Posts Tagged ‘electorates’

So, Labour’s list is out. You can see bios for the most electable candidates at Labour’s website, although it hasn’t yet been updated for list-only candidates*. (update: you can find Labour’s article on their list here)

If you haven’t been following the news, you will note that in addition to the expected absense of Annette King after she decided to step aside next election in favour of Jacinda Ardern for deputy and Paul Eagle in her electorate, Sue Moroney is now gone too. This is a big loss for Labour, as she has been a champion for working women, making excellent strides with paid parental leave in Parliament, and it looks like they’ve naively looked at the party vote in her electorate and decided she’s a drag as a candidate, when I think it’s likely she just suffered from a tide towards national in the election, and deserved an electable list position. I expect if she hadn’t resigned, this means the highest she would have ranked would be the early 30s, and to be honest, that’s a very unfair ranking when compared to some of the performances of MPs who were ranked significantly higher, such as Stuart Nash, Clare Curran, Ruth Dyson, or Jenny Salesa. Appeal to the electorate can’t be the only consideration when ranking list MPs, there also has to be some concession to how effective they were at pushing key legislation and their performance in the house. Moroney should have ranked very highly on those two issues among sitting Labour MPs, and certainly among those who aren’t currently on the front bench, and probably deserved a ranking nearby Ruth Dyson and Jenny Salesa.

I’m honestly not as interested in the story about what caused the delay in releasing the list, and whether Little was trying to bump Willie Jackson up the ranks, as in all practical terms, he’s in a fairly electable position. If Labour polls below 30%, Jackson certainly hasn’t earned his spot in Parliament back, and being possibly the lowest-ranked list MP for Labour in 2017 will give everyone who wants him in the party a huge incentive to campaign hard for the Party Vote to make sure his position is secure. I think that’s win-win, and even if he’s disappointed, I think he’s done pretty well out of the list selection, to be honest, with some more talented newer political blood ranking lower than him. (Willie Jackson might be new to the Labour Party, but he was also the deputy leader of the Alliance back during the Clark era, so he’s old blood in the same sense as Laila Harré is. And we’ll all note that she, while far more qualified to be an MP than Jackson, has not had anyone advocating to get her an electable position in the Labour Party)

I’ve gone through and assigned each candidate to their electorate where I could find public comfirmation of their selection, and recorded which electorates Labour won in 2014, then threw in Ōhāriu for good measure, as there’s a real chance Labour could win there, and I have assumed for the primary scenario that Kelvin Davis will win again in Te Tai Tokerau. Neither of those are really guaranteed, but they are likely enough that Labour should be banking on them happening when it selects its list. (arguably, it should also be considering its candidates for Hamilton East and Hamilton West in terms of gender balance too, as most governments win at least 1 of the Hamilton seats, if not both of them) I’ve then calculated the effective list position for the remaining candidates, and compared it with the current average of recent Labour polling performances, which would net them 36 seats.

In that first scenario, where the two competitive races against minor parties go Labour’s way, they would end up with 20 male MPs, and 16 female MPs. Each of those two races would return a female list MP instead if Labour lost, assuming the minor party Labour lost to didn’t take a seat off them, which is a reasonably safe assumption given the polling of both United Future and Mana, so if Labour loses both Te Tai Tokerau and Ōhāriu and maintains its current polling into the election, its caucus will be gender-balanced for the first time ever.

According to its own regulations, Labour should be selecting its list so that women are expected to win at least 50% of its seats. This so-called “man ban” has not eventuated, as Labour will be assuming they’ll win both those key electorates, which means they need to make up four women in the party vote from current polling. The earliest they could do this would be to win exactly another 15 seats, (ie. 51 total, enough that they could govern with just the Greens in their coalition) which would require roughly a 41.5% Party Vote for Labour, assuming all of the votes were gained off National. That’s a 12% bump from current polling, something which would basically require Bill English to completely gaffe up the campaign, like claiming the Labour Party aren’t mainstream enough, or undermining our nuclear free-status, or simply being as racist as he was last time he was National Leader. Labour shouldn’t have to rely on National screwing up their campaign to elect enough women to get a reasonably balanced caucus, especially as women are a key constituency for Labour, especially as they are a fair amount of the unionised workforce nowadays.

The Herald seems to have run the same calculation I have to determine list eligibility, as they note that a party vote returning 40 Labour seats, which with current polling is about 33%, (which is about 1% higher than the error bars on their current polling, so a difficult result to get even if Labour is under-polling this election) would be required to elect Mallard as a list MP. This almost has me hoping that we don’t move too far from current polling and end up with a NZ First-Green-Labour government, as I suspect this election would be Mallard’s last if he doesn’t make it in, and Labour desperately needs to shed some of the dead wood that’s still somehow making it into the top 40 list positions.

