Representation

Does the voting system enable Māori, women, ethnic minorities, and representatives of different geographic areas to be elected to Parliament?

Representation – that is, electing parliaments that represent and reflect the population, including Māori, women, ethnic minorities and geographic areas – is widely considered one of the major criteria for assessing electoral systems.

According to the editors of The International IDEA Handbook of Electoral System Design, it is important that a parliament should, to some degree, be "a mirror of the nation" and broadly represent the diversity of people in society. This is often called demographic or descriptive representation. The type of voting system is a key factor in electing a more diverse parliament. Also important are parties' candidate selection processes, the use of reserved seats, and the broader cultural context in which the voting system operates.

There is also geographic representation. It is considered important that voters can elect local representatives who are clearly identifiable as representing a particular area. These representatives should be close by so voters can easily get access to them and raise issues of local or personal concern. The size of the area represented is therefore important.

The representation criterion also involves trade-offs. Voters may need to prioritise between descriptive and geographic representation as some voting systems are better at one than the other. It is also important to note that the representation of groups and communities (such as Māori, women, and ethnic minorities) and geographic areas may be regarded by MPs as less important than party loyalty.

 Our Westminster-style Parliament is based on the primacy of strong party discipline, rather than on the representation of groups, communities and geographic area across party lines.

For an analysis of how each of the voting systems tends to perform on the question of representation, click here.

Proportional systems generally, and party-­‐list systems in particular, are more likely to elect Parliaments that 'mirror the nation' than non-­‐proportional systems. This becomes more likely as the number of MPs elected from any one electorate or from the party list increases. It is generally harder for Māori, women, and ethnic minorities to be elected in systems based only in single-­‐member electorates unless the system includes reserved seats and/or quotas for candidate selection.

 

  • Each voting systems tends to perform on the question of representation in the following ways:

    MMP

    MMP is the most proportional of the five voting systems and has the most List MPs. As a result, the number of Māori, women, and ethnic minority MPs has increased significantly under MMP. Most have been List MPs.

    MMP has fewer Māori electorates (currently 7), but more List MPs than do the other four voting systems, and a greater proportion of Māori have been elected to Parliament under MMP via the parties' lists than in the single-­‐member electorates.

    FPP

    FPP is based entirely in single-member electorates, is not a proportional voting system, and there are no list seats. As a result, relatively few women and ethnic minorities tend to be elected under FPP.

    Based on currently available census data and Māori Electoral Option statistics, there would be 12 Māori Electorate MPs but no List MPs.

    PV

    PV is based entirely in single-member electorates, is not a proportional voting system, and there are no list seats. As a result, relatively few women and ethnic minorities tend to be elected under PV. Based on currently available census data and Māori Electoral Option statistics, there would be 12 Māori Electorate MPs but no List MPs.

    STV

    STV is classified as a proportional representation voting system. It does not have list seats, but does have multi-­member electorates. As a result, there are likely to be relatively more women and ethnic minority MPs than under FPP, PV and SM, but fewer than under MMP.

    Based on currently available census data and Māori Electoral Option statistics, there would be 12 Māori Electorate MPs. There would be no List MPs, but all the electorates – General and Māori electorates alike – will be multi-member electorates, and Māori candidates are likely to fare better in multi-­‐member General electorates than in single-member General electorates.

    SM

    SM is a mixed system, only part of which is proportional. There would be 30 List seats elected by proportional representation and 90 Electorate seats elected by FPP. As a result, there are likely to be relatively more women and ethnic minority MPs than under FPP and PV, but fewer than under MMP and STV.

    Based on currently available census data and Māori Electoral Option statistics, there would be 9 Māori Electorate MPs. Māori may also be elected via the 30 party List seats.

     

  • Geographic Representation

    MMP

    There are 70 local Electorate MPs. The physical size of the electorates is relatively large in comparison with FPP and PV in particular, and SM.

    FPP

    There would be 120 local Electorate MPs. The physical size of the electorates is relatively small in comparison with STV, MMP, and SM.

    PV

    There would be 120 local Electorate MPs. The physical size of the electorates is relatively small in comparison with STV, MMP, and SM.

    STV

    There would be 120 Electorate MPs likely to be elected in 24-30 multi-member districts. This means the physical size of the electorates would be the largest of all the five voting systems. Each electorate would, however, be represented by multiple MPs.

    SM

    There would be 90 local Electorate MPs. Electorates would be physically smaller than under STV or MMP but larger than under FPP or PV

     

 

Last updated: 29 January 2013