Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: No good moaning about MMP if you don't vote

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File photo / Richard Robinson
File photo / Richard Robinson

They're off. Racing this time - Vote for Change or Campaign for MMP? It's like betting on two flies climbing up the wall.

At November's general election, we don't just vote for a change - or repeat - of government, we also get to have our say on the voting system.

This week, Vote for Change launched its slick campaign on Facebook, with articulate spokesman Jordan Williams debating with Campaign for MMP's spokesman, the equally accomplished Sandra Grey, in media interviews.

While Vote for Change insists it won't be drawn into personality politics, one gets the wearying feeling there'll be the inevitable left-wing right-wing slanging matches as referendum day draws nearer.

Indeed, on Labour's blogsite, Red Alert, Trevor Mallard's attempts at conspiracy theories within Vote for Change are enough to make one reach for migraine medication.

He gleefully posted a photo of Williams with his campaign manager, Simon Lusk, on a grassy knoll with a gun. Mallard wrote they'd "outed themselves" by "being the first" to "like" Vote for Change's Facebook page.

Maybe Williams and Lusk also know who fed Rochelle Crewe? Actually Trevor, all you had to do was go to Vote for Change's website where the duo are listed as contacts. More fun, though, in stirring.

Campaign for MMP's website has celebrity endorsement from author and historian Philip Temple, endorsement from former Green Party list candidate Danna Glendining, and Grey is president of the Tertiary Education Union.

They want to keep MMP because it's fairer. Ironically, they'd loathe my politics although it was MMP which got me into Parliament in 2002. (To be fair, I've "liked" both Mallard and Williams' sites.)

Seriously though, voters deserve non-partisan accurate information when they exercise choice in this referendum. But already this first round of interviews saw misinformation bandied about.

I haven't got my head around the alternatives to know how to vote yet, but electoral law specialist Graeme Edgeler (legal beagle) has. So if you want to impress at dinner parties, check out his blog.

We get two choices. One, do we want to keep MMP? Even if you vote to retain MMP you can also choose, from a second question, a different voting system you may prefer.

The options are a return to First Past the Post (FPP), Preferential Voting (PV), Single Transferable Vote (STV), or Supplementary Member system (SM). The important thing voters need to realise is there's absolutely no choice in this referendum to reduce the number of MPs from 120 to 100.

The Government backed away from that option, rather like a turkey releases its feathers when you grab it by the tail with one hand, and a raised axe in the other, when the calendar is showing December 20.

Also important for the future of Maori politics is the issue of the Maori seats and, again, see Edgeler's blog. When we switched to MMP, the rules regarding Maori seats changed so seats could increase or decrease according to the number of Maori registered on the Maori electoral roll.

Currently, we have seven. A change to FPP, PV or STV would see an increase in the number of Maori seats to at least 12 and, probably, 13 seats.

A change to the SM system would see an increase to at least nine and possibly 10 Maori seats.

Will our choice in this referendum allow us to dump list MPs whose party bosses have placed high up a list? Dropkicks previously rejected by their electorates? Only if the two options that have list MPs are soundly rejected.

If we vote to keep MMP, the Electoral Commission will conduct a review of the MMP system, and the public will get to have their say on changes, such as whether small parties should have to get 5 per cent even if they get a constituent MP, to avoid coat-tailing lame-duck MPs into the House.

Confused? Don't be. Just don't play ignorant, avoid the referendum, then whinge about list MPs having no mandate and how that is undemocratic. It's your vote. Use it.

- Herald on Sunday

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