Monday, August 15, 2005

Strategic voting

For quite some time I've been advocating that left-wing voters use strategic voting to send a clear message that they want a left-wing Labour government rather than one which continues to drift to the right. But now, with several polls showing the Greens coming dangerously close to the threshhold, there's an even more powerful reason: so that there will be a Labour government in the first place.

As you should all know by now, MMP has a threshhold: parties must get more than 5% of the party vote or win an electorate seat in order to gain seats in Parliament. If they fail to do either, their vote is effectively wasted. I don't like this (and have repeatedly called for the threshhold to be lowered to produce a more representative Parliament), but those are the rules we're playing by this time and they will determine the result.

If the Greens don't make it to 5%, then an enormous chunk of the left-wing vote will be wasted. In the Herald poll linked above, this makes the difference between victory and defeat, between a Labour-Green government sitting pretty on 49% (and needing only the Progressives to govern), and a National-led one. If you are on the left, that's a powerful incentive to vote Green.

I should add that the same applies to National and ACT voters, though there the lower ACT vote gives less of an incentive. But in an election this close, seeing even 1% of the right-wing vote disappear should frighten National.


I would have thought it was a powerful incentive to vote Labour instead of Green. The Greens will do another GE fiasco sooner or later.

Posted by Sock Thief : 8/15/2005 12:35:00 PM

If you want a left-side coalition instead of a right-side one, then the best bang for your buck on current polling is to vote Green. If you vote Labour and push them up a percent, you might get one extra MP. If you vote Green and push 'em up a percent, you get a whole bunch of extra 'left' MPs.

The situation in which I am most likely to party-vote Green is if they're polling 4-5% right before the election, and I suspect I'm not the only one.

Of course, if like Sock, you loathe Green policy that much, you wouldn't touch 'em, despite the alternative probably being a National-NZFirst coalition.

Posted by Ghet : 8/15/2005 12:53:00 PM

No Sock Thief, the Greens won't 'do a GE' this time.

Important as GE is, it's nothing compared to Peak Oil. The Greens will devote more of their time and efforts to meeting that contingency. Whichever grouping ends up in Parliament at the end of this election, is going to be dealing with this issue. It will be the elephant in the living room.

The thought of a National-NZ First coalition dealing with this issue terrifies me. Literally.

Posted by Tane : 8/15/2005 03:10:00 PM

This fear may be irrational, but ... if I vote for Labour I know my vote will "count" (albeit in a tiny way) ... if I vote for the Greens my vote may be wasted.

Posted by dc_red : 8/15/2005 03:26:00 PM

I obviously have no desire to help the Greens out but MMP actually allows itelf to be manipulated.

Look here for the reasoning.

The same could be said for Labour and the Greens. In that case the example is even more extreme.

Posted by Mike Collins : 8/15/2005 03:51:00 PM

Which is why we should ditch the threshhold - so that there wouldn't be this game-playing, and parties' support could rise or sink to its natural level.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/15/2005 03:52:00 PM

Well changing the threshhold would not make any difference to this at all.

Separate argument altogether.

Posted by Mike Collins : 8/15/2005 04:02:00 PM

dc_red is not alone with the wasted vote argument, but the fact is most votes are incrementally 'wasted'. As ghet points out though the potential incremental value of a Green vote is 6 times that of a Labour vote. Unless what the wasted vote people are talking about is picking winners, which isn't really the point of an election.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/15/2005 04:22:00 PM

Depends on how you look at it.
the odds are that labour will get lets say 45% of the seats then with one of the other parties will have over fifty percent together with one of the other parties.

"This makes the difference between victory and defeat, between a Labour-Green government sitting pretty on 49% (and needing only the Progressives to govern), and a National-led one."

This is a nonsense scenario. The Maori party will surely win lets say 4 seats and a labour lead government could lead with them and the progressives support on supply and potentially NZ first also. National could never get the Maori party's support total pie in the sky.
The only scenario where your argument makes sense is if national Maori progressive and UF total is less than national and NZfirst by themselves.

In this sense you should vote green if you are closer to a green labour coalition than a labour progressive UF coalition in political view.

In this sense a vote for the greens is a vote to move a little to the left compared to a vote for labour.
However if the greens do not get in government one could argue a vote for them is a wasted vote and that you should really have voted for labour or progressives or some other member of the actual governing parties.

Posted by Genius : 8/15/2005 08:32:00 PM

My pic is a Labour/Greens/Progressives minority Government with a support deal with UF, and flicking between NZFirst and the Maori Party to get legislation passed.
Messy but possible

Posted by Anonymous : 8/15/2005 11:00:00 PM

I agree with the previous Anon post.

I don't think Act will get in - and there is no reason to think that Winston will let Brash into Government without some serious deal making. National is in a weird position. In order to get into Govt, they have to go left.

Well - by left I mean Winston's universal student allowance and super policies. I know he's National through and through, but I'm sure he'll try and suck National dry in order to appease his leftwing supporting base.

