While Parliament is in full swing this week here in Wellington most MP’s, myself included, will likely have one eye firmly fixed on the US election as Democrat Hillary Clinton goes head-to-head with Republican Donald Trump for the Presidency. Over 200 Million registered voters will have the opportunity to cast their vote this Wednesday (NZ time) and I would highly encourage any young New Zealanders to tune in to witness democracy in action.
Although there are many similarities between New Zealand and the United States politically, most notably that we are both western democracies, our electoral systems are worlds apart. We have had a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system in place since 1996 and the US operates an Electoral College system. Each State is assigned a number of electoral votes based on their population, and the candidate who wins the most votes in each State is awarded their electoral votes. The number of votes a State receives varies incredibly with California receiving 55 votes contrasted to Alaska’s three. In total there are 538 electoral votes up for grabs and a majority of 270 is required to become the President.
Under this system winning the most votes isn’t always enough to secure the Presidency. In 2000 George W Bush was elected with 271 electoral votes despite Al Gore winning almost 500,000 more popular votes.
Prime Minister John Key will be meeting with US Secretary of State in Wellington this weekend to discuss Syria, his experiences in the Antarctic, and the Ross Sea. This highlights the strong relationship that New Zealand has with the United States which will continue regardless of who is elected President this week.