I’ve always raised a questioning eyebrow grumble to votes each election that are allocated to fringe parties. Wondering what motivates an individual to commit its party vote to a party that doesn’t have a chance of getting past the 5% party threshold needed to achieve representation under our Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.
One could argue that there is always a chance that a party could achieve that threshold, but statistically and historically there are always political parties at every general election that will never reach the 5% necessary threshold.
MMP can be confusing, but ultimately everyone gets a chance to vote for who they want to represent them in Government for the next 3 years. One vote for your electorate, and if you choose a party for your party vote that is unlikely to gain 5% support it is not only a wasted vote, it is potentially the same as voting for the party who you never want to vote for.
Take this example. Of the total party votes at an election Party A gets 40%, Party B gets 35%, the other parties that do get into parliament get 15% among them, and the parties that don’t make it get a total of 10%.
In a parliament of 120 seats, that would give Party A 48 seats, Party B 42 seats and the others 18 seats between them. But that’s only 108 seats. How do they fill the remaining 12 seats?
In New Zealand we use something called the Sainte-Laguë formula, invented in 1910 by French mathematician André Sainte-Laguë.
Essentially, under Sainte-Laguë, the Electoral Commission starts with 120 seats, looks at the votes, and sees who won the most seats, in our example, Party A and allocates them one seat. For the next seat, it sees that the Party B won almost as many, so it gives them one. The third and fourth to a minor party, the fifth to Party A again, the sixth to Party B, the seventh to another minor party, and so on. With each seat, the calculation is based on deciding which party has the best claim to get that seat, in order to maintain the relativities of all the parties.
So, even if you are wanting to avoid voting for Party A, if you choose to vote for a minor party who doesn’t get into parliament on either the 5% or electorate threshold, you may in fact be doing just that!
You can check it out here: https://elections.nz/stats-and-research/mmp-seat-allocation-calculator/