Monday, November 10, 2008

Repealing the threshold

Over on Public Address, Graeme Edgeler has the results of the election if the 5% threshold didn't apply. The usual parties would be joined by the Kiwi Party and the Bill & Ben party, each with one seat. A few people would no doubt regard this as a prime example of why we need the threshold - "to keep the idiots out". My response to this - as it has been to previous elections where no threshold would have seen the election of the Christian Coalition, Destiny NZ, ALCP and Christian Heritage parties - is to say that we live in a democracy, and that those "idiots" are as deserving as anybody else is of representation. And that applies no matter how much I disagree with their policies. As for joke parties like Bill & Ben, I don't think such parties would run if there was a real chance of being elected (that's certainly the most common reason for the demise of the McGillicuddies, despite the fact that they only ever got 12,000 votes). But if they did, at the end of the day, I think that if people vote for them, then they deserve representation. We would take that attitude towards an electorate MP such as Peter Dunne (what, you mean he's not from a joke party?); we should take it towards parties as well.

As for the mechanics, the threshold is enacted in s191 (4) and 191 (4A) of the Electoral Act 1993. A simple repeal of those sections would leave us with a pure Sainte-Lague formula. Because Saint-Lague favours smaller parties, a party would need to win about 11,000 votes to win its first seat - comparable with the lowest numbers needed to win an electorate. The bill required for this reform would be short and sweet:

Electoral (Repeal of Threshold) Amendment Bill

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1. Title
This Act is the Electoral (Repeal of Threshold) Amendment Act 2009

2. Commencement
This Act shall come into force immediately upon receiving the Royal Assent.

3. Purpose
The purpose of this Act is to amend the Electoral Act 1993 to repeal the 5% threshold in MMP.

4. Principal Act Amended
This Act amends the Electoral Act 1993.

5. 5% Threshold repealed
Sections 191 (4) and 191 (4A) of the principal act are repealed.

Now all I need is an MP to front it.