Waatea News Column: The Maori Party are right – our elections are racist!


There is a glaring problem inside our electoral system, it’s a structural bias that penalises Māori in a way that Pakeha are not.

It’s the enrollment onto the Māori roll that is deeply flawed.

Māori can only change to the Māori roll once every 5 years, unlike Pakeha who can enrol and vote right up to and including on election day itself.

If all Māori were enrolled on the Māori roll, there would be about 13 or 14 Māori electorates so this structural block to limit Māori moving from the general roll to the Māori roll specifically compromises Māori political aspirations.

The main problem from moving from the MEO (Māori Electoral Option) to a system you can enroll on the day will be the argument that this might warp the size of the Māori electorates, but seeing as we allow for a 5% mathematical distortion anyway this seems a weak defence of the current system if the point of the system is to promote Māori political representation.

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The current system represses Māori political representation.

The Electoral Commission recommended these changes in 2017 to allow Māori to change between the two with the same ease as Pakeha do.

Nothing has happened since Labour came to power.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. If we look at our local body Councils we will see too many are over represented with old white men, some even die while still holding office that is how long they have been there. This representation is not reflective of the communities many serve but the majority vote for the same old person every time. There are certain red neck areas and I won’t name them but these ones stand out more because of their long held racist attitudes and there constant blocking of Maori wards/representation. Now these councils views on democracy outweighs the TOW( partnership) and ignores how democracy favours the majority. This has an adverse effect as the same old voices with the same old views sit at the decision table. Now we see many local Council have no money and they have huge infrastructure problems, so these councils are now putting their hands out to central government. In my view central government needs to rein in our councils. And while they are at it perhaps they can sort out our water rights. ( the water no one owns)

    • The problem with councils is the low turn out of voters . I vote and try and do some research but usually it give me no idea how they will vote on a particular point. This is why so many get re elected rather than risking a new face . Even when a councillor states an opinion they change their mind as in the Shelly Bay vote in Wellington.
      As you say councils will need money from the government due to covid taking their earning streams away. If the government do help them they should do it with strings attached such as allowing Maori wards and charging industry for the water they take for free at the moment

      • Trev it won’t make a difference if Maori vote for a counselor we are outnumbered, now when are people like you gonna get it into your head. Also just remember who created the Maori seats in the general election, the ones people call racist and separatist. It wasn’t us, it was the colonisers at the time who wanted to keep control. And to make matters worse we have these so called new, New Zealanders who call for these racist seats to be gone, who do they think they. I suggest they learn the history of our country before they start barking, other wise on your bike back to where you came from.

  2. Is it the job of the Electoral Commission to make recommendations that don’t get implemented?

    In fact, the whole system needs review from elections through to the cabinet manual and parliamentary procedure. Is the system fit for purpose in the 21st century where we have complex issues to deal with that a binary adversarial approach isn’t up to solving.

  3. Well I would argue that Maori have more choice than non-Maori in some respects.
    Maori can choose to enrol either in general or Maori electorates.
    Non-Maori don’t have any choice other than to enrol in general electorates.
    The 5-year rule is there for a couple of good reasons.
    If you allowed change between the two types of electorates at any time then the electorate populations could get seriously compromised. For example if a party waged a successful campaign to get Maori voters off the general roll and onto the Maori roll a few months before an election it might lead to some electorate imbalance – over population in some and under population in others which could not be easily fixed before the vote.
    It could easily mean some electorates under represented and others over represented in terms of population.
    You don’t change electorate boundaries just by redrawing a line on a map – there is a judicial process that has to be followed and it makes a mockery of our electoral system to ignore it because it doesn’t suit one particular group.
    A change-on-the-fly system that is being advocated here will only slow down the voting and counting process even further and encourage the kind of electoral jerry-mandering that occurs in the USA.
    It seems that the whole idea here is to get more Maori electorates.
    The aim should be to get Maori more aware and involved in the political process and creating more electorates by manipulating the electoral rules will not necessarily do that.
    Good quality people being elected to parliament, who can lead by example, is more likely to do it.

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