When it comes to parliamentary voting systems, which is the fairest of them all? MMP by a country mile.
Fair, yes, but not fault-free. The perfect voting system has yet to be invented. Many of us who campaigned for MMP a generation ago expected anomalies to appear in the MMP system down the track a bit. And so it proved to be.
After two elections (1996 and 1999), a Parliamentary Select Committee reviewed MMP, toured the country gathering views on the system and did what politicians of different stripes are renowned for doing - nothing. They could not agree on recommendations to improve MMP despite its adaptability.
Now we have a chance of an independent review run by the Electoral Commission, not politicians - so long as MMP carries the day in the referendum on 26 November.
MMP can be reconfigured in multiple ways. The threshold and one-electorate rule are standouts for change. Party lists are also contentious. To what extent should voters be able to influence them?
It would be a disaster for democracy and political stability if MMP was bundled out without a judicious "kicking of the tyres", which is what Prime Minister John Key advocated soon after he came into power.
The National Party leadership appears to have changed its tune lately by coming out in favour of a little-understood system called Supplementary Member (SM), which is a tarted up version of the old tyrannical and discredited First-Past-the-Post (FPP) system. If SM had been in force instead of MMP, three of the last five elections would have delivered minority governments on an FPP basis. SM is a fob off.
All alternative systems in the running are based on a Parliament of 120 seats. If you are among those who think 120 MPs is an extravagance, be aware that had we continued under FPP, Parliament would comprise 111 MPs by now thanks to population increase, and in a short few years would be well past the 120 mark. In fact, compared to similar-sized jurisdictions around the world, we are not over-represented.
Fairness, proportionality and more voices in Parliament are what MMP is designed to deliver. From the outset, voters saw that their two votes (electorate candidate and party) could be split. Roughly a third of voters will back a party that is not of the same political leaning as their chosen electorate candidate. That is called choice.
MMP's footprint has grown to the point where no-one under the age of 35 will ever have voted in an FPP election, and those who recall the FPP-elected dictatorship of the Muldoon years grow fewer with each election.
There have been five general elections under the MMP system. This year's election is the sixth. As each three-year term rolls around, the number of voters who lived with FPP grows steadily smaller and conversely, those who know and understand a proportional voting system are more numerous. FPP is old-hat. In a world where proportional voting systems predominate, it needs to be discarded once and for all.
A vote to change the system could herald a return to the bald old days of wasted votes, gerrymanders, minority governments and, in the absence of a constitution or second chamber, unbridled political power.
A vote for MMP will trigger an independent review and an opportunity to make the system better.
The campaign to get rid of FPP, leading to the 1993 referendum, was based on "making votes count". Then, as in this year, the electoral referendum is a far bigger deal than the general election because the voting system is the foundation of any democracy.
* Neville Peat is a Dunedin writer.