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Those of you who are not particularly aware of the way electorate boundaries are drawn may not be aware that New Zealand actually has a quota for South Island electorates. Basically, regardless of the relative population imbalance, the South Island is always guaranteed to have at least 16 electorate seats. Essentially how they work is that the median electorate size is set to 1/16th the population of the South Island at the time electorates are reviewed, then the North Island seats are divided up relative to this so that they don’t vary by more than 5% from the median size. After that, Māori electorates are “superimposed” over the borders of the general seats in a way that divides them roughly by the Māori electoral roll population, and so that there’s a proper proportion of Māori seats to General seats.

Unless there’s a sudden exodus of North Islanders to the South Island at some point, or a mass immigration to the South Island to get away from Donald Trump, there’s likely to be a long-term issue with that. Why? Because of something I call “list seat parity,” which is the idea that parties with significant shares of the Party Vote, like National, Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First, should never have overhang seats.

MMP is intended to have a healthy proportion of list MPs- the original ratio was that just above 41% of MPs would be list MPs, presumably with the intention that the ratio would stay around 5 list MPs to every 7 electorate ones. We have added two new electorates to the North Island since we switched to an MMP system, reducing the number of list MPs to 49, assuming no Independents are elected. (independents elected at a general election remove a list seat vacancy rather than creating an overhang so that Parliament doesn’t inflate grossly due to independents being elected, a rule which hasn’t become relevant since like, ever, as every “independent” in our system has either been someone who quit their party, or a lone MP optimistically having their own political party, presumably on the theory that they’ll earn a second seat again sometime in the future. Not happening, Seymour and Dunne, not happening.)

It theory, there’s really nothing wrong with actually having less electorates than we do, but 60%-ish of MPs being electorate MPs isn’t unreasonable and doesn’t hasn’t threatened parliaments much larger than about 125 MPs in the past.

With 70 seats, there’s a reasonable expectation of list seat parity, but it’s not guaranteed. Almost all electorate seats are won by National or Labour. There are only five others likely to be in serious contention in the current political climate, (which as we know, can rapidly change, but this list is actually somewhat on the high side by historical standards) and those are Epsom, Northland, Ōhārui, Waiariki, and possibly Te Tai Tokerau. (As nobody polls for electorates, we have no real clue whether the Māori party agreeing not to stand there will matter enough to unseat Kelvin Davis in 2017. I’m assuming it’s within the realm of possibility until I have good reason to think otherwise) Let’s assume that small parties won’t take more than five electorate seats. That currently leaves 66 currently for Labour and National. Labour, with roughly 27.5% of the party vote, earned 27 seats in 2014.

That’s not currently a problem, but with some small changes to the way our elections work, and a small boost in North Island population, (ie. a few more electorates) it might be.

Imagine for a moment that the Greens start eating into Labour’s party vote but not their electorate vote. Let’s assume in this calculation Labour can hold on to a similar number of electorate MPs- it only takes about a 5% shift to the Green party for Labour to start getting overhang MPs, compared to current polling, and that’s without any extra North Island electorates, and assuming Hone takes back Te Tai Tokerau. A roughly 4% shift to the Greens from Labour will start giving them overhang seats if the 2020 election adds a new electorate seat again. (note the link shows all of Labour’s seats as electorate seats with no overhang, that’s because the Commission’s calculator doesn’t allow for us to award more than the current 71 electorates. I take it you’re capable of using your imagination)

I would much prefer that instead of having a South Island quota, we simply set the number of electorates to 70 in legislation, and the South Island get its share based on how many 70ths of the population live on the South Island and are part of the General Roll. This will limit the chance that either Labour or National (but most likely, Labour) will end up with overhang seats in the future. This should limit the likelihood of overhang seats for Labour in the future, especially as we’re approaching the point where certain Wellington electorates like Wellington Central might actually spontaneously decide to elect a Green candidate even though they’re not campaigning for the electorate vote. (In terms the party vote, most Wellington electorates are three-way races between the Greens, Labour, and National)

If we don’t adjust the South Island Quota, however, we’re in for an interesting problem in the long term. Until relatively recently, about .5% more of the population would live in the North Island every census, but that rate’s actually increased a little bit recently. Assuming that trend continues, it won’t take too long for us to end up with nearly 90 electorates, (it only takes a population growth of just over 1 million in the North Island, if you assume the South Island population stays static) which would make breaking list parity the rule, rather than the exception. (in fact, it was actually one of the potential “reforms” to MMP that Labour had been talking about at the time of the MMP review was to add another 20 or so electorates, because they knew that the party most likely to get overhang seats that way would be Labour) This could actually happen in 20-30 years time, depending on migration numbers, so I hope I’m not the only one noticing that the South Island Quota is a terrible way to determine how many electorate seats we have.

