More reo speakers and more voting booths in Māori communities after 2017 general election blunders

in the news

The Electoral Commission will increase the number of te reo Māori speakers working in voting places and increase the number of voting places in Māori communities in 2020, a spokesperson confirmed to māui street this week.

The confirmation comes after the Commission wrapped up a series of 12 regional hui asking Māori how the Commission might improve its voting services at the next election.

At the 2017 general election dozens of Māori voters went public complaining that they were turned away from voting places after their details didn’t appear on the right roll, were given the wrong voting forms, were told they couldn’t vote for a “Māori” party unless they were enrolled on the Māori roll, and were made to cast special votes.

Veronica Tawhai, the Massey University academic who led the public debate at the time, labelled the failings at voting places “completely unacceptable”.

“Māori, and particularly young Māori, are constantly criticised for being uninformed, uninterested or apathetic when it comes to [voting]. Yet when our people attempt to be proactive in exercising our democratic rights some are prevented from doing so due to ignorance amongst officials who are meant to be assisting in the process,” she said, going on to call for a “Māori electorate specialist” at each voting place.

Now the Commission, in its planning for the 2020 general election, will go some way to meeting that call undertaking to hire staff who “better reflect their communities” (i.e. more Māori staff in Māori communities).

“Overall levels of satisfaction among Māori voters were high at the last election and there was an increase in Māori turnout,” a spokesperson for the Commission said.  

“However, about 40 complaints were received about services to Māori voters during the voting period.  Each of the complaints were looked into and resolved at the time.  Steps are being taken to address the issues raised in our planning for the 2020 election.”

Those steps include “increasing the number of te reo Māori speakers working in voting places” and “working with communities to identify the best locations for voting places.”

This will improve accessibility and cross-cultural interactions at voting places, but it is still unclear how the Commission will address issues like Māori voter details not appearing on the right roll.

The steps were confirmed after consultation hui in Whangarei, Henderson, Manukau, Huntly, Gisborne, Wairoa, Hastings, Palmerston North, Porirua, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

“We were keen to hear directly from some of those who raised concerns about their voting experiences, so invited them to the hui. The hui have been valuable and have built up contacts with Māori communities.  This will help the Commission identify suitable voting place locations and tap into local networks when recruiting voting place staff for 2020.”

In the Commission’s post-election survey 88 percent of Māori voters reported high levels of overall satisfaction with the voting process, up from 86 percent in 2014 but still lower than is ideal.

The next general election is scheduled for 2020.


in the house

First, a correction from last week: National MP Dan Bidois, not Nick Smith, will take up departing MP Chris Finlayson’s seat on the Māori Affairs Select Committee. Bidois, who is Ngāti Maniapoto, a connection he shares with National Party leader Simon Bridges, is the MP for Northcote. He outlined his whakapapa in his maiden speech.

Te Ohu Whakatika has confirmed a “Māori Justice Hui” will be held in April 2019. The hui comes after calls at last year’s Criminal Justice Summit for a tikanga-focused and Māori-led response to criminal justice reform. Representatives and attendees from different waka regions are being sought.

New Zealand’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review on human rights is in with 77 countries making 194 recommendations to New Zealand on further steps we can take to improve our human rights situation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Justice are writing to Māori stakeholders inviting them to have their say before the government formally responds to the UN in June. “Targeted stakeholder engagement” hui are also taking place with the Waiariki hui attracting a grand total of approximately a dozen people. Feedback closes at the end of March and is limited to 500 words.

The House is in recess this week.


in the media

  • Māori Climate Commissioner Donna Awatere-Huata says she’ll march with New Zealand school children who take the lead from their international peers and ditch school for a climate march. School children in cities like Sydney and London have gone on “strike” to call for immediate national and international action on climate change.