This quarter was the best thing in my mail on Friday. I showed it to every volunteer that helped on Saturday and Monday. The last time I saw this coin, it was in a desk drawer in Virginia Beach.

The Remarkable Transformation of New Zealand Democracy - Lessons for the USA.

Sunday, March 30th, the Humanist Community Forum Speaker was Rod Donald, Co-Leader of the New Zealand Green Party, and a member of their National Legislature (one of 7). The bulk of his talk centered on the MMP (Multi Member Proportional) electoral system they have there. They had a winner take all district based system like ours until the late 1980s, but because of problems with it they managed to change to MMP after a long and difficult campaign that started in the 1970s.

MMP is a system where people have two opportunities to vote for Parliament, the left vote being for a District Candidate, and the right vote being for a Party. The district candidates face the same challenge there that they do here. Parties must register a list of Candidates who will take a number of seats proportional to their vote total. For example, the Greens got 6 seats that way because they got 5% of the Party vote in the last election. The other seat was won by Jeanette Fitzsimons, who won a district seat.

One sign that people like the new system is that voter turnout is usually above 80% for National Elections. Since adopting it, the political parties have found ways to use their Party lists to bring balance to the Government that would not have been possible otherwise. As a result, female participation in the national legislature is above 30%, and Maoris hold a percentage of the seats equivalent to their percentage of the general population.

Donald recommended that we look into this kind of change. He shook his head over our low voter participation, our politics that is dominated by special interests that don't care about the common man, and said our President reminds him of a "bad cartoon". He pointed out that there are measures of democratic governments that show countries like Rwanda and Vietnam are better than the USA.

Tian Harter

I gave Rod Donald a Tennessee quarter.