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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review

Thresholds, Electorate Seat Rules, Overhangs


My name is Dr Stephen Glaister. I've taught Voting/Electoral Systems Theory at the University of Washington, Seattle (a whole course) and at Kansas State University (a unit inside a Philosophy of Law course), and I've had a book manuscript in circulation for several years, Mixed Illusions: Mixed Electoral Systems Without Illusions (viewable at ), which argues that the best one vote mixed electoral systems are superior to the best two vote mixed electoral systems. I'm contactable at .


Party vote thresholds simultaneously prescribe both the minimal level of support a successful parliamentary party should have in the community and the minimal size for a successful parliamentary delegation itself. In New Zealand that basic prescription has been for at least 5% support, hence for at least 6 MPs.


I accept the basic Royal Commission 1986 conclusion that it's both legitimate and desirable to use a party vote threshold for list seats to trade off some amount of pure representativeness to get a more tractable and functional parliament. Proliferating ultranarrowly-based (e.g., personality, single-issue, extremist, joke) micro-parties, whose MPs nonetheless get votes on everything, and inevitably get far more than proportional media attention, still seems like a bad idea. A parliament consisting principally of delegations that are true teams of MPs also seems a legitimate system preference.


But, as many others have observed, 5% and 6 MPs may be overkill. The Royal Commission 1986 recommended 4% and 5 MPs, and in my view 3% (~ 75K party votes) and 4 MPs might also provide as much party breadth of support, seriousness etc, and as much nontrivial team-hood for parliamentary delegations as can be justified, i.e., beyond which the price in lost pure representativeness is too high.

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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review


Still lower thresholds such as Geddis's and Edgelers's 2.5% and 3 MPs suggestions are unstable in the sense that even a single defection/departure from minimal qualifiers in that case leaves only one and two MP remainders. Put slightly differently, 3 MP parliamentary parties aren't robustly non-trivial: they are trivialized by minimal attrition whereas 4, 5, etc. MP parties aren't.


Does it make sense to impose robust non-triviality as a desideratum on the threshold's level given that trivial (one and two MP) parliamentary delegations can form in any case thanks to (one or two) electorate seat waivers? I think so, although the point's a ticklish one. The threshold sets a standard or norm for parliamentary parties. Exceptions to that standard, if allowed, have to be treated separately to not simply represent an abandonment of the standard or norm. That's awkward, but awkwardly exception-tolerant standards are both commonplace, and normally preferable to strict/not-pragmatically-qualified standards or to 'anything goes'. See 13-15 below.


I don't have a firm opinion or recommendation on the 3 or 4 or 5% (4, 5, or 6 MPs) question, and which tradeoff to prefer in that range may be to some extent a matter of taste. The Electoral Commission might well want to explore this specific matter in more detail. If I were forced to choose/recommend right now, however, as a cautious, centrist fellow, I'd say that NZ should adopt the Royal Commission 1986's original 4% threshold.


David Farrar has suggested (as a pro-4% now consideration) that while it would be relatively easy to lower the threshold further later if required, it would be very hard to raise standards to 4% having first gone lower. But the current popularity of doing away with the one electorate seat waiver suggests the contrary moral: that it's relatively easy to muster popular support in NZ for 'making it more difficult to get into parliament'/raising standards, notwithstanding entrenched interests.


Many people want to argue from NZ's relatively benign experience with differently-sized micro-parties (notwithstanding the 5% threshold) over the last 15 years to the conclusion that (i) we have nothing to fear in NZ (stability-wise or any other -wise) from such parties, hence (ii) that thresholds in NZ can, on empirical grounds, now be dropped or at least shrunk far below what might otherwise seem abstractly justifiable. But the micro-parties that have flourished under the 5% threshold in NZ (principally because of the one electorate seat waiver) have tended to be simpatico with at least one major party. The sorts of micro-parties

