MMP – it takes just TWO ticks

Note: this post originally appeared on ‘Douglas to Dancing’, a blog I maintained from 2007-9 on the ACT New Zealand political party. The blog was an extension of the thesis I wrote about the Act Party in 2007, From Douglas to Dancing: explaining the lack of success of ACT New Zealand and evaluating its future prospects (PDF).

Amidst a lot of the usual pap there are some good gems of information in a Steve Braunias article in today’s Sunday Star-Times. The setting is the campaign trail in Hide’s Epsom electorate:

Hide, 51, leader of the Act Party, MP for Epsom, moved along the pavement with pretty little steps and a winning smile on his tanned, tight-skinned dial. He asked: “Vote for me?” He handed out Act leaflets. Few resisted. Many welcomed the chance to shake his hand. He was among friends; when Hide won Epsom in the last election, he beat his opponent, National’s Richard Worth, at all six polling booths in Remuera.

My criticism of this strategy can be summed up in the three words “Vote for me?”. Obviously it’s important for ACT to have Hide campaign in Epsom and secure the party’s “lifeline”. And it’s only responsible that Hide is not wanting to appear complacent and is campaigning hard. Yet it’s clear that Hide is secure in the Epsom seat: the challenge this time around is getting the party vote. As Braunias points out, in 2005 fewer voters in Epsom gave ACT their party vote than the Greens. Given Epsom is probably an area where Hide and ACT-sympathies run deeper than most, it would seem obvious to campaign hard in 2008 for a “two ticks for ACT” (or preferably a more memorable pun involving “double ACT” etc.), especially in Epsom. In other words, don’t just “vote for me” – but “vote for me AND give your party vote to ACT”.

To make this clearer: in 2005, ACT received 34,469 party votes in total (nationwide). In Epsom, however, ACT gained just 1,237 party votes. By contrast, the National Party in Epsom alone received 21,310 votes – well over half of ACT’s nationwide total!!! So if ACT and Hide managed to convince just half of all those voters who gave National their party vote to give it this time to ACT, the party would have some 45,000 party votes. I’m not sure exactly how the mathematics work but that’s close to getting ACT another MP – especially if some more party votes come to ACT from up and down the country, as should be expected this time if more ACT-inclined voters believe their vote won’t be wasted due to Hide being “safe” in Epsom.

Interestingly ACT’s member e-newsletter is keen on essentially pointing out this fact, in a clear and quite punchy way.

If you want to see a change in government you have two choices.

You can either give your vote to National and ACT – Each is of equal value when it comes to changing the government.

But the real issue is not getting National over 50%. The issue is getting ACT and National over 50%.

Polls show that Rodney Hide will win Epsom so a Party vote for ACT is not a wasted vote.

Every party vote for ACT will count. Even a 4% party vote for ACT will send 5 MPs to parliament.

There is no 5% barrier to be reached.

How about giving voters, as well as members, a lesson in MMP?

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