Referendum Information Programme Kicks Off

Press Release – Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission’s main information programme for the Referendum on the Voting System kicks off on Sunday 9 October. “Our simple and engaging advertisements are designed to help voters understand what the referendum is about and where to …Electoral Commission
Te Kaitiaki Take Kōwhiri

7 October 2011

Referendum Information Programme Kicks Off

The Electoral Commission’s main information programme for the Referendum on the Voting System kicks off on Sunday 9 October.

“Our simple and engaging advertisements are designed to help voters understand what the referendum is about and where to get more information if they need it,” says Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer.

The information campaign features Orange Guy explaining the two questions in the referendum, and what will happen as a result.

“This week, every household in the country will receive a referendum brochure in their mailbox”, says Mr Peden. “It introduces the questions and what will happen as a result, gives information about each of the alternative systems, and tells people where they can get more information.”

“The Electoral Commission wants to help voters feel confident they are able to make an informed choice when they go to vote in the referendum,” says Mr Peden.

The referendum is happening at the same time as the General Election on Saturday 26 November.

Voters will be asked two questions on the purple referendum voting paper they will receive when they go to vote:

• The first question asks whether they want to keep Mixed Member Proportional (MMP, which is the voting system we use at the moment) or change to another voting system.
• The second question asks which of four other voting systems they would choose if New Zealand decides to change from MMP. The four alternative voting systems to choose from are called:

• First Past the Post (FPP);
• Preferential Voting (PV);
• Single Transferable Vote (STV); and
• Supplementary Member (SM).

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FAQ

Why are we having a Referendum on the Voting System?

The referendum forms part of the Government’s package of electoral reforms which includes new electoral finance laws, the establishment of the new Electoral Commission and a Constitutional Review. More information about these initiatives is available at the Ministry of Justice website www.justice.govt.nz.

In December 2010 Parliament passed the Electoral Referendum Bill, which sets out the details of the Referendum on the Voting System to be held at the same time as the General Election this year.

What is the public information campaign?

The objective of the education campaign is to make it as easy as possible for voters to take part in the Referendum by providing information about it in an easily understood way so that, when they vote, voters feel confident they are making an informed choice.

What will people get?

This week, a detailed brochure will be delivered to every household in the country. It will also be included in the EasyVote packs people receive about a week before Election Day.

Where else can people get information?

It’s available from the website www.referendum.org.nz , or from 0800 36 76 56. There will also be public meetings held around the country.

Who is eligible to vote in the Referendum?

All correctly enrolled voters can take part in the Referendum.

People can check if they are enrolled and/or enrol at the Elections website or at any PostShop, library or at a local Registrars of Electors’ office.

Do voters need to answer both Referendum questions in order for their voting paper to be valid and their vote(s) to count?

Voters can choose to answer both questions, or only the first one, or only the second one. In each question, the voter will be asked to tick the option they choose.

When will the results be available?

Referendum voting papers will not be counted in polling places on election night to avoid delays to the release of the preliminary results for the general election. However, the referendum results from advance voting will be released on election night. The advance vote results will involve at least a quarter of a million votes and should provide a good indication of the overall result.

The official results are expected to be declared by 2.00pm, Saturday 10 December.

What happens after the 2011 Referendum if at least half of voters opt to keep MMP?

If at least half of voters opt to keep MMP, there will be an independent review of MMP in 2012 to recommend any changes that should be made to the way it works. The Electoral Commission will conduct the review and the public will have the opportunity to give their views.

The Electoral Referendum Act specifies that the Electoral Commission must review:

• The 5 percent party vote threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats;
• The one electorate seat threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats;
• The effects of population change on the ratio of electorate seats to list seats;
• The effect of a party’s candidates winning more seats than the party would be entitled as a result of the party vote;
• The capacity of a person to be both a constituency candidate and a list candidate;
• A party’s ability to determine the order of candidates on its party list and the inability of voters to rank list candidates in order of preference;
• Other matters as referred to it by the Minister of Justice or the House of Representatives.

The size of Parliament and Maori representation will not be reviewed, but the Commission may consider any other aspects of the MMP voting system.

The Commission must report back to the Minister of Justice by 31 October 2012.

What happens after the 2011 Referendum if more than half of voters opt to change the voting system?

If more than half of voters opt to change the voting system, Parliament will decide if there will be another Referendum in 2014 to choose between MMP and the alternative voting system that gets the most support in the second question in the 2011 Referendum.

Is the outcome of the Referendum binding?

The 2011 Referendum on the Voting System is indicative. This means that nothing will change as a result of this Referendum alone.

If at least half of voters opt to keep MMP, there will be an independent review of MMP in 2012 to recommend any changes that should be made to the way it works. The Electoral Commission will conduct the review and the public will have the opportunity to give their views.

If more than half of voters opt to change the voting system, the Government will decide whether there will be another Referendum in 2014 where voters would choose between MMP and the alternative voting system that got the most support in the 2011 Referendum.

Who has decided the content of the Referendum?

The details of the Referendum are set out in the Electoral Referendum Act 2010, which was passed by Parliament in December 2010. You can view the Act at http://www.justice.govt.nz/electoral/mmp-referendum.

