MMP: the “wasted” vote is worse than that

A “wasted” vote under MMP will effectively get allocated to parties that have crossed the threshold - parties that hold policies opposite to the party of the wasted vote.

One of the features of the flawed MMP system is the so-called “wasted” vote. This is a party vote for a party that fails to cross the threshold (i.e. get 5% of the party vote or at least one electorate).

As I posted before, “MMP: too complicated and not consistent” the Elections website has this to say:

A party vote cast for a party that does not cross threshold has no impact on the number of seats other parties will receive. In this sense it has the same impact as a non-vote - exactly none - except that the voter’s electorate vote will have helped decide that particular contest.

The crucial part is “no impact on the number of seats other parties will receive” - while this is literally true, the effect is quite different. What actually happens is that the wasted vote gets distributed amongst the parties that have crossed the threshold. The impact of this is that part of a wasted vote is very likely going to go to a party that has a very different or even the opposite view on policy to the party that fails to cross the threshold.

Let’s take a real example. You’re a strong believer in the right to deliver a loving smack to your child for reproof and so you decide you’ll vote for the Kiwi party. The party will fail to cross the threshold and so your vote will not affect the proportion of allocation of party seats - your vote will be allocated according to the percentages of the other votes. What does this mean? On current polling, about 9% of that wasted vote will go to the Greens and 33% will go to Labour - both parties that hold the opposite view on the right to smack. Similarly, on current polling 46% of a vote for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party will go to the National Party - who aren’t about to legalise let alone decriminalise cannabis in the near future. Yet again MMP fails to deliver into Parliament a result that is in accord with the voter’s intentions.

Kiwi Party followers may feel that they have stood up for their beliefs by voting for the party - and they will be “sending a message” - but it will be at the cost of true representation in the House.

Up to about 5% of the votes in the election on Saturday 8th November will be “wasted” votes. One person in twenty’s vote will be partially allocated to parties they vehemently oppose - they vote for these small parties because they want to send a strong message. Bad news for these voters is that with MMP they help to entrench in seats the very parties they oppose. A voting system that can give part of your vote to a party with opposite policy is a WOMBAT.

Under MMP, how certain can we be that the make-up of the House actually reflects voters’ intentions?

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