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Change for Maori voters

PHOTO/FILE

A “barrier to participation” for Maori voters is set to be removed.

But due to a lengthy process ahead, it won’t be in time for this year’s local government elections.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said that the Maori Electoral Option would be changed to allow Maori voters to switch electoral rolls at any time.

The bill is expected to be introduced to the House in the coming weeks and was expected to come into force in March 2023, in time for the 2023 General Election.

The issue was at the centre of Carterton District Council’s proposed remit to the Local Government New Zealand conference, which would happen next month.

The council had requested an amendment to the electoral option to allow Maori voters to switch to and from the general roll at any time to suit their voting preference.

The Maori Electoral Option is a four-month period held every five to six years, within which Maori voters choose to move between the general or Maori electoral rolls.

It last took place in 2018, and under the rules, Maori will not have the opportunity to change rolls until after the 2023 General Election.

“By allowing Maori to change rolls at any time, up to and including on polling day, it provides Maori with flexibility and promotes participation in New Zealand’s democracy,” Faafoi said.

“By removing the restrictions that currently lock Maori voters in their roll choice for two general elections, this change represents a significant improvement to a status quo that prevents Maori voters from fully exercising their electoral rights.”

Wairarapa tangata whenua had previously identified the electoral option restriction as “a barrier to participation”.

A previous joint statement from Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitane o Wairarapa, and Ngati Kahukuraawhitia said a change to the Maori Electoral Option would strengthen the Maori-Crown relationship at a local level and would improve the process for councils to consider improved Maori representation in the future. — NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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