Jacindamania will probably wear off by Election date and a number of Labour and National voters will swing over to NZF when they realise how useless both National & Labour have been over the past 30-40 years promoting the Neoliberal Dogma ?

          • NewsFlash

            Oh and NZ first has done really well hasn’t it over the 30 or 40 yrs, oh those with SHORT memories, or no memories at all………

            There is a strong wif of CHANGE in the air, and NZ has a long history of changing the Govt after 9 years, times up for bean counter Bill, and his non existent legacy of doing any thing of use.

  8. Firstly, here are no logical reasons to vote for Labour as they are just National in red coats. You vote for one and they stuff up the country and you vote for the other the same thing happens. How do you think we got to this point?

    From the smaller parties point of view, and at this point I should declare I am currently a member of the Internet Party, the threshold and polls mean that the smaller parties get no coverage. This reinforces the status quo.

    IP/Mana got 30,000 votes last year. The Conservatives got 100,000. Yet because they don’t have the money this year to pay the media to publicise them they don’t do well in the polls (Zero coverage = zero votes gained). Because they don’t get in the polls they aren’t listed in the policy sites (such as On The Fence) so nobody sees them. They essentially disappear to the general public.

    Look at the projected seats in the graph. Where are the Conservatives? Where are IP?

    What happens is the same set of options are given to the public plus one newcomer with money, and all the other decent policy is lost. It is farcical. Policy should stand against policy, not against money.

  9. These facts bear obligatory mention because we shouldn’t even need to have this discussion, as the Greens have enough support that they shouldn’t risk going under the threshold.

    Yes, they do bear mention, and let’s keep in mind why: National, and to a lesser extent Labour. Both of them hate the idea of competitors turning up, and they reap additional, unwarranted vote share from the unfortunate voters who vote for the parties that don’t make the threshold. They shafted us royally with that 5% threshold.

    • BM 9.1

      LIke I said up thread Labour wants to do to the Greens what National did it ACT.

      Two party monopoly is here to stay.

      • weka 9.1.1

        If that were true and Labour became the single left party, that would last about as long as Labour stayed centre left. There are enough people in NZ that want more action on just about everything than Labour are probably willing to do to warrant an actual left party.

      • WILD KATIPO 9.1.2

        I had baked beans for dinner last night.

    • I agree Labour are not entirely fans of MMP despite being careful not to directly oppose it too rigorously, and to paint themselves as better coalition leaders. I doubt Labour will ever actively support measures like lowering thresholds or reforming/removing electorate voting, but if there’s public demand for it Labour are far more likely to fold on the issue than National are.

      • WILD KATIPO 9.2.1

        Remember back in the bad old days when National used to change the electorate boundary’s just to favor them ?

        Somehow I don’t think the NZ public would ever vote for that unfair system again…

        Also it’d take the demise of all the smaller party’s , as both Lab / Nats don’t even take enough votes these days to have a complete voting majority.

        So nah. Aint gonna happen.

        • I don’t actually remember gerrymandering in New Zealand, as I have only ever voted under MMP, and well, there’s very little point to gerrymandering for National and Labour in MMP. 🙂

          You’re confusing what I was talking about, btw. I was talking about making MMP fairer to the small parties/more fit for purpose as a democratic system, not doing away with it or “reforming” to something that’s actually worse even though it sounds okay in theory to non-experts. Labour would like to make MMP less fair, so long as it benefits them. (Mallard once proposed increasing the number of electorates so much that Labour would likely always win overhang seats) National would like to do away with it altogether, because they know it hurts them even having MMP, but know they don’t have the numbers even in a referendum. Neither of them will easily get what they want, but what they can do is also prevent things from getting any “worse” for them by ganging up on the small parties to scuttle any efforts at making MMP better.

  10. Tamati Tautuhi 10

    NZF always get 5% additional votes at the Election cf to the polls so they are probably tracking at 16-17% which would appear to be about right at this stage ?

  11. Philj 11

    If, if and if again. There is one poll that really counts IF you are really, really, really serious. If Germany had invaded England in WW2. If the AB’S had taken their own chef and food to the World Cup in South Africa in two thousand and whatever. If Barbie was an All Black! This is what I call Poll Porn. Other countries don’t permit this poll porn, for obvious reasons. Tea leaf reading anyone?

    • dukeofurl 11.1

      What other countries prohibit polls completely ? Some might restrict publication of results within days before an election, but 5 weeks ?

      Australia used to have rule prohibiting broadcast media running any election related stories at all for the 3 days before polling day. used to !!

      Election day in NZ is of course of limits for any party campaigning at all.

  12. 1. I fully agree that we each should vote as we believe is best for NZ. For Matthew that’s the Greens, for some in here that’s NZF. For me, and for others it’s Labour. I wonder if we can lay off telling each other how ‘stupid’ the other is 😊 We seem to troll our ‘friends’ way too much.
    2. Minor correction Matthew. Much as I’d like Raf to be running against Brownlee in Epsom, they are in fact both running against me (and David Lee from the Greens) in Ilam. 😉

    • JanM 12.1

      I have to agree. It upsets me to see this arguing from people who need to be working together for the common good. There are some excellent candidates in both Labour and the Greens who I’m sure will have the professionalism and integrity to work together without unnecessary displays of ego.
      By the way, I just watched Marama Davidson’s speech on the third reading of the Ngatikahu settlement. Gosh, she’s impressive – it’s a great pity the Greens can’t use her more in this election – I hope she’s the new co-leader when the time is right.

  13. Tracey 13

    What if we had no polls and we starting thinking for ourselves?

    • Incognito 13.1

      I like your thinking but we’re social animals and we want know what others are thinking too and we prefer to have our thoughts confirmed and reiterated, which is why we tend to look for places with like-minded people, etc. I think polls are a double-edged sword; it depends on how you use it.

      I try to (largely) ignore polls and the associated ‘reporting’ but if I am 100% honest I do have to admit that they do influence my thinking. This by itself is neither good nor bad as long as I am aware of and honest (to myself) about it.

      • weka 13.1.1

        I have less of problem with the polls than what the MSM are doing. If we took the polls away (I’m not averse to the idea of a ban pre-election) I think the MSM are so out of control now they would find other ways to have power.

        • Incognito

          The problem with polls and stats in general is that without an authoritative (!) commentary they are left open to interpretation and thus manipulation. (NB authoritative means trustworthy in this context) To most people these numbers mean something but they don’t exactly know what, they don’t know the boundaries of certainty (AKA confidence limits or intervals). As they say, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

          I believe people have an insatiable appetite for information (better: input stimuli) and the MSM is more than willing to fill this desire/need, especially when nobody else fills the void. The more cynical view is that the MSM is owned/controlled by ‘dark forces’ to manipulate us – I think that better belongs in a Hollywood script.

          • weka

            I don’t think the MSM are controlled by dark forces, I just think the culture has been co-opted by neoliberal values, and increasingly, proto-fascist. So in this case, them providing information would be good if they did it ethically and with the purpose of supporting democracy. Instead we have the cheerleaders of Dirty Politics and even some of the good journos are playing gotcha politics.

            It’s boring too.

            • Incognito

              Yup. For the record, I was not for a moment suggesting that you subscribe to the ‘dark forces’!

              Interesting point you make: supporting democracy is the end that justifies the means. We live in a democracy now, don’t we? If yes, is support sufficient? I think we’re missing something here and I believe Sue Bradford (and others as well) is zooming in on it …

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