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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review

that no (or minimal) thresholds would grant representation would be much more selfstanding, and we'd predict, much more fractious and problematic as partners than the sorts of tame micro-parties that have flourished under a waiver-encrusted 5% threshold have been. 10. In general, it's unwise to project positive features of life under thresholding into a nonthresholded future (let alone to make those positive features part of one's case against a threshold) unless you have something like a proof that the positives are causally independent of the threshold. But there is no such proof. Indeed the dependence is obvious and strong. THE ONE ELECTORATE SEAT WAIVER 11. In NZ's version of MMP the 5% party vote share threshold for a party to become entitled to list seats is waived if the party wins an electorate seat. This condition is currently widely scorned as illogical and otherwise unmotivated, and is criticized for causing massively unfair and arbitrary outcomes riddled with unequal suffrage. All of that, however, is false. 12. The one electorate waiver is not some illogical or unmotivated tack-on to the threshold, rather it: •

Falls directly out of the 'size of parliamentary delegations' side of the threshold's rationale (13-15)


Creates incentives for micro-parties to do proportionality-enhancing deals with (interested, politically compatible) larger parties rather than pure overhang, antiproportional deals (16-21)

13. The threshold expresses a phobia of micro-parties in parliament. But since MMP is a mixed electoral system, parties can get members into parliament anyway if they win electorates. But if a party is going to have a parliamentary delegation anyway (notwithstanding the threshold) then our phobia of micro-parties recommends allowing it to have as many MPs as possible compatibly with proportionality. Additional proportionality itself is valuable, of course, but so is non-trivial team-hood for parliamentary delegations. 14. Put slightly differently, NZ's threshold creates a presumption that parliamentary parties are fully functional teams of MPs. The one electorate seat waiver then says that if that presumption is defeated by a party's electorate success then that party should at least be as large, and as close to a fully functional team of MPs as possible. Better a 2 or 3 or 4 MP

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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review

parliamentary party (that's consistent with proportionality) than a sole MP parliamentary party, and so on. 15. Note that policies qualifying a main condition (or stipulation or desideratum) with a fallback (or approximation from below or partial satisfaction) condition are commonplace, e.g.: •

Students should read (all of) War and Peace over the summer. Failing that, they should at least read as much of it as possible.


Smoking in airplane bathrooms in particular is absolutely forbidden (and a fineable offence). But if you nonetheless do smoke in the bathroom, stub out your cigarette in the ashtray provided.

16. A small party, S, polling, say, 1.5-3% several weeks before election day, has a significant power base. That power base is a bargaining chip ('Who wants these votes? And what are they worth to them?'), and a moral argument ('We must get the best deals we can for our supporters, and generally do whatever we can to make sure that our supporters voices are heard and their votes aren't wholly wasted...'). 17. Given the one electorate seat waiver, S's best strategy is to secure an electorate win either unilaterally or with the help of a simpatico large party, L (to whom this arrangement is mostly costless). This type of deal enhances parliament's proportionality. 18. Without the one seat rule, S's possible strategies include: a.

Sell the Support Base. 'Sell' S's support base (both party and and electorate votes) to L for policy concessions. [Painful, risky for S.]


Trade to Get Over the Threshold. Trade S's relatively unconditional support for L in parliament (and also a few electorate votes) for enough party vote defectors from L to get S over the threshold. This strategy might evolve organically (and very riskily for L) or it could be organized by L's leaders ('We need S, and S needs our help. We therefore urge all of our supporters in Electorates 1 and 2 - fully 2% of the overall electorate, and 1/20th of our support base - to party vote for S.) [Painful, risky for L]


Play the Overhang Vigorously. That is, if S's support base is nominally worth 3 MPs, then trade S's relatively unconditional support in parliament, its party votes, and its electorate votes for electorate votes from L's supporter's in two or three of L's safest seats. [Painful, risky for the electoral system]

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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review

