Referendum 2011, The Double Down and 127 Hours.

2011 is election year in NZ. This year, we have the added privilege of not only voting for either a Labour or National-led government (does it matter anymore?), but we also get to voice our opinion on how good the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system of elections has been. I study Politics at university, yet even I was not fully aware of the details of how MMP or any of its potential replacements works. Let’s take a trip down knowledge lane, shall we?

Prime Minister and the leader of the National Party, John Key. Isn't he a looker.

The incumbent – MMP

A voter has two votes, an electorate vote and a party vote. The candidate with the highest number of votes in each electorate receives a seat in Parliament. There are 70 electorates. The party vote dictates how many seats a party will get, aside from those gained through electorate wins. Essentially, a party gets into Parliament if they get over 5% of the party vote or win an electorate.

e.g. ‘The Bill and Ben Party’ gets 30% of the nation-wide party vote and also 20 electorate seats. 30% is equivalent to 36 seats, thus they receive a further 16 seats on top of their 20 electorate seats. These seats are filled by prospective MPs on a party’s ‘party list’.

e.g. ‘The Bill and Ben Party’ gets 4% of the nation-wide party vote, not above the 5% threshold. But they win an electorate. Not only do they get that electorate seat, they receive 4% of the seats in Parliament, roughly 5.

Confused? So is most of NZ, I guess.

Leader of the Labour Party, Phil Goff. First-rate grin.

The contenders – FPP, PV, STV and SM

First Past the Post: What NZ had before we switched to MMP in 1996. 120 MPs, 120 electorates. You win an electorate, you get a seat. Whoever gets the most seats wins. Small parties are usually under-represented as while they may receive a decent number of votes nation-wide, without electorate wins, they get no seats in Parliament.

Preferential Voting: 120 MPs, 120 electorates. You win an electorate, you get a seat. Voters list electorate candidates from 1-6 in order of preference, candidate with highest vote (over 50%) wins. If no candidate gets over 50%, the process gets complicated and boring.

Single Transferable Vote: Literally incomprehensible. Pick this option if you use Linux, or study Logic at university.

Supplementary Member: 120 MPs. 90 MPs are voted in through their electorate. The remaining 30 ‘supplementary seats’ are voted in through the party vote. A party receives a portion of the 30 seats equivalent to the number of party votes that they received nation-wide. e.g. If ‘The Bill and Ben Party’ receives 10% of the party vote, it receives 3 supplementary seats.


It’s not my prerogative to tell you which one to vote for. My guess is that the majority of NZ will decide once they’ve got their referendum form in front of them come November 26th. It will be interesting to see which way the country swings. For further reading pleasure, the NZ Herald posed this question to two current MPs.

I’m impressed if you’re still reading this. It’s not often that people are actually interested in real information. As a reward, here’s a link to a recipe for a home-made Double Down and’s opinion on how 127 Hours should’ve ended. NB: The 127 Hours link contains spoilers, a bit of blood and an Arrested Development reference.

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