Helping voters to make their choice

The Electoral Commission provided information to help voters assess the five voting systems and decide how to vote in the 2011 Referendum on the Voting System.

What factors helped voters decide how to vote in the referendum?

All voting systems have advantages and disadvantages. What one person sees as an advantage, another person will see as a disadvantage.  As a result, reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the need to change New Zealand's voting system, as well as the most desirable direction for change.

A range of questions about electoral systems were posed with the recommendation that they be answered in light of a person's own values and beliefs. The answers may have helped people decide their preferred electoral system.

The questions were distilled from the criteria adopted 25 years ago by the Royal Commission on the Electoral System in New Zealand, and also from criteria contained in the Handbook of Electoral System Design published in 1997 by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

People were also reminded that the editors of the Handbook of Electoral System Design made an important point when they stressed that "the criteria we have outlined are at times in conflict with each other or even mutually exclusive. The electoral system designer must therefore go through a careful process of prioritizing which criteria are most important to the particular political context before moving on to assess which system will do the best job."

Assessing – or judging – voting systems thus includes examining answers to the following five questions:

Accountability: Does the voting system make it easy for voters to identify their MP, as well as the party or parties in government, and to hold them to account (to "throw the rascals out")?

Effective Government: Does the voting system contribute to the stability of governments, enabling them to develop and implement their policy programmes and take decisive action when required?

Effective Parliament: Does the voting system produce parliaments able to scrutinise and affect the actions and policies of governments?

Proportionality: Does the voting system translate votes into seats so that a party's share of seats reflects its share of votes?

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




Last updated: 17 December 2012