19. Because of the availability of strategies such as 18a-18c, it is self-defeating for figures such as Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Geddis and David Farrar (in their respective submissions to the Electoral Commission) to urge the removal of the one electorate seat rule as a means of discouraging/preventing deal-making and 'gaming' of the electoral system. Moreover, given that parties no less than individual people tend to avoid pain and risk to themselves (and to give pain and risk to an impersonal system little mind), by far the most likely outcome of removing the one electorate seat waiver is the proliferation of explicit overhang plays á là 18c. Geddis says, 'smaller party reliance on the Electorate Seat exception opens the way for inter-party deals over the outcome of the vote'. But that's absurd: removing the exception invites much more pernicious inter-party deals. 20. Similarly, Graeme Edgeler decries the one electorate seat rule for giving 'voters in particular areas substantially more power than those in other electorates' (on which more below: 2635). But that's short-sighted when ending the one seat rule will continue those alleged power inequalities (i.e., between those who are and those whose are not lucky enough to live somewhere where clever parties set up a both-votes-count play) by other means, most likely in ways that are corrosively anti-proportional. 21. In sum, a party with a significant, sub-threshold power base has both self-interested and moral reasons to explore strategic play. A one electorate seat waiver then channels that strategic play, creating incentives for that play to be proportionality enhancing, and also undistorting of party vote shares. Removing the one seat rule creates incentives for that strategic play to be anti-proportional (18c) and greatly distorts party vote shares even when the outcomes themselves are nominally proportional (18a, 18b). 22. The one electorate seat rule therefore connects to proportionality indirectly and on two distinct levels: •

Which sorts of strategic play it channels/incentivizes

How the system-wide preference for parliamentary parties that are full-service teams of MPs is effected

The relatively sparse group of defenders of the one seat threshold (including the National Party in its submission to the EC) often seems to suggest that proportionality directly justifies the one electorate seat waiver. That's overkill that only makes the recurrent 'It's Unfair' objection to the one seat rule harder to answer convincingly (23-25).

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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review

23. I now want to address directly the first of two standard criticisms of the one electorate seat rule (in the context of a relatively high threshold). •

That it Generates Unfair Outcomes. Rodney Hide's victory in Epsom in 2008 saw ACT's 3.65% party vote share entitle it to 5 list seats – Hide + 4 other MPs – whereas NZ First's 4.07% got 0 MPs. Compare with Germany in 1990 under a 5% threshold+three electorate seat waiver regime: Greens (3.8%, 0 MPs), Alliance (1.2%, 8 MPs), PDS (2.4%, 17 MPs).

24. Any system of rules that draws legally-binding bright lines and boundaries is going to offend against certain aspects of childhood conceptions of fairness. a.

The Threshold Can Be Unfair. Party S gets 5.00% of the party vote and is entitled to 6 MPs whereas party T gets 4.999% of the party vote and is entitled to 0 MPs.


Plurality Elections Wins (and anything indexed to them) can be Unfair. Party U gets 3% of the party vote but narrowly wins a low turnout, but tight, multi-candidate, highlydivided electorate contest (e.g., U's candidate gets 6000 votes, and 25% of the electorate vote, margin of victory = 10 votes). Party V gets 3% of the party vote and narrowly loses a very high turnout, two-way local race (e.g., V's candidate gets 25,000 local votes for a 49.99% electorate vote share, margin of defeat = 10 votes)

Wah wah. We got almost exactly as many party votes as S. Wah wah. I got four times as many votes as V's candidate did and nearly twice the share of the electorate vote. Wah wah wah. 25. A threshold+waiver regime is logically just a disjunction of two boundary rules. Standard, tempting, childish mewling about what are always, partially arbitrary boundaries [24a, 24b] is then sent into overdrive by the target-rich environment of a more complicated, disjunctive boundary. Is that all there is to the claim of unfairness against the one electorate seat rule in the context of a 5% threshold? I think so, although a couple of more specific forces may help explain some of the felt gallingness of outcomes like those in 23. •

The heuristics and biases literature in Psychology warns us that people regularly lose their minds over disjunctions (e.g., they often find disjunctions less credible than their disjuncts). It's possible that the disjunctive boundary literally distorts people's value judgments, i.e., about how arbitrary, unfair, unworthy, etc. some outcomes are.

