October 3, 2023

Academic wants to ensure 2020 issues have been fixed for Māori this polling day

Thousands have opted to change between the Māori and general electoral rolls ahead of October's election. Photo / NZME

Academic Associate Professor Veronica Tawhai is raising concerns about how Māori voters will be treated on polling day in the upcoming 2023 general election.

Tawhai’s research found that Māori voters experienced several issues in the 2020 election, including some polling places having no Māori roll, no voting ballots for Māori electorates, and electors on the Māori roll experiencing discrimination and longer wait times.

Tawhai (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Uepohatu) is calling on the Electoral Commission to take steps to ensure these issues are not repeated in 2023.

“The poor treatment of some Māori by polling booth staff in past elections, due to their choice to be on the Māori roll, must also be entirely eliminated,” Tawhai says.

Key recommendations included an increase in Māori venues as polling places, an increase in the number of Māori and te reo Māori speaking staff, the proper training of all staff with regard to the Māori roll and Māori electorates, and the vetting of staff for discriminatory attitudes.

The co-researcher of the Massey University research project John James Carberry (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Porou) says the negative experiences had by Māori are unnecessary and disheartening.

“Māori should never be made to feel a ‘nuisance’ or embarrassed because of the lack of regard being given to our electoral rights as Māori,” Carberry says.

In 2017 the Electoral Commission said concerns about unfair treatment and institutional racism at polling booths would be dealt with in 2020, but Dr Tawhai says her research showed said that hadn’t happened.

Carberry and Tawhai say they will be running the survey again this year to gauge Māori voters’ experiences, starting from the advanced voting period on October 2.

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