(Oct. 22, 2009) On October 20, 2009, the New Zealand Government announced that there will be a referendum in 2011 asking voters whether they want to retain the current Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system or change to a different system. (Press Release, Hon. Simon Power, MMP Referendum to Be Held at 2011 Election (Oct. 20, 2009), available at http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/mmp+referendum+be+held+2011+election.)
The 2011 referendum will be held in conjunction with the general election and will include two questions. Voters will first be asked if they wish to change the voting system from MMP. If they think that there should be a change, the second question will then ask voters to select the alternative voting system they would prefer from a list of options that will be provided on the ballot. The options to be included have not yet been determined. (Id.)
If voters do want a change from MMP, there will be a second referendum at the 2014 general election. That referendum would have voters deciding whether they prefer MMP or the option that received the most votes in the first referendum. The second referendum would be binding, with any new system selected being put into effect for the 2017 general election. (Id.)
The Minister of Justice, Simon Power, said:
If a majority of voters opt for a change from MMP, there will be plenty of time for public discussion on the merits of MMP versus the preferred alternative voting system before the second referendum. The Government wants to ensure New Zealanders have time to consider all the issues before making a decision. (Id.)
A bill enabling the first referendum is expected to be introduced into Parliament in early 2010. This bill will set out the two referendum questions, including the list of options for alternative voting systems. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the referendum questions during the parliamentary select committee process for the bill. There will also be an education and publicity campaign about the referendum and the alternative systems. (Id.)
MMP has been in place since the 1996 general election, following a binding referendum in 1993 that saw voters select this system over the previous first-past-the-post system. Five elections have now been held under MMP. Information on New Zealand's electoral system is available on a website run by the various electoral agencies, at http://www.elections.org.nz.