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If the only defense one ever hears of the one electorate seat rule (or of the three seat rule in Germany) appeals directly to the boost it provides to proportionality (e.g., Geddis's 'the only possible justification for the Electorate Seat that it helps to rectify some of the disproportionate outcomes that would result from simply having a 5% Party Vote threshold.') then it can be hard to understand why parties whose exclusions from list seats caused the greatest disproportionalities (and the largest number of wasted votes) weren't extended the same grace. That is, the wrong defense of the electorate seat waiver probably does help undermine the intelligibility of and support for the threshold.

26. The second standard criticism of the one electorate seat rule is: •

That It Involves Unequal Suffrage. '[T]he voters in particular electorates [have] a disproportionate say regarding the overall composition of Parliament via their Electorate Vote.' (Geddis); '[The Rule] violates the principle that all votes should be of equal value, by giving voters in particular areas substantially more power than those in other electorates...[W]hat was wrong [about ACT's result in 2008] was that it was the voters of Epsom who had the power to decide whether the 85,496 people who gave ACT their party vote were going to be represented.' (Edgeler)

27. In my view there's something importantly right about this criticism. Two vote MMP's problem with unequal suffrage is real enough: overhang plays á là (18c) are a sore point precisely because they threaten to roughly double some people's voting power. But the one electorate seat rule causes no comparable unequal suffrage problem. Or so I'll now argue. 28. Begin by noting the straightforward sense in which one electorate seat rule plays do not involve anyone having 'disproportionate say regarding the overall composition of Parliament via their Electorate Vote'. ~25-30K National and ACT voters in Epsom end up electing ~1.2 list MPs with their party votes just the same as all other similarly-sized groups of voters, and the electorate winner they choose is subtracted or compensated away from ACT's list entitlements (i.e., from the budget of MPs to which ACT's party vote share entitles it, which is at least 2 MPs if the one electorate seat rule applies non-trivially). National and ACT voters in Epsom do not end up with roughly double the voting power of everyone else, their electorate votes do not by themselves affect the balance of power in parliament, and there's nothing anti-proportional about the outcome.

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29. So the question is whether we can make sense of an ability to trigger a waiver itself as an alarming kind of power asymmetry? Can we, after the fact, credit actual Epsom voters alone with Edgeler's ominous-sounding power 'to decide whether the 85,496 people who gave ACT their party vote were going to be represented'? Note that powers that principally get identified after-the-fact and that depend on a whole raft of positive and negative contingencies (e.g., only a sub-threshold % of ACT voters show up elsewhere; ACT wins no other electorates) to exist at all tend to be suspicious: easy to attribute without being especially probative, let alone alarming. For example, one can try to credit a handful of voters in Florida with the power to choose the US President in 2000 after all other states' and counties' results are settled. But that's more alarmist talk rather than an alarming discovery of illicit powers possessed by Floridians. 30. Edgeler's way of describing things in (cases like) Epsom 2008 commits him to saying that if ACT had received many fewer (or even zero) party votes in the 2008 election then Epsom voters' would have had much less power. But it seems wrong (or at least strained and definitely not compulsory) to describe voters and their powers in ways that include (and so logically fluctuate with) all subsequent events. Better (or at least equally legitimate) to describe Epsom voters' situation and powers more neutrally and relatively invariantly: given the one electorate seat rule and some parties coordinating to give voters a play to take advantage of that rule, Epsom voters just had the power to ensure ACT's entitlement to list seats. How many list seats (even the one list seat needed first to 'cover' Rodney Hide's electorate win) ACT would become entitled to, however, was up to ACT supporters nationwide. 31. Moreover, in the actual Epsom 2008 case, it's plausible that many of ACT's 85,496 party votes would have gone elsewhere if the one electorate seat shot in Epsom hadn't been on (rationally speaking, they should all have defected in that case). It's therefore misleading to hold all those party votes fixed in thought and imagine the electorate votes in Epsom as an independent factor 'with all the power' over them. It's much more natural in my view to say (if one must say something after-the-fact) that the actual outcome reflects successful cooperative, proto-coalitional play to the mutual advantage of all concerned. Coalitional play and horse-trading isn't just for parliamentary parties after the election, rather it's an ongoing part of the operations and incentive structures and consensual ethos of two vote MMP (and of electoral systems with proportional elements more generally).

