If a vote is wasted …

I’m never sure if my sense of humour is more of a liability than an asset.

In an ideal democracy, Parliamentary representation is proportional. Christian Choice recommends that the 5% threshold be lowered or abolished. Why? If a vote is wasted, God gets quite irate.

That was my “full” submission on behalf of the embryonic Christian libertarian political think-tank, Christian Choice, submitted 5 minutes before the 5 April midnight deadline for those wanting to present in person to the Commission. It would have been more appropriate as a “quick” 5-minute submission, but that did not give the option of an in-person presentation.

[Update: I video-recorded my oral submission on my Android phone, but I’m damned if I can figure out how to rotate and edit a .3gp file under Ubuntu and upload it to YouTube. For the time being, here’s a transcript of my oral submission.]

I’m making this submission on behalf of an embryonic Christian libertarian political think-tank called Christian Choice.

The first thing I’d like to say is…

I’ll introduce myself first, I’m Richard Goode. I’m a Christian. And a libertarian.

The first thing I’d like to say is, thank God we live in New Zealand, where, even if our votes are wasted, and our representatives ignore what we have to say, at least we get to vote, and at least our representatives do put the time aside to listen to what we have to say. So the second thing I’d like to say is, thank you for listening.

I’m going to talk about the wasted vote problem, and I hope you’ll take heed of Christian Choice’s recommendation to lower or abolish the 5% threshold.

I alluded to the Life of Brian in my “full” online submission. “If a vote is wasted, God gets quite irate.” I’d now like to allude briefly to the ministry of Jesus. He gave us two new commandments, the second of which is “Love thy neighbour as theyself.” He could have said love thy neighbour twice as much as thyself, or half as much as thyself … but he didn’t. The second commandment, I hope you can see, embodies a principle of egalitarianism but also a principle of proportionality.

I think an ideal Parliamentary democracy should embody the very same principles of egalitarianism and proportionality. This means, one man, one vote. And it also means that each is to count for one, and none for more than one. (Or each is to count for two, under our system, and none for more than two votes.) But our current voting system falls short of this ideal.

I was 20 years old when I voted for the first time, this was in 1984. I voted under the FPP (First Past the Post) system for the local New Zealand Party candidate. And despite gaining 12.2% of the vote, the New Zealand Party gained no seats. Now I’m not somebody, and I never have been someone, who’s a mainstream voter. I wasn’t back then and I figured, quite correctly, that it was a pointless waste of my time voting again, so I didn’t vote again until the first MMP election in 1996. (Although I did vote in the 1993 referendum to bring MMP in.) And I have voted since then.

In ’96 I voted for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. Their vote was 1.66%, which fell short of the 5% threshold. The Christian Coalition’s party vote was 4.33%, which also fell short of the threshold. And I believe that both parties should have been represented in Parliament.

I’ve voted since, again for the ALCP but also for Libertarianz Party , but I still consider it a bit of a pointless waste of time. because none of those parties has come close to the 5% threshold. And the reason they haven’t come close to the 5% theshold is because of the 5% threshold.

I’d like to talk about Epsom as well in the last election. The so-called strategic voting that went on in Epsom is an example of a fundamental flaw in the current system. The 5% threshold meant that voters in Epsom had to vote for a candidate they did not support, necessarily in order to affect the national result. And I’m talking about libertarian-minded voters. They had to vote for John Banks or felt that they did to get Don Brash and others into Parliament on John Banks’s coat-tails, as it were.

So they did manage to affect the national result, but … What good is it for someone to affect the national result, yet forfeit their soul?

You see, the existence of the 5% threshold provides perverse incentives to vote for parties who are not your first or second choice of party, and for candidates who are not even a third or fourth choice of candidate. I know of libertarian voters and members of ACT on Campus who voted “strategically” for John Banks in Epsom. And now those voters have to live with the fact that all they achieved, from their point of view, was to elect a single conservative MP to Parliament who actually has recently come out in opposition to the “Keep it 18” policy which ACT on Campus had previously championed. This is a perverse outcome.

