Maori seat 'misinformation'

THERE are fears some Maori might be put off voting due to misinformation about Maori electorates at voting booths.

Tairawhiti Te Wananga o Aotearoa indigenous and environmental kaiako (educator) Tina Ngata (Ngati Porou) said it had happened here at every election.

“This year I have heard of about 20 instances.”

While she had a “great” voting experience this time, in the past it had been different.

“Last time I had a horrid experience. Rude, racist and dismissive staff members left me feeling frustrated in what should have been an empowering experience.

“I did reflect then on how many others might be put off but it is only now the extent of this issue is coming to light.

“Compounding that is the issue of apparent ignorance over Maori electorates and rules.

“All of that falls under the broad theme of structural and societal racism and it is an important read out for us as a country.

“We definitely need better training in relation to Maori electorates and procedures, and more Maori scrutineers and voting staff.”

Massey University Maori politics lecturer and citizenship educator Veronica Tawhai put the issue in the national spotlight this week after receiving numerous complaints from Maori electors across the country.

Complaints with Electoral Commission

She laid complaints with the Electoral Commission about misinformation being provided to Maori electors, causing confusion and non-voting among them.

“Maori and particularly young Maori are constantly criticised for either being uninformed, uninterested or apathetic when it comes to participating in political activities such as voting.

“Yet when our people attempt to be proactive in exercising our democratic rights, such as casting an early vote, some are prevented from doing so due to ignorance among officials that are meant to be assisting in the process.

"This is completely unacceptable.”

Some of the complaints Ms Tawhai received included:

  • Staff being unaware of the Maori roll and insisting electors were unregistered when their names did not appear on the General roll;
  • Staff having difficulty locating Maori names on the Maori roll, even when given identification by Maori electors;
  • Staff giving incorrect information about the Maori electorates, electorate areas and where electors could be enrolled;
  • Maori enrolled in Maori electorates being given the wrong voting form and having to argue with staff to find and be provided with the correct form;
  • Electors on the general roll being told they were unable to vote for a “Maori party” if they were not on the Maori roll;
  • Complaints from Maori electors being ignored by those responsible for hearing complaints, such as managers of polling booths.

There are seven Maori electorate seats. Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers the eastern side of Te Ika-a-Maui (North Island).

Maori can choose to be on the Maori roll, and vote for one of those electorate seats, or the general role.

Ms Tawhai said despite the long history of the seats there was little knowledge of their significance among wider New Zealand.

“Anyone with responsibilities within the Electoral Commission should have an understanding of our electoral system in order to ensure they are able to fulfil their roles in assisting all New Zealanders, including Maori, to exercise our vote.”

She said there should be Maori electorate specialists at each polling booth, a review of the background knowledge and understanding of all electoral staff, and improved electoral and citizenship education.

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said it was important all voters were able to have their say and the complaints raised were being followed up.

“We want everyone to have a good experience when they go to vote, and if that doesn’t happen, we want to hear about it.”

About 15,000 people worked in voting places.

“They all receive training, including on the General Roll and the Maori Roll, and every voting place issues both Maori and General electorate ballot papers.

“Our staff are trained about the importance of checking to ensure they issue the correct voting paper to each voter.

“We have sent a reminder of the processes to our voting place staff.”

If voters were concerned about their experience at a voting place, they should send an email including as much detail as possible to enquiries@elections.govt.nz

THERE are fears some Maori might be put off voting due to misinformation about Maori electorates at voting booths.

Tairawhiti Te Wananga o Aotearoa indigenous and environmental kaiako (educator) Tina Ngata (Ngati Porou) said it had happened here at every election.

“This year I have heard of about 20 instances.”

While she had a “great” voting experience this time, in the past it had been different.

“Last time I had a horrid experience. Rude, racist and dismissive staff members left me feeling frustrated in what should have been an empowering experience.

“I did reflect then on how many others might be put off but it is only now the extent of this issue is coming to light.

“Compounding that is the issue of apparent ignorance over Maori electorates and rules.

“All of that falls under the broad theme of structural and societal racism and it is an important read out for us as a country.

“We definitely need better training in relation to Maori electorates and procedures, and more Maori scrutineers and voting staff.”

Massey University Maori politics lecturer and citizenship educator Veronica Tawhai put the issue in the national spotlight this week after receiving numerous complaints from Maori electors across the country.

Complaints with Electoral Commission

She laid complaints with the Electoral Commission about misinformation being provided to Maori electors, causing confusion and non-voting among them.

“Maori and particularly young Maori are constantly criticised for either being uninformed, uninterested or apathetic when it comes to participating in political activities such as voting.

“Yet when our people attempt to be proactive in exercising our democratic rights, such as casting an early vote, some are prevented from doing so due to ignorance among officials that are meant to be assisting in the process.

"This is completely unacceptable.”

Some of the complaints Ms Tawhai received included:

  • Staff being unaware of the Maori roll and insisting electors were unregistered when their names did not appear on the General roll;
  • Staff having difficulty locating Maori names on the Maori roll, even when given identification by Maori electors;
  • Staff giving incorrect information about the Maori electorates, electorate areas and where electors could be enrolled;
  • Maori enrolled in Maori electorates being given the wrong voting form and having to argue with staff to find and be provided with the correct form;
  • Electors on the general roll being told they were unable to vote for a “Maori party” if they were not on the Maori roll;
  • Complaints from Maori electors being ignored by those responsible for hearing complaints, such as managers of polling booths.

There are seven Maori electorate seats. Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers the eastern side of Te Ika-a-Maui (North Island).

Maori can choose to be on the Maori roll, and vote for one of those electorate seats, or the general role.

Ms Tawhai said despite the long history of the seats there was little knowledge of their significance among wider New Zealand.

“Anyone with responsibilities within the Electoral Commission should have an understanding of our electoral system in order to ensure they are able to fulfil their roles in assisting all New Zealanders, including Maori, to exercise our vote.”

She said there should be Maori electorate specialists at each polling booth, a review of the background knowledge and understanding of all electoral staff, and improved electoral and citizenship education.

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said it was important all voters were able to have their say and the complaints raised were being followed up.

“We want everyone to have a good experience when they go to vote, and if that doesn’t happen, we want to hear about it.”

About 15,000 people worked in voting places.

“They all receive training, including on the General Roll and the Maori Roll, and every voting place issues both Maori and General electorate ballot papers.

“Our staff are trained about the importance of checking to ensure they issue the correct voting paper to each voter.

“We have sent a reminder of the processes to our voting place staff.”

If voters were concerned about their experience at a voting place, they should send an email including as much detail as possible to enquiries@elections.govt.nz

Maori electorates since 1867

Maori electorates were introduced as part of the Maori Representation Act 1867.

Before that, only adult males who owned or rented property in a freehold or leasehold arrangement could vote.

Most Maori at the time owned property communally or with customary title, so could not vote.

There were initially four seats for the 56,000 Maori, while the 171,000 Europeans had 72.

Until 1967, Maori politicians were only allowed to stand in the four Maori seats and, until 1975 only “half-caste” voters could choose which electorates to vote in — all “full” Maori voters had to vote in the Maori seats.

Since MMP was introduced in 1993, the number of Maori seats has increased steadily to seven, to reflect the number of people on the Maori roll.

Today voters of Maori descent can choose to be on the Maori roll or the general role.

Being on the Maori roll does not affect the party vote, but electorate votes go to candidates in the Maori electorate where they live.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers the eastern side of Te Ika-a-Maui (North Island), including Tairawhiti.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the $6 million proposal for Rugby Park, which includes synthetic turf, an athletics track, additional sportsfield, all-weather sports pavilion and conference/function centre?