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Submission of Dr Stephen M. Glaister to the MMP Review

32. Let's re-derive the conclusions of the last three paragraphs from another direction – from the other side of the disjunctive boundary – by constructing a 18b-style, 'get the small party over the threshold' strategic play in Epsom. For the sake of a good knife-twisting, I'll suppose that the threshold has been lowered to the 2.5% that both Geddis and Edgeler recommend (if you like, suppose too that the one electorate seat rule is gone just as G&E recommend): a.

Trade to Get Over the Threshold. In 2014 ACT polls ~2% two weeks out from election day. ACT begs for help (offering what quid pro quos it can) and National decides to provide it, i.e., to give up .5-.7% of its own party vote to ensure that ACT's 2% isn't lost to the center-right. To minimize its risk from a play of this sort, National restricts its 'defecting party vote' push to the National party supporters in a single electorate. And who better for that effort than Epsom's sophisticates who are well-used to this sort of thing? (And the ~25K National party supporters in Epsom gives about the right margin for error, i.e., just so long as a majority of National supporters in Epsom play along.)

33. If one is of a mind to credit voters with unequal powers, especially after-the-fact, then 32a must look like a case in which voters in one electorate 'have a disproportionate say regarding the overall composition of Parliament,' 'have substantially more power than those in other electorates', 'decide whether the 50K other people who gave ACT their party vote were going to be represented', and so on. 34. But if so, tough. 32a is paradigmatic, successful, between-elections cooperative, protocoalitional play. While 32a is a little more explicit and organized than usual, or than it needs to be, for dramatic effect, the basic situation it describes is business as usual in an electoral system with proportional elements (especially one that encourages fully functional parliamentary parties). That's 31's conclusion re-derived. 35. 32a's stipulation that everything in fact works out beautifully for ACT and National indeed tempts us to attribute special powers to the defecting-to-ACT voters. But ACT's support could easily have either taken off or collapsed in the final days of the campaign. If either of those things had happened then Epsom's strategic defectees would have moderately (National gifts .7% to ACT but gets little back for that since it wasn't needed) or royally (National's gift ends up being just more wasted vote share) screwed their own party. Some great powers! Rather than attribute powers that aren't robust across variations in obviously relevant contingencies, better (or at least equally legitimate) to describe the capacities of

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defecting Epsom voters more neutrally, invariantly. Given the low threshold, National supporters in Epsom jointly had the power to give ACT about 1/3 of a threshold's worth of party vote share (the same power every other similarly sized group of voters had). That's 29's and 30's conclusion re-derived. 36. Summarizing 26-35: regardless of which qualifying condition they target, strategic plays by a large party's supporters to help simpatico smaller parties qualify for list seats are business as usual for MMP, and the sense in which such plays give some voters more power or 'say' than others remains evanescent, more a fanciful manner of speaking (that one can adopt as a kind of novel perspective in a range of different cases) than a compelling, alarming problem that demands a solution (or many solutions since there are a number places you can spy a 'problem' of this kind if you try or squint hard enough). 37. Note again (28) how different plays-to-get-parties-to-qualify-for-list-seats are from overhang plays å là 18c, where a (usually, but not necessarily small) party tries to gain representation entirely through electorate wins while shedding (and ideally trading) as much of its party vote as possible. There the disproportionate says and voting power, leading directly to antiproportional outcomes in parliament are plain for all to see. 38. Bizarrely, however, neither Geddis nor Edgeler sees any real problem with overhangs ['I must admit to being largely agnostic on this particular issue... I recommend no change be made to the law on this issue.' (Geddis). 'I am not particularly concerned about overhang.' (Edgeler)]. I've referred to such plays in passing as 'pernicious' (19), 'corrosive', and 'risky for the electoral system' (18c), but evidently this base-line opinion is not widely shared. In the next section, I'll try to succinctly explain both the seriousness of the overhang problem and its only solution. OVERHANGS 39. As Edgeler notes, some (even very large) overhangs have nothing to do with strategic play and can occur without any split-voting or (equivalently) under one vote MMP: •

