That wikipedia enty has led me to Dualvoting.com, a site mainly in German but with the mainpage translated to English.
This site suggests the second choice of party vote. I suggests that the second choice might be dealt with by allowing voter to but an ‘x’ against their preferred party, and a ‘2’ against their second choice. Just a question of ballot design.
This site also points out that two choice voting is a form of two-round voting. It has the advantage over two rounds on different days that people cannot change their mind between two rounds.
People are I think well used to the idea of second choices in many areas of life. They make it wasy to give everyone a choice and be sure that everyone will get something.
This idea of a second choice is also used for electing individuals, in a system called supplementary vote.
It is incorrect in my view to suggest that this is a form of single transferable vote STV. The second choice of party vote as I propose exists to avoid the problems arising from discarding party votes for under-threshold parties. It is very much simpler and much more useful than inviting multiple preferences.
I took the following as comment relevant to my proposal:
The spare vote is for asecond choice of political party, and this very different frfom STV.
The second vote comes into play only if the first choice party fails to pass threshold.
A voter should make sure that at least their second choice is for a party they consider certain enough to asss the threshold.
The idea was proposed about 2013 in Germany but rejected for unspecified reasons related to the German constitution.
The article proposes two methods of counting spare votes. My proposal matches the first of these, the one-step procedure, which as the article observes, is very simple to count. The one-step procedure is easily implemented and achieves all that is needed.
Other discussion is unrelated to the two-choice party voting proposal.
The article tends to affirm the idea of the ‘spare’ vote which I have referred to as ‘two choice party voting’.
The Wikiedia article: Spare vote
The spare vote is a version of single transferable voting applied to the ranking of parties, first proposed for elections in Germany in 2013. This preferential party system is a rankedproportional representationelectoral system applying to political parties instead of individual candidates. The spare vote refers to a secondary vote (preference) of the voter, which only comes into play if the first preference, the political party preferred by the voter, is below the electoral threshold. In Germany, there were draft laws for the spare vote system in Saarland,Schleswig-Holstein and Brandenburg federal states, but they were not implemented.Background
The term “spare vote” not only refers to the additional specification of a second preference but can also mean the electoral system working with a second preference as a whole. Not every second preference is a spare vote. Ranked voting systems differ in terms of their field of application, choice of party lists vs. choice of individuals. In particular, the following ranking procedures should be strictly distinguished from the spare vote:
The electoral threshold typical in party-list proportional representation and mixed-member proportional representation causes tactical voting and spoiler effects. Voters instead of casting their vote for a preferred party that presumably will fail to pass the electoral threshold tend to choose a less preferred party with a reliable chance of passing the electoral threshold. The security of the spare vote is intended to encourage voters to vote more honestly for their actually preferred party. On the ballot paper, the voter is given the opportunity to designate beside the first preference the spare vote, which becomes an effective vote only under the condition that the first preference fails to comply with the electoral threshold. To prevent that the spare vote falls below the electoral threshold as well, the voter should assign the spare vote to a party that is very likely to pass the electoral threshold. The spare vote continues to prevent the fragmentation of parliaments achieved by the electoral threshold.
There are different methods for evaluating the spare votes:
One-step procedure: All votes for parties that are below the electoral threshold according to the first preferences are discarded; in their place, the spare votes for these voters are counted. This is party list version of the contingent vote (if the voters may rank all parties) or supplementary vote (in case of just one spare vote).
Multi-round procedure: First the party with the least number of first preferences is eliminated, and the spare votes from its voters become effective. This is repeated until only parties that are above the electoral threshold are left. The benefit compared the one-step procedure is that some political parties could pass the electoral threshold only once spare votes become effective. This is the party list equivalent of the single transferable vote, which the quota being the electoral threshold.
Limiting the ranking of parties to two ranks allows a faster ballot counting procedure, where every electoral district reports only the counts of each party-pair. This procedure does not require all electoral districts to wait until the determination which parties have crossed the electoral threshold is finalized. With more than two ranks of parties, the voters rank several spare votes/parties according to their preferences. In this process, a voter’s party vote is carried over until it either goes to a party that is above the electoral threshold or has passed through all of the voter’s stated preferences.
The spare vote can also be used in the proportional part of mixed electoral systems with electoral thresholds, and some mixed systems operate on the basis of an indirect spare party vote (mixed single vote) to reuse the candidates that did not receive a direct mandate in favour of the party list they are affiliated with. The second vote under mixed-member proportional systems may be considered a direct spare vote for a party, but not relating to the electoral threshold, but for the case when a voters favourite local candidate does not win in their district. This is also the case for the party list preference in the mixed ballot transferable vote (MBTV), which is may also use a ranked ballot capable of functioning a contingent party vote if combined with an electoral threshold. It is also the mixed equivalent of the spare vote (and STV, the non-partisan equivalent of the spare vote), meaning the spare vote is used in a two-tier election, and the spare vote is used on the upper (party-list) tier only if it would be wasted on the lower (candidate-based) tier. The process is the same as under the positive vote transfer mechanism of the mixed single vote (MSV), except under MSV, voters do not get to choose their party preference, it is defined by the candidate vote.
It seems that there is a problem with many implementations of MMP and similar electoral systems. The problem stems from the use of thresholds to avoid a proliferation of small parties in the representative assembly.
Having a threshold seems innocuous enough, assuming one accepts the premise that it is desirable/important/useful/acceptable to limit the representation of very small parties in parliament.
It seems that most thresholds are implemented in a very simplistic way. If a party does not pass the threshold, it is completely excluded from the assembly. Its votes are discarded. It has no right to have any paid representatives present, to receive any secretarial or office space support, to speak, or to vote.
After discarding the votes of under-threshold parties, seats are allocated generally in proportion to the remaining, qualifying, votes.
Because of this mode of operation, the existence of the threshold creates perverse incentives for almost all players. A vote that was cast for a below-threshold party is a vote taken away from its allied parties and then discarded. Small emerging parties should be well aware that until they pass the threshold, they are working against their allied parties, and against the chances those allied parties have of forming a coalition government after an election. Major parties are not immune from these perverse effects. Major parties need to take into account that apparent support parties, ones of the same side of the left/right divide but below-threshold, are in fact working against the major party’s chances of forming a governing coalition after the election. So an apparent support party is not something to encourage. And it is all made more confusing because nobody can be sure in advance which parties will cross the threshold.
So, not only is the threshold something quite high to overcome, but on the way there all parties are disturbed by the perverse effects of a simple threshold.
So the threshold is about much more than the percentage. It also creates conflicting motivations and loyalties for voters and parties. Voters are torn between voting for a small party and hence against its allied big party OR voting for the allied big party and not for their preferred party. Small parties and their supporters want to encourage voters to support their small party, knowing that they are probably taking votes from the allied big party and wasting them. Big parties fear the negative effects of smaller parties that notionally support them.
That explanation was probably confusing. If so it reflects the confusing and conflicted environment that affects everybody who has connections with small parties in an MMP environment.
But wait there’s more. The MMP party vote does two things. The first thing is to decide which parties are eligible for seats in parliament. The second thing is to measure the relative support of each, and to allocate seats in parliament accordingly. But the voters who voted for under-threshold parties have no say in this allocation. If we are aiming to measure relative support, it seems unfortunate to leave out up to 8% of voters.
New Zealand’s MMP system uses closed party lists, so the voting paper is very simple. On this voting paper, adding a second column is easy, to allow each voter a second choice of party vote. If a voter’s first choice party falls below the threshold, the vote can go to a second choice. In this way every voter can both nominate a preferred party, and vote for one of the eligible parties.
This second choice eliminates the conflict around small parties and as well allows the party voting to be much more proportional. And the bonus, for those who think the threshold is important, is that these improvements can be made without any change to the threshold percentage.
An advantage of this change is that it should help everybody, so perhaps a consensus is achievable without much delay.
There is of course nothing to prevent the threshold being reduced, but that is another question. More at www.onthethreshold.nz
In order to alleviate the problems with the New Zealand MMP Threshold, a consensus way forward is needed. Two-choice party voting offers that potential consensus. It addresses some of the most important criticisms of the threshold, and makes the voting system much more proportional. And it leaves the threshold percentage unchanged, because there is no consensus on whether or how to change it.
New Zealand has numerous political issues that do not have obvious or easy solutions – housing and covid come to mind.
But there is one problem that can be easily and simply fixed in a way that should please just about everyone. That problem is the MMP threshold and the wasted votes that result.
Many people want to support a minor party, AND want to influence which major part or parties will get to form a government. At present they cannot do both. A vote for a minor party can easily have no effect at all.
The solution comes from realising that the problem is not so much about the existence or level of the threshold. The problem is that if you vote for a party that gets neither 5% or an electorate seat, your vote is wasted. Nobody likes wasting their vote, and so the threshold distorts voter behaviour.
The solution comes from applying the same method that we use in many other situations where we want every person to make a choice, and to still get something if their preferred choice is not available. Yes, you’re onto it. The solution is to give each voter a second choice. “Choose the party you prefer, but declare a second choice in case your preferred option is not available”.
Applying this idea to an MMP election is much easier than you might at first think. First modify the voting paper by adding a second column to the party voting section. Explain to voters that they can give their first choice to any party. If they think that this party might not pass one or other of the thresholds, they can make a second choice in the other column. And if they want to be sure that their vote is not wasted, they make sure that one of their choices is for a party certain to pass a threshold.
At present, perhaps only the two major parties are really safe bets to pass the threshold. But other parties are becoming established. But each voter is free to choose who to vote for.
The voting paper can be very fault tolerant. As long as one or other column has just one tick, the intention is clear. The other column will normally show the other choice, but can be blank or with multiple ticks or whatever.
Vote counting is just a little more complex. Usually it becomes clear early on which parties have passed the threshold. Each polling place can prepare its own result table. Results tables by electorate, region, etc are easily created by grouping the results as required.
From this point on the allocation of seats in parliament proceeds exactly as now.
What would be the result of this modest change to MMP elections? All the anxiety about vote-wasting is gone. Every voter can both choose their preferred party, and be sure that whatever happens they can have a vote that counts. The result is that much more proportional.
There is no problem if either threshold is abolished or changed. If all the thresholds were to be abolished there’d be no need for the second choice.
Another recent article describing this idea can be found at
If only other political problems were as easy to solve as this one.
This solution removes the serious wasted-votes problem that distorts voter behaviour and is often complained about, while retaining the 5% threshold that the major parties seem to place importance on. I am hopeful that it might be a practical, minor and importantly widely acceptable solution.
The essential issue: The big problem with the MMP threshold is the wasted votes that result. Giving voters a second choice of party vote can virtually eliminate wasted votes, and does not require any change to the threshold.
Yes, the 5% threshold is a very high one. But it is made much more difficult to overcome by the wasted votes that go with the present threshold.
The risk of wasted votes distorts the behaviour of voters, of small parties, and of larger parties. Because wasted votes can change the overall result of an election.
The second choice of party vote eliminates the issue of wasted votes, by making it much easier for voters to avoid wasting their votes. A voter may vote for a small party, but if this party misses the threshold, the voter’s second choice can count.
The present parliamentary inquiry into the 2020 election should consider how to eliminate this serious problem of wasted votes. Two-choice party voting would do it simply and easily.
The size of the threshold, and whether the electorate seat threshold should be retained, are separate issues.
The 5 per cent MMP threshold is regarded by many as the biggest problem in the New Zealand electoral system. This problem remains perhaps because no solution has been found that satisfies two important interest groups. One interest group wants the threshold reduced, because it leads to wasted votes and creates an excessive obstacle to new political parties. But another wants to retain the threshold, because they fear a proliferation of small parties in parliament if the threshold were to be reduced.
There is a solution, one that arises from understanding some nuances of the apparently competing interests. The interest group that wants the threshold reduced appears to be driven mainly by the desire to reduce the wasted votes that arise from a simple threshold. The group that wants to retain the threshold is primarily concerned about avoiding a proliferation of small parties.
Seems to me there’s a deal to be made here. Big parties get to keep the threshold percentage. Small parties get to see an end to most vote wasting.
What is exciting is that there is an easy way to achieve this. Easy to understand, commonly used in the real world, easy to implement, ticks all the boxes.
Yes, the solution is to give each voter a second choice of party vote. If the voter’s first choice party fails to pass the threshold, the vote goes to the second choice party. So most voters would make sure one of their choices was for a party pretty certain to pass the threshold.
This proposal just requires a second party vote column on the party voting paper, and minor changes to vote counting. Once we have totals for each threshold passing party, the existing seat allocation tool works exactly as now.
Just consider the pluses here.
Pressure to reduce the threshold percentage is lowered, making the big, powerful parties more comfortable.
A higher proportion of voters have a say in government formation. We could go from around 92% to easily 99%.
Nobody has to choose between voting for a minor party and abandoning the minor party for a major one so as to have a say in overall government formation.
Minor parties probably get some more votes, because voters do not need to vote strategically, so the threshold seems less distant.
Nobody needs to take into account the risk of wasted votes in any aspect of participation in an election. That makes planning, and cooperation between like minded parties, much easier.
Results would give a better indication of the real support for each party.
The difference between a party just missing and just making the threshold cannot change the coalition-leading party.
It is in many ways better than just reducing the threshold percentage slightly, because it puts a stop to all the perverse effects of wasted votes
So here we have a win-win solution to the long-standing MMP threshold problem. And all at the small price of adding a column to the voting paper and inviting voters to place one more tick if they wish.
This idea may be useful in other MMP systems with thresholds. Offering a second choice can be simply implemented and can help improve proportionality and encourage voters to express their real views.
Here is a mockup of a voting paper modified to provide for a second choice of party vote.
This is what the results table might look like, with the same format for everything between polling place and the whole country.
New Zealand seems to have been barking up the wrong tree for much of the last 25 years looking for a solution to the MMP threshold problem. No good solution has been identified, and MMP review recommendations remain unimplemented.
But there is a very simple, easy to understand solution that keeps the threshold but eliminates the problems.
Give voters a second choice of party vote. If a voter’s first choice party does not pass either threshold, their vote goes to their second choice party. Voters are advised to make one of their choices for a party that is certain to pass one of the thresholds. Nothing else changes.
This solution is easy to understand, easy to implement, and does away with the problems.
Many, perhaps most, voters know which major party they want to see lead the next government. Many also want to support a small party, but cannot know whether that small party will pass a threshold for gaining seats in parliament. If they do not vote for the small party, nobody ever knows they supported it. If they do vote for a small party that misses the threshold, they have no say in government formation. Many voters struggle with this choice every election.
The second-choice system allows voters to clearly state the party they want to see represent them in parliament, but also have a say in government formation if their preferred party does not pass a threshold
The second choice of party vote requires a second column on the party vote part of the voting paper. Once it is clear which parties will pass a threshold, each polling place can prepare its own results table. Results for any grouping of polling places, electorate, region, island, national, specials, overseas, etc are easily obtained by simply adding up the results from the polling places involved.
Ideas like this were suggested by numerous submitters to the 2012 MMP review, and a few described a system in detail. The proposal here is a little different in that it simplifies the allocation of second choices. The message is to choose who you like, for the first choice. If you think this party might not pass the threshold, make a second choice for a party that will pass.
The second choice has the same limitations as the present vote. The vote only counts if it is for a threshold passing party.
This change takes away all the problems with the existing threshold. People can express support for a small party, and play a part in deciding the next government.
Nobody needs to worry that votes for small parties may be wasted. Even if a small party does not pass a threshold, its true level of support is publicly known, and its supporters still have a say in government formation.
This change considerably clears the air for everybody with an interest in the election. Big parties get to keep the threshold they believe is important. No votes need to be wasted. Small parties are still excluded from being allocated seats in parliament, but their votes are recorded and their voters still have a say through their second choice. The big problem of a party just missing the threshold and so changing the lead party in government is gone. The system presents a much lower barrier to entry to small parties, while still preventing a proliferation of small parties in parliament.
The example results table shows a hypothetical situation where two small parties just miss the 5% threshold. With the two-choice system, voters for those small parties have their second choices counted instead.
The problem with the threshold is not so much its size, but the fact that votes, if cast for parties that do not pass one or other treshold, are wasted.
The wasting of votes in this way is widely hated, for well-known reasons.
Reducing but not eliminating the threshold reduces but does not eliminaate this vote wasting effect.
Reducing or eliminating the threshold prejudices the avowed purpose of the threshold – to discourage the proliferation of small parties in parliament.
The solution is one easily understood and widely used in many situations where we want people to make choices, and we want to ensure that almost nobody misses out. That solution is to offer each voter a second choice of party vote.
No need for a complex preferential voting system. Just a second choice eliminates the problems. Voters can vote first choice for their preferrred party, and second choice for a party which they think is certain to pass the threshold. If their first choice does not pass one or other threshold, their vote goes to their second choice.
This is easy to understand, easy to implement, and solves the problem.