Legislation seeking to change Māori electoral option introduced

Proposed law allows Māori voters to switch between Māori and non-Māori electoral rolls at any time

Legislation seeking to change Māori electoral option introduced
The Beehive Parliament Building in Wellington

Proposed legislation that seeks to allow Māori voters switch electoral rolls at any time has been officially introduced to Parliament.

The Electoral (Right to Switch Rolls Freely) Amendment Bill (Bill 140—1) aims to change the Māori electoral option to enable Māori voters to switch between the Māori and non-Māori electoral rolls at any time. At present, there are only two opportunities for Māori to choose electoral rolls − either at the time of initial enrolment or during the Māori electoral option period. The bill was authored by Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

The Māori electoral option is a four-month period during which Māori voters can elect to exercise their option to move between the general or Māori electoral rolls. This takes place every five to six years. The last Māori electoral option took place in 2018, and under the current rules, Māori will not have the opportunity to change rolls until after the 2023 general election.

“This bill will change the face of politics as we know it in Aotearoa,” Waititi said. “It will restore the balance of power in the political arena and give Māori a fairer chance at having their collective voices heard.”

Aside from allowing Māori to switch electoral rolls, the bill changes the periodic requirement to redraw electoral boundaries from after each census to a set date no later than two years after each general election.

The bill also sets a legislative requirement that if someone stipulates that they are Māori during the initial enrolment but does not choose an electoral roll, they will be placed automatically on the Māori electoral roll.

Moreover, the bill changes the name of “general electoral district” to “non-Māori electoral district” since the term “general,” which applies both to the electoral district and roll, creates potential confusion for Māori voters.

“Our people deserve to be able to participate equally in our democracy and right now they can’t do that, they are actively being blocked from their right to choose to be on the Māori roll,” Waititi said. “This bill will change all of that.”

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