Inadvertent (Massive) Overhang. Suppose an election in NZ with (i) no split voting (or one vote MMP), (ii) 5 parties each get ~20% of the party vote, (iii) each party's supporters are uniformly distributed so that each electorate reproduces the nationwide 20/20/20/20/20 division on both votes, but (iv) one of the five parties, L, ends up

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winning each of the 70 electorates by a handful of votes in each case (i.e., so L in fact has 20.0001% of the vote at every level). L's party vote share entitles it to 24 list MPs, so L ends up with a 46 seat overhang (and a 70/166 share of a 166 member House). 40. There are two key differences between the inadvertent overhangs to which even no split votes/one vote MMP is susceptible and the pernicious overhangs that are distinctive of two vote MMP. First, as our example (39) suggests, inadvertent overhangs, especially large ones, are quite hard to arrange. On the one hand, small parties tend to find it very hard to win significant numbers of single member district races, hence hard to overshoot the delegations their overall vote shares entitle them to with their electorate success. On the other hand, large parties do tend to do disproportionately well in single member district elections. But very rarely do they carry all their 'marginal seats', which is normally what it would take for them to 'run out of list seats'. In sum, so long as there are plenty of pure list seats to go around (50% of the total was the original Royal Commission 1986's good recommendation; NZ's current 41.66% is about as low as one can go without sharply increasing inadvertent overhang rates) then inadvertent overhangs are likely to be rare. (To get a sense of what an inadvertent-residue-only regime would look like under ordinary conditions, consider that if there were no split votes/one vote MMP, two of the Maori party's four overhang seats across 2005, 2008, and 2011 wouldn't be eliminated/'covered' by list entitlements, i.e., if all the people who voted for a Maori party candidate in their electorates had also given their party votes to Maori.) 41. The second and more important difference between inadvertent overhangs and the distinctive, pernicious kind concerns the incentives in the two sorts of cases. In inadvertent overhangs, as best captured under no split votes/one vote MMP, a party's incentive is always to get as many votes as possible: it tries to win electorates precisely by trying to increase its share of the overall vote, and vice versa. In the overhang plays that are characteristic of two vote MMP, however, the incentives are quite different. Since it's not determined within a two vote MMP system that the same parties will or should compete for both votes, the 'compensatory' mechanism in two vote MMP creates a strong incentive for parties to specialize on either the electorate seat or party vote share side of the ledger, and then to coordinate to reduce each others' compensatory loss and to 'get the most bang for one's voting buck'. And the incentive for parties to coordinate and generate overhangs feeds back positively: the larger the overhang, the better off your party and its relatively simpatico

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coordinatee will both be. And this seems to mean that even otherwise objectively, notespecially overhang-prone two vote MMP systems will sooner or later (and sooner rather than later in my view) descend into widespread, large overhang, anti-proportional chaos. Hence we weren't kidding when we projected vigorous pursuit of large overhangs back in 18c. 42. I explore what this means and what to do about it in my book Mixed Illusions (viewable at ). Building on discussion in Chapter 3, in Chapters 5 and 6 I establish the robustness of my core case against two vote MMP by showing that existing so-called 'solutions' to our problems with two vote MMP systems fail miserably. Those alleged solutions either try to mitigate the effects of strategizing behaviors (esp. House inflation/Ausgleich seat proposals and 'internalize the overhang' proposals), or try to block those behaviors in the first place (esp. proposals to legislate both for and against various party behaviors, and proposals due to Max Anderson of the Committee for Voting Equity in British Columbia to penalize parties that don't receive large numbers of both party and electorate votes). But the effects of strategizing behaviors can't be mitigated at anything like an acceptable cost, and there is no way to block such behaviors short of collapsing the electoral system overall down to one vote. Or so I argue. 43. Chapters 7 and 8 scrutinize and reject as largely illusory two alleged benefits of two vote MMP systems: that they extend voter choice, and that they induce something like additional institutional structure (e.g., separated powers, checks and balances, etc.), as it were, on the cheap. 44. It's worth mentioning that (compensatory) one vote MMP (with or without Ausgleich or 'balance' seats), is used in the two largest German states (L채nder), North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-W체rttemberg, and in the Italian Senate, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, and the South Korean Kukhoe. 45. The Royal Commission 1986 seems to have been guided in its recommendation of two vote MMP by the thought that only a small minority of New Zealanders would split their votes. If that thought was part of the Commission's case for dismissing the obvious worries about two vote MMP then it is a thought that has failed every test so far. In New Zealand's first six MMP elections the percentage of voters splitting their votes has been 37% (1996), 35% (1999), 39% (2002), 29% (2005), 30% (2008), and 31% (2011). At the time the Commission

