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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Unequal Representation of Numbers

Unequal Representation of Numbers.

The distribution of representation is not, as the Constitution of 1852 enjoined it should be, in proportion to the number of electors. In many districts, a very small number of electors returns a member: in others, members are elected in the proportion of only one to many hundreds of electors and many thousands of people. The forty-first clause of the original Constitution Act should be faithfully brought into force, and strictly adhered to. It is as follows:—

"It shall bo lawful for the Governor, by proclamation, to constitute within New Zealand convenient electoral districts for the election of Members of the said House of Representatives, and to appoint and declare the number of such members to be elected for each such district. * * * * * And in determining the number and extent of such electoral districts, and the number of members to be elected within each district, regard shall be had to the number of electors within the same, so that the number of members to be assigned to any one district may bear to the whole number of the Members of the House of Representatives, as nearly as may be, the same proportion as the number of electors within such district shall bear to the whole number of electors in New Zealand."

Neither by Sir George Grey as Governor, when in 1853 he inaugurated the Constitution, nor by Parliament itself in dealing with the question during the whole of the subsequent 23 years, has the above principle of justice ever been observed. The total number of electors on the Rolls of all the electoral districts in New Zealand, for the year 1876-77, was 61,755. But a large number of electors are each on the Rolls of two or more districts. So that, in order to comply with the strict letter of the clause, a considerable reduction would have to be made from the above total. But, besides the advantage which some many-propertied electors may gain by having a vote in each of several districts, the proportion between members and electors in many districts is enormously at variance with the above rule for the allotment of number of members to each in proportion to the whole.

There are 69 electoral districts, and 84 Members allotted to them, besides the four Members allotted to the Natives,—for the election of which four the North Island is divided into three districts, and the South Island forms the fourth. 61,755 electors, divided by 84 seats, gives 735 electors as the just proportion for each Member. The following 27 districts, on each of whose rolls are less than 735 electors, nevertheless return one Member each :—
Onehunga 443 Brought over 5,087 Brought over 8,603
Waikato 383 Nelson (suburbs) 312 Geraldine 498
N. Plymouth (town) 468 Waimea 366 Gladstone 539
Grey and Bell 586 Motueka 571 Mount Ida 443
Egmont 595 Collingwood 344 Waikouaiti 619
Rangitikei 423 Totara 411 Taieri 616
Hutt 488 Cheviot 238 Clutha 583
Wellington (country) 603 Lyttelton 312 Wakaia 539
Wairau 500 Avon 445 Wallace 199
Picton 598 Akaroa 517
Total, 12,639
Carried over, 5,087 Carried over, 8,603

12,639 electors return 27 Members, whereas they are only entitled to 17!

The following 5 districts, on each of whose rolls are less than 1470 electors, never-theless return two Members each:—
Wanganui 883 Brought over 2,975
Wairarapa 912 Nelson (city) 805
Napier 1,180 Waitaki 1,155
Carried over, 2,975 Total, 4,935

4,935 electors return 10 Members, although only entitled to 7.

The above 32 districts, with an agregate of 17,574 electors, return 37 Members, although only entitled to 24!

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On the other hand, these 23 districts each have more than 735 electors to 1 Member:
District. Electors. Mem.
Bay of Islands 858 1
Marsden 1,276 1
Rodney 805 1
Waitemata 881 1
Auckland East 828 1
Auckland West 1,872 2
Newton 1,467 1
Waipa 844 1
Thames 4,019 2
East Coast 1,488 1
Wellington (city) 1,731 2
Buller 1,064 1
Carried over, 17,133 15
District. Electors. Mem.
Brought over 17,133 15
Grey Valley 2,173 2
Hokitika 1,752 2
Kaiapoi 822 1
Christchurch 2,403 3
Heathcote 858 1
Dunedin 3,495 3
Roslyn 908 1
Caversham 847 1
Tuapeka 832 1
Wakatipu 871 1
Mataura 1,062 1
Total, 33,156 32

33,156 electors return only 32 Members, although entitled to 45.

These 14 districts have Members allotted to them in correct proportion:—
District. Electors. Mem.
Parnell 773 1
Eden 761 1
Franklin 1,486 2
Manawatu 779 1
Clive 697 1
Ashley 682 1
Selwyn 778 1
Coleridge 663 1
Carried over, 6,619 9
District. Electors. Mem.
Brought over 6,619 9
Timaru 696 1
Dunstan 754 1
Port Chalmers 685 1
Bruce 762 1
Riverton 723 1
Invercargill 786 1
Total, 11,025 15
11,025 electors, exactly 15 times 735, return 15 Members. To sum up:—
District. Electors. Members.
32 unjustly favoured, with 17,574 return 37 instead of 24
23 unjustly deprived, with 33,156 return 32 instead of 45
14 justly treated, with 11,025 return 15 entitled to 15
69 61,755 84 84

If the proportion of electors in each district respectively should remain the same on the Rolls for 1877-78 13 seats ought to be taken from the districts in the first two lists, and given to those in the third list. The new Rolls will, no doubt, show in some respects different proportions; but the new allotment must, in justice, be very different from the old one. Besides the aggregate injustice described above, there are atrocious cases of injustice, as between individual districts and between different groups of districts. For instance:—Wallace with 199 electors, and Cheviot with 238, return one member each; while East Coast with 1488, Newtown with 1167, Marsden with 1276, and Mataura with 1062, return only one each; Waikato, Cheviot, Lyttelton, Nelson Surburbs, Nelson City (2), Collingwood, Waimea, and Wallace, with an aggregate of only 2959 electors, returning 9 members, although little more than entitled to 4; while Thames, Dunedin, Grey Valley, East Coast, and Newtown, with an aggregate of 12,642 electors, also return 9 members, although more than entitled to 17. The three districts comprising the defunct Province of Taranaki, returning 3 members, with an aggregate of 1649 electors, entitling them to less than 2½; while Thames, with 4019, entitling it to 5½ returns only 2—no more than Cheviot or Wallace, with their aggregate total of only 438 electors, entitling them to little more than half a member between them.