The Act specifies the wording of the Referendum questions and the electoral systems that voters can choose from. The Act also sets out what will happen as a result of the Referendum and when. As well, the Act sets out the rules for advertising about the Referendum.

Why is the Referendum being held at the same time as the 2011 General Election?

The Referendum is an opportunity for New Zealanders to have their say on the voting system we use to elect our Governments in the future. This is an important constitutional issue and so it is important that as many voters as possible have their say. Holding the Referendum at the same time as the General Election makes it easy for eligible voters to take part.

The Electoral Commission is responsible for running the General Election and the Referendum. The Commission will ensure that when voters go to a polling place on Election Day, it’s easy to vote in the General Election and the Referendum.

What about people with no internet access?
People who don’t have web access can call 0800 36 76 56 for a number of resources, including the brochure with information on the Referendum & the five voting systems ( also available in other languages online) and more detailed fact sheets on each of the five voting systems. They can also order a DVD explaining the Referendum and the voting systems.

There will also be a series of public meeting held around the country giving detailed information about the Referendum.

About the Voting Systems

The voting systems you can choose from are MMP and four alternatives called:
• First Past the Post (FPP);
• Preferential Voting (PV);
• Single Transferable Vote (STV);
• Supplementary Member (SM)

You can find more information about MMP and the four alternative voting systems at www.elections.org.nz/referendum . Here is a summary of each.

MMP – Mixed Member Proportional

This is the system we currently use to elect our Parliament.

There are 120 Members of Parliament (MPs). There are 70 electorates, including the Maori electorates. Each elects one MP, called an Electorate MP. The other 50 MPs are elected from political party lists and are called List MPs.

Each voter gets two votes.

The first vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote and largely decides the total number of seats each political party gets in Parliament.

The second vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.

Under current MMP rules, a political party that wins at least one electorate seat OR 5% of the party vote gets a share of the seats in Parliament that is about the same as its share of the party vote. For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote it will get roughly 36 MPs in Parliament (being 30% of 120 seats). So if that party wins 20 electorate seats it will have 16 List MPs in addition to its 20 Electorate MPs.

Coalitions or agreements between political parties are usually needed before Governments can be formed.

FPP – First Past the Post

There are 120 Members of Parliament. Each of the 120 electorates, including the Maori electorates, elects one MP.

Each voter has one vote to choose the MP they want to represent the electorate they live in. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.

Large parties – and in particular the winning party – usually win a share of the seats in Parliament larger than their share of all the votes across the country. Smaller parties usually receive a smaller share of seats than their share of all the votes.

A government can usually be formed without the need for coalitions or agreements between parties.

PV – Preferential Voting

There are 120 Members of Parliament. Each of the 120 electorates, including the Maori electorates, elects one MP.

Voters rank the candidates – 1, 2, 3, etc – in the order they prefer them.

A candidate who gets more than half of all the first preference votes (that is votes marked “1”) wins.

If no candidate gets more than half the first preference votes, the candidate with the fewest number “1” votes is eliminated and their votes go to the candidates each voter ranked next.

This process is repeated until one candidate has more than half the votes.

Large parties – and in particular the winning party – usually win a share of the seats in Parliament larger than their nationwide share of the first preference votes. It is hard for smaller parties to win seats in Parliament, but votes for smaller party candidates may influence who wins the seat because of second, third, etc preferences.

A government can usually be formed without the need for coalitions or agreements between parties.

STV – Single Transferable Vote

There are 120 Members of Parliament. Each electorate has more than one MP. This includes the Maori electorates. It is likely the 120 MPs would be divided between 24 and 30 electorates, each with 3 to 7 MPs.

Each voter has a single vote that is transferable. Voters either rank the individual candidates – 1, 2, 3, etc – in the order they prefer from all the candidates, OR they may vote for the order of preference published in advance by the political party of their choice.

MPs are elected by receiving a minimum number of votes. This is known as the quota and is based on the number of votes in each electorate and the number of MPs to be elected.

Candidates who reach the quota from first preference votes are elected.

If there are still electorate seats to fill, a two-step process follows.

First, votes the elected candidates received beyond the quota are transferred to the candidates ranked next on those votes. Candidates who then reach the quota are elected.

Second, if there are still electorate seats to fill, the lowest polling candidate is eliminated and their votes are transferred to the candidates ranked next on those votes.

This two-step process is repeated until all the seats are filled.
The number of MPs elected from each political party roughly mirrors the party’s share of all the first preference votes across the country.

Coalitions or agreements between political parties are usually needed before governments can be formed.

SM – Supplementary Member

There are 120 Members of Parliament. There are 90 electorates, including the Maori electorates. Each elects one MP, called an Electorate MP. The other 30 seats are called supplementary seats. MPs are elected to these seats from political party lists and are likely to be called List MPs.
Each voter gets two votes.

The first vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.

The second vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote. The share of the 30 supplementary seats each party gets reflects its share of the party vote.

For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote, it will get about 9 List MPs in Parliament (being 30% of the 30 supplementary seats) no matter how many electorate seats it wins.

This makes SM different from MMP where a party’s share of all 120 seats mirrors its share of the party vote.

Under SM, one or other of the major parties would usually have enough seats to govern alone, but coalitions or agreements between parties may sometimes be needed.

ENDS

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