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wrote its report, Germany's Bundestag elections had experienced little significant votesplitting. Indeed, even now, rates of vote-splitting for the Bundestag are barely half of what they are in New Zealand. 46. Significantly, from 1965 to 1987, there were only a total of seventeen overhang seats in the Bundestag, hence the Commission's sanguine observation: 'If a party wins more constituency seats than its overall proportional entitlement, it keeps the seats it has won, and the total number of seats in the Bundestag is increased until the next election; this has happened on a few occasions since 1949, resulting in a 1 or 2 seat increase.' (RCES 1986, 36, sec. 2.92) But things have changed greatly since Germany's reunification. There were six overhang seats in the Bundestag in 1990, sixteen in 1994, thirteen in 1998, five in 2002, sixteen in 2005, and twenty-two in 2009. That and much, much worse - illegitimate government just for starters - is the future for NZ's two vote MMP system. Better to head all that off at the pass now by moving to a one vote counterpart of our current system. 47. Unfortunately, that probably won't happen in part because NZ's foremost electoral engineers (e.g., Vowles, J., Sullivan, A., Aimer, P., Miller, R., and Banducci, S. 2000. Electoral System Opinion and the Evolution of MMP: A Report to the Electoral Commission) deny that large-scale inter-party coordination to produce overhangs is a real problem simply because it hasn't happened so far. We don't allow civil, mechanical, etc. engineers to rest on such backward-looking laurels – 'So far the dam has held', 'So far no plane has crashed' – and to answer charges (let alone proofs) that their complex systems have design flaws or important vulnerabilities that way, but we seem determined to give such latitude to our electoral engineers. Sadly, then, New Zealanders will probably have to wait for the electoral equivalent of a dam failure or an airplane falling out of the sky for their electoral engineers to agree that some entirely foreseeable, design-level phenomenon is real. 48. Note that whenever I've mentioned to a non-expert New Zealander that I advocate a one vote version of MMP, their initial response has mixed 'How can that be MMP?' with 'So you want to go back to FPP then?' That is, within my small, highly non-random sample, people tend to think of two votes as defining MMP, and hence of 'one vote MMP' as close to a contradiction-in-terms. They've never been exposed to the possibility of one vote MMP before, and their sense that two votes must be essential suggests that the various seductive

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myths (e.g., voter choice, checks and balances on the cheap) surrounding two votes may have played crucial motivational roles in forming their, as it happens, broadly positive attitudes towards NZ's MMP system. This political reality unfortunately creates incentives for electoral engineers to avoid recommending transitioning to a more reliable and secure one vote system. AFTERWORD 49. I'd like to thank the Electoral Commission for the opportunity to make this submission. I did not submit earlier because I thought that my original research on one vote MMP would lie somewhat outside the Commission's brief. Reading other people's submissions on thresholds and electorate seat rules, however, convinced me that I had something to contribute on those issues, and further that some of my main research interests were relevant (notwithstanding the improbability of my largest, one vote MMP recommendation being accepted).

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MMP Review Submission: Thresholds, Electorate Seat Rules, Overhangs  

Threshold+electorate seat rule regimes are more defensible than is commonly realized. Overhangs are more of a problem than is commonly reali...

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