I’ll quote a couple of libertarian acquaintances of mine. They’re not close friends and they’re not Christians but this is what they had to say, on the day. One of them said

last week I voted Banks and party vote ACT. I hate Banks. ACT isn’t good enough.

but they voted for him. And another person said

I’ll be voting for Act and I’ll utilize my Epsom electorate to candidate vote Banks. He’s an abominable piece of slime

Okay … now, when you’ve got people voting for John Banks, and that’s what they actually think of him, there’s something wrong with our electoral system. And I said to them at the time, I said, look, with friends of freedom like you guys, who needs enemies?

Christian Choice would like to see the threshold lowered or abolished to remove the incentives for such electoral perversion.

Now there is some concern that we need to keep a threshold, even if it is lowered. I think this concern is misplaced. There’s a worry that eliminating the 5% threshold will mean there are more parties in Parliament and make it more difficult to establish a stable Government. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Totalitarian regimes are often more stable than democratic ones but that doesn’t mean that they are a good thing. The purpose of having a democratic election system is not to ensure a stable Government. It is to provide representation for voters. And the most democratic way to do this is through proper proportional representation.

So we would like to see the threshold lowered, preferably abolished. There will still be a natural threshold. In a Parliament of 100 MPs it would be 1%. And in a Parliament of 120 MPs, it would be 0.83%.

I’ll close by once again alluding again to the Life of Brian. If you’re worried about loony parties like the People’s Front of Judea getting elected to Parliament—currently polling at 1%—don’t worry too much because before the election they will surely schism into the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s front, and gain 0.5% each and no representation!

Thanks for listening.

I think my sense of humour was more of an asset than a liability on this occasion! My submission was well-received.

Those present and named were: Dr. Therese Arseneau, Jane Huria, Sir Hugh Williams, Robert Peden, John Spencer and Louise Vickerman.

2 thoughts on “If a vote is wasted …”

  1. “The only wasted vote is one that is not caste in accordance with one’s conscience”
    Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura.

    Good onya for making that submission.
    What do you think about the rule that to register as a Party, you must have 500 members?
    That is a lot, but is it too much? I hesitate to say that it is too much. I think history proves that this threshold has not been too much of a burden. I believe there needs to be some sort of minimum.

    Im not a big fan of ‘Pure’ democracy… in fact I don’t believe voting is *a right*…but a convention. I think voting ought to be restricted to those who *contribute* to the cost of running the government. I also think it is dangerous for public servants to have a vote too.

    I would abolish taxation and say that only those people who voluntarily contribute the minimum amount can vote. (yet everyone’s real rights …including the rights of non-voting-non contributing citizens would be guaranteed by the constitution so that *who actually governed would make minimal difference* they would have very limited scope to place a *personal* stamp on how our society was run.

    This would re establish a very important safeguard against tyranny… ie We the people would control the purse strings of government so that they don’t have funds to usurp greater powers, or to meddle in things that are not their proper duty, and also this would remove the evil of vested interests (beneficiaries and public servants) from voting themselves loot.

    Of course there would be no beneficiaries in a free society and way fewer public servants so these sorts of restrictions on voting would dis-enfranchise very few. Mostly would be those whom were poor and preferred to use their money to sustain themselves and their families… and this is a very moral ideal… Their rights would be safe, and they would not be robbed by taxation to fund the state. When they could afford to allocate some money to fund their share of government, they also get the right to choose the government.
    Tim Wikiriwhi

  2. ‘To thine own self be true!’
    Where have I herd that?
    Anyway Richard *Never* worry about trying to appeal to the petty minds of the nasty sheeple! That’s a waste of time! They will still hate you. They will still ignore you! Always speak from your Heart. In season, out of season.
    One minute speak as hard as Cannonballs.
    The next tell a joke!
    Lest ye die.

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