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Wednesday, February 17

Format of MMP referendum takes shape


Further details about the referendum on the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) voting system to be held in 2011, have been announced today by Justice Minister Simon Power.


In October 2009, Mr Power announced the Government's decisions on the timing and process for the 2011 MMP referendum, which honours a pre-election promise to hold a referendum no later than 2011.


The referendum, to be held in conjunction with the general election, will ask voters two questions. Firstly, whether they wish to retain the present MMP voting system, and secondly, what alternative voting system they would prefer from a list of options, regardless of how they voted in the first question.


The options are First-Past-the-Post, Preferential Vote, Single Transferable Vote and Supplementary Member.


"The exact wording of the questions is crucial to the success of the referendum. The bill empowering the referendum, including the questions will be subject to public scrutiny through the select committee process," Mr Power says.


The bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament in April.


If a majority of voters opts for a change to the voting system, the Government will hold a second binding referendum in conjunction with the 2014 election, asking voters to choose between MMP and the most preferred alternative.


"Five general elections have now been held under MMP and it's timely to consider how the voting system is working. This is an important issue for New Zealand and it cannot be rushed."


The bill also provides that if a majority of voters opt to retain MMP, then a review of MMP will be held by the new Electoral Commission, due to be operational by October this year. The review will seek public opinion on MMP and report to the Minister of Justice on whether any changes to the MMP voting system are necessary or desirable.


"I'm aware that many people would like to retain MMP with some changes. The Government has carefully considered how to incorporate those concerns into the referendum process. If there is support to retain MMP as a voting system, there will be a review to see how MMP can be improved."


The Government has previously announced that a public information campaign will be held to inform voters about the referendum. Cabinet has decided that the new Electoral Commission will undertake this information campaign.


"The new Electoral Commission will be ideally placed to provide information to the public on the MMP referendum and the alternative voting systems. The commission is independent from the Government."


The estimated cost of holding the 2011 referendum is $10.97 million, which includes the cost of administering the referendum and conducting the public information campaign.


"I welcome robust public discussion on the referendum as the bill progresses through the select committee process," Mr Power says.


Further information including the Cabinet papers and the Regulatory Impact Statement can be found at: