The Party Vote Threshold

Legal Beagle

Graeme Edgeler writes his thought about the MMP threshold. He wants it at about 2.5%.

If we are to have a threshold at 2.5% then I think the adoption of the Queensland rule that you need to have 10 MPs to justify a leaders budget should be highly appropriate. That way we avoid the rorts of single MP parties declaring they have a leader and score extra funding accordingly.

The way that people tend to look at this is to consider the effect on parties: for example, in 2008, the 5% threshold meant that New Zealand First wasn’t represented in Parliament. This is a fundamentally flawed way to approach thresholds. I don’t care about parties. I care about voters. The threshold wasn’t unfair to the New Zealand First Party, but it was unfair to the 95,356 people who gave it their party vote. By having a threshold, and in particular, by having a high one, we are telling a lot of people that they have no place in our democracy, and that their views matter less because they voted the wrong way. In creating a threshold, we are deciding that the voices of some voters just aren’t worth hearing. 95,000 voters are enough to given any party 5 MPs, or any party 5 MPs more. That’s a lot.

My simple point is that the threshold should be as low as is needed to achieve whatever it is we want to achieve by having a threshold, and absolutely no higher. So I’m stumping for 2.5%. Whatever anyone wants to achieve by having any threshold at all, I consider it will be achieved with a threshold at this level. Any number will have a whiff of arbitrariness about it, but I think this has a bit going for it if we are going to have a threshold.

In a 120-seat House of Representatives, a party which has the support of 2.5% of voters, has fully earned 3 MPs (with rounding, a party could get three MPs with somewhat fewer votes – as little as 2% will sometimes be enough). Although the case can be made (and I’m quite amenable to it) that two MPs is large enough to have a positive effect on Parliament, when we’re talking about 3 or more likely 4 MPs (which cuts in at around 2.8% ~ 3%), we’re really talking about a significant and useful bloc (of voters, and of MPs). At 4% or 5%, you’re saying that a some groupings of five MPs are too small to bother with, and their voters justifiably ignored, which is at least a couple of steps too far.

Now, you can legitimately argue that even a 2.5% threshold is too great an imposition on the the principle that all voters should be equal, and there’s something in that, however I’m a pragmatist, and because I think it highly likely that this debate will end up being an argument over whether the threshold should be 5% or 4% and because I think both of these numbers are far too high, I’m happy to compromise.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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