Guest Post: Act Party Leader David Seymour.
“I might vote ACT but I can’t risk a wasted vote.” If I had a dollar for every time someone has written that on WhaleOil then I wouldn’t need to fundraise for ACT ever again. Of course, your vote is your own and of course you can cast it however you want for any reason you like – anything else would not be democracy. If you don’t want to vote for ACT because you don’t agree with ACT, that’s ok.
This is a post for people who are interested in giving their party vote for ACT but worry that doing so could hand a majority to the Labour/Green/NZ First schmozzle. That’s a fear I can appreciate, but won’t be a concern in 2017 for reasons I’ll put to you below.Wasted vote syndrome is a particular challenge for ACT because our potential voters tend to think a lot. Sometimes I wish we had the 95,000-odd Conservative voters who really did merrily waste their vote last election or the stunned New Zealand First voters who took to talkback furious to discover they hadn’t just elected Winston after the election before. On balance, I’d still rather be leading ACT.So: will a vote for ACT be wasted?
I cannot take it for granted that I will be re-elected in Epsom next year because that is up to 37,000-odd other people. I could tell you that all indications are extremely positive that I will be, from polling to feedback on the street, but let’s forget all of that for a moment. The important thing is that, even more so than the last election, you’ll have a clear idea of whether I’m going to win Epsom before you cast your party vote.Assuming I am going to win Epsom then every party vote will count. The question is what effect it will have, will it help avoid an overhang, or add more seats in addition to Epsom?
It will take about 0.7 per cent of the nationwide party vote to ensure an ACT Epsom MP is not an overhang, (as Peter Dunne currently is for United Future). By expanding the Parliament to 121 seats, Dunne has put a majority half a seat further away for the centre right. Two overhang seats would mean a majority of 62 would be required to govern. In 2014, ACT achieving 0.7 per cent was essential to ensuring that the centre-right had a majority without reliance on the Maori Party.
Of course, I’m a little more optimistic than that. My goal is to elect five MPs. ACT did this in 2008 despite polling at less than one per cent during Christmas 2007, most of the year leading up to that point, and into the first quarter of 2008. The basic formula for the ACT party vote is 1.4 per cent equals two ACT MPs, 2.1 per cent gives three, 2.8 per cent four, and 3.5 per cent five – roughly.
The next objection is, “Sure, I get that, but I don’t think ACT will reach the threshold for another MP.” The problem is that nobody, when they cast their party vote, has any idea which party is going to be closest to getting an extra seat. For a long time I thought that whoever was closest to being rounded up to another seat got another seat, and that is roughly correct, but the actual working of the Sainte-Lague formula used in New Zealand is more complicated – I have provided Whale Oil with a spread sheet laying out the different scenarios that they’ll hopefully be able to link to.
Ultimately, to get one more seat, the Nats needed 40,192 more votes, Labour 3,345, the Greens 13,849, New Zealand First 6,796, Maori Party 14,911 and ACT needed 11,367 more votes to get one more seat. It is more or less random from the point of view of a voter casting a vote on polling day. In 2014 voting ACT would have been the best way to get another MP on the right, but in another election that could have been different. If Hone Harawira had won Te Tai Tokerau, the entire calculus would have been different.
The upshot is that at the time you cast your vote, it’s impossible to know which party’s going to be closest to an extra seat, unless you have polling accurate to half of 0.7 per cent. Nobody’s ever had that – if anything polling is getting less accurate. The simplest conclusion is to vote your values. If you don’t agree with ACT, don’t vote for us. If you think I’m going to lose in Epsom and we’re nowhere near five per cent, don’t vote for us. But if you agree with ACT and I’m looking good to win my electorate, then please give us your party vote this election to ensure your values of less government and more personal responsibility are properly represented in parliament.