Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Valuable consideration

Earlier in the month I discovered the British site, which promotes vote-swapping between labour and Liberal Democrat voters so as to maximise the anti-Tory vote and specifically target high-ranking Conservative MPs. The idea is that labour and Lib Dem supporters in seats where the other party's candidate is the strongest anti-Tory agree to "swap votes" - to vote for the other party to defeat the common enemy. While IMHO a strong argument can be made for voting tactically in such a situation in any case, the swap allows people to feel that they are helping their preferred party at the same time - even if they have no way of knowing whether the other party has fulfilled their side of the bargain.

This got me thinking about the potential for vote-swapping in New Zealand. While there's obviously no point in swapping party votes under MMP (as it would have no net effect), there are possibly some electorates with an analogous situation to the British example - Tamaki, for example - where the Greens and Labour have a common interest in keeping out the right, and Coromandel, where they should have a common interest in ensuring that the Greens get an electorate seat (there are also electorates where similar deals would make sense for the right - Tamaki again being a case in point). However, there's a problem: s 216 of the Electoral Act 1993 bars

giving, lending, agreeing to give or lend, offering, promising, or promising to procure or endeavour to procure, any money or valuable consideration

in order to induce someone to vote a particular way (or not vote at all). It's a corrupt practice, carrying a penalty of a $4000 fine, up to a year in jail, and being barred from voting for three years.

So, I thought I'd ask the Electoral Commission about the legality of vote-swapping here. Their response?

A vote is valuable consideration and as such a contract between voters to swap votes would amount to bribery under s216 of the Electoral Act 1993.

So, be warned: cutting an explicit deal with another voter is illegal. However, we can still agitate, and I will probably be advocating tactical voting options closer to the election.


Wouldn't it make more sense to cut a deal at the party level, so that (for example) Labour agreed not to contest Coromandel, and the Greens might reciprocate, say, everywhere else?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/14/2005 12:02:00 AM

Of course it would - because of the threshold, it is very much in a party's interests to work to ensure the election of a smaller coalition partner (rather than seeing it go and take 4% of your faction's vote with it). But for some reason people don't seem to like it very much.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/14/2005 08:47:00 AM