Proportionally speaking

Having a sensible, considered sort of government, and having confirmed in the recent referendum that we want to keep our marvelous proportional representation voting system, we are now having a review of the system to see if it needs to be tweaked. You have until May 31 to make a submission, if you felt so inclined.

This is my submission. I think we should allow voters to vote against particular parties in the same way as voters can currently vote for them.

Every voter would get one party vote, as now, that would determine the total number of seats that a party would have in the parliament. But a voter could use that vote to vote either for a party, or to offset someone else’s vote for it.

I recognise that this is well outside the list of encouraged topics, although there is a handy “other topics” category. But consider for a moment its two major virtues.

  • It would lead to a more moderate, sensible political debate, since parties who seriously upset parts of the electorate would find themselves the targets of “vote against” campaigns.
  • And more importantly, it would mean that parliamentary election results were a more perfect representation of the people’s will, since they would better reflect the overall sentiment of the electorate. Electoral life would no longer be a choice between three main colours: blue, red or green. One could instead send a signal about what one did not want, rather than what one did.

I, of course, would use my vote to vote against Winston Peters.

Some of the benefits of the more complex STV system they use in Australia, without its attendant nasty costs and complexities. It might also make polling more complicated and less reliable, and therefore election night even more exciting. And it might make the voting paper trickier to manage. To which I say bring on internet voting.