Posted by T : 8/15/2005 11:30:00 PM

Genius: of course it depends on how you look at it and what your preferred coalition choice for Labour is. And OTOH, its nice to have the option - and there's no question that helping the Greens get back in will dramatically improve Labour's chances and shrink national's ones.

As for a Green vote being wasted if they don't get into government, they've already shown themselves to be very adept at wielding influence from the cross-benches. Hell, in 2000 - 2002, they even got their own slice of budget funding to push their pet issues in a minor way. Its not as good as being in cabinet, of course, but a simple "no-surprises" agreement with Labour gives them a lot of leverage.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/16/2005 12:22:00 AM

In my humble opinion, no vote is ever wasted. If you truly think ACT or the Greens or the Natural Levitation Party is the best one for you, how can you comprimise and settle for National or Labour...? So your party may or may not get in this election. At least you, and many like you, have voted the way you saw best.

This whole load of bollocks about 'vote wasting' is perpetrated by the main parties, eager to carve up power between themselves. The classic case is the USA, where the Dems and the Republicans have it sewn up, and your choice is limited to six of one or half a dozen of the other. Do we want the same here in NZ, two semi-identical parties offering us bland versions of the same thing?

Vote for whoever you think is best. Anything else is a betrayal of yourself.

Posted by Tane : 8/16/2005 09:04:00 AM

UF, the Maori Party and the Progressive will all get in on their electorate vote, regardless of where I put my party vote. They'll be there anyway. Likewise, if the Greens had held Coromandel I wouldn't be so worried. Taking all that into account, the biggest bang for my party vote buck is still, IMO, to vote Green. If, however, they fall down around 3% (which I don't see happening), then I'd certainly hesitate to vote for them given the risk my vote would be wasted. LIkewise, if they go up to 6-7, then the value of the vote comes down to being much the same as giving the vote to Labour.

My partner has suggested the Greens might do better if they go into polling day on 4% than if they go in on 6.

Posted by Ghet : 8/16/2005 10:49:00 AM

Idiot, You like doing the dogwork that the rest of us can't be bothered to do. You should have a look and see what the highest polling of any 'single issue' party was.

One argument for the threshold was to disallow single issue parties. It's another issue in itself whether or not single issue parties should be dissallowed. But Act, Greens, UF and NZF have a degree of range to their policies. If 3% of the country thinks they have merit surely that means they should have at least some representation.

Can an argument be made to reset the threshold to twice the level that any single issue party has reached? We should have enough mmp history to know that by now.

Changing the threshold to 3% would be interesting.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/16/2005 12:15:00 PM

Preferential voting would be better than lowering the threshold; if your first choice doesn't get in, then your vote is transferred to your second choice. Green supporters could vote Green in safety, knowing their votes will be transferred to Labour if the Greens don't reach 5%. Ditto for ACT and National. A 3% threshold could still result in several percent of the total vote being wasted.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 8/16/2005 12:45:00 PM

I support a lpwering of the threshold, but one other anomoly with the present system that nobody has mentioned is that a party can poll under the threshold and still get extra seats if they have an electorate MP.

I think this is anti-democratic. The idea of an election is that each person's vote counts equally. But under the present system, voters in Ohairu Belmont have a dispoportionate influence. They alone can bring in extra United Future MPs on the strength of their electorate vote.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/16/2005 03:03:00 PM

I still don't understand why the greens aren't campaining for at least one electoral seat which would do away with the need for a 5% threshold.

As ACT has found out that campaining for the Party vote only, that if your supporters do not beleive you will make the 5% threshold they will go elsewhere and you stuffed.

The United Future party and Progressive party do not have to worry about this scenario as they have a 'safe'electoral seat.

If the Greens and ACT has this they wouldn't have to wory about people not voting for them if they are close to being below the 5% threshold.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/16/2005 05:17:00 PM

I'm very disappointed by Sue Kedgley's failure to support Matt Robson's Youth Alcohol Hardm Reduction Bill, think Nandor doesn't realize how much he is idolized by my kids and how they say it is OK to smash their brains on hash because Nandor does and it is somehow spiritual etc. and I'd not vote Green for other reasons as well (Kedgley's disgracefully dishonest comments on vacination against Men B which is, to me, a declaration of Class War on low income households)...but all the same, there simply must be a Jeanette Fitzsimons in our parliament, and a place for Mike Ward and Sue Bradford.

The Greens must get 5% - the Alliance Party should pull out and, like their former leaders McCarten and Harre, endorse Party Vote Green.

It is either an LPG government or a short, nasty National-led one followed by a referendum on MMP in which MMP will be thrown out.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/16/2005 08:04:00 PM

The Alliance isn't competing with the Greens - see

When McCarten & co left the Alliance, they were insisting we should endorse the Maori Party (the one supporting Mugabe, opposing civil unions, and promising ACT-style tax cuts). I have little interest in what they're currently pushing.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 8/17/2005 02:33:00 PM