Becoming an MP joins the long list of things Colin Craig is confident he can do, including:

  • Assisting all new mothers to remove their shoes and make their way securely to the kitchen.
  • Ending the plague of gay marriage upon all of our houses.
  • Overturning scientific abominations such as the teaching of evolution in classrooms.
  • An excellent karaoke rendition of the song “Roar” by Katy Perry.
  • Removing the redundant “h” from the placename “Whanganui”.
  • Removing the redundant “s” from the pronoun “she”.
  • Merging the North and South islands into a single landmass through the power of prayer1.
  • Making our country a laughingstock.

This is yet another reason why electorates are the obvious weakness of MMP and we should transition to an open list system as soon as we can convince enough of the country via referendum. That a small community can (potentially) elect a credulous bigot and disgrace such as Colin Craig with a bare fraction of the vote we require for a single list seat is ridiculous, and the rate at which we keep adding electorates makes things even worse. Local representation is not necessarily better representation.

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In running tradition, I would like to call out another press gallery reactionary for not understanding politics.

While I have no intention of voting for this merged Mana-Internet Party, it’s not an affront to democracy that it exists and that it wants to rely on electorate politics to succeed.
(And before we get really into things, I’d like to mention that in the past I’ve said similar things about parties I vehemently dislike and consider a cancer upon our parliament. Also, to be on the record, I think the name “internana” is about the most hilarious thing I’ve heard all day, and I believe the name “Winston Peters” came up in conversation, so that’s pretty impressive)

National have happily abused “Act” and “United Future” as one-man micro-parties with no real agenda and little public support to prop up their government for another term without having to make compromises with the Mäori Party. They and their fans can just quiet down for a while now Hone wants to give them a taste of their own medicine. Labour and the Greens both offered support to end coat-tailing, but National wouldn’t have it, (correctly realising it would hurt their electoral chances in the short-term) and refused to implement the independent recommendations they themselves arranged for, presumably on the deluded hope that the public would vote for watering down MMP with a system that removed its close-enough-to-proportional approach and replacing it with a system half-full with a bunch of safe-seat-warming buffoons.

No, what’s an affront to democracy is our ludicrously high party threshold. If Kim Dotcom wants to buy his way into parliament, let him win enough of the party vote to win a single seat outright. From there, with the ability of any New Zealander to vote for him, stop voting, or vote for someone else instead, the worth of his ideas can be judged by the public, and all it costs is the time for a quick trip to whatever local facility they use to host votes in in your electorate. One of the incredible upsides of MMP has been that it has let the public see how ridiculous some of the marginalised political voices on the Right are, and that it has been kind to the public’s desire for a sensible left-wing party. (If we have to put up with New Zealand First over our current threshold for that, I suppose I will merely resort to mockery in my suffering, as usual)

And Hone Harawira, who like Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne, doesn’t have that great of a claim to have earned his way into Parliament with rip-roaring public support, (although he at least has the legitimate claim to representing a community that deserves its voice being magnified) should not be the gatekeeper for a new political party. While I maintain that Mäori are the proper judges of how to protect their own political rights, and that the Mäori roll is an appropriate judge of whether they support their own electorate seats, I’d just as soon see all electorates gone, when another better way to support the voices of our indigenous people is chosen by our indigenous people. Electorates lock in bad candidates based on uncompetitive backroom selections, and they turn small parties into personality contests, where they continue to isolate voters into groups that feel empowered by electing two-faced wonders who will kiss a sufficient amount of babies and promise you things they don’t even understand. (Like common sense, or patriotism)

No, what’s an affront to democracy is that people have been sold this dumb idea of electorate seats, so that ordinary people can apparently lobby a local boy (or girl, if you’ve transitioned to the 21st century) about their problems. This is a ridiculous notion of politics. You are better off writing a letter to someone who understands your issue from a party (or preferebly, many parties) that may be sympathetic. Most likely that someone will be an aide of course, but aides are there for a reason.

We have a diverse enough parliament that farmers, conservationists, business, social reformers, and even to some degree IT enthusiasts are all represented by people who can understand them to some degree. Voting for whatever idiot decides to run in Ohariu or Epsom isn’t going to give us anything extra, and in fact the idea that that is the only legitimate way to do politics takes away from just how much the party vote has improved our democracy. National actually values capable women now, Labour is only a bit less diverse than the country, we have a disabled MP in parliament, and New Zealanders actually support at least the generalities of how our voting system works. So let’s not get mad at coat-tailing. Let’s get mad at electorates.