Incompetent or malicious polling booth staff actively disenfranchising Māori voters

How to vote, given you're not on the Māori roll
Still from Electoral Commission video - "How to Vote"

(I should make it clear the image above is a still from an Electoral Commission video, not a photo of the polling station staff of interest)

Just a week into advanced voting, numerous complaints have been made to the Electoral Commission about willfully incorrect information being given to Māori voters, causing both disenfranchisement and confusion amongst Māori voters.

Complaints include:

  • Staff being ‘unaware’ of the Māori roll entirely, insisting that voters must not be registered when not found on the General roll
  • Staff struggling to find Māori names on the Māori roll, even when given identification by the voter
  • Staff giving false information about the Māori electorates, electorate areas, and where voters can be enrolles
  • Māori electors enrolled on the Māori roll being given the wrong ballot paper, and then actually having to argue with polling station staff to find and provide the correct form
  • Voters on the General roll being told they can’t vote for a ‘Māori party’ if they’re not on the Māori roll
  • Complaints from Māori electors being ignored by managers of polling booths

Veronica Tawhai, a Māori politics lecturer at Massey Uni, says “Maori and particularly young Maori are constantly criticised for either being uninformed, uninterested or apathetic when it comes to participating in political activities such as voting, and yet when our people attempt to be proactive in exercising our democratic rights – such as casting an early vote – some are prevented from doing so due to ignorance amongst officials that are meant to be assisting in the process. This is completely unacceptable and something the Electoral Commission and Chief Electoral Officer need to rectify immediately”.

Tawhai also rightly demands that there be:

(a) A Maori electorate specialist appointed to each polling booth throughout the country immediately, to ensure full and accurate information is being given to electors this election;
(b) A review of the background knowledge and understanding of all Electoral Commission staff undertaken, and steps made to ensure they are properly informed and prepared to undertake the job required of them now and for future elections, and;
(c) Electoral and citizenship education tailored to the needs of Aotearoa New Zealand given priority by Government to ensure the proper exercise and fulfilment of democratic rights by all New Zealanders into the future

It’s the 150th anniversary of the Māori seats this year, yet somehow even our polling booth staff fail to recognises that they exist, let alone their significance. It amazes me that polling booth staff can, whether through maliciousness or incompetence, mess up such a significant and integral part of our electoral system.

Many New Zealanders unfortunately have little to no knowledge of the Maori seats, something we need to remedy with future citizenship education, but that Electoral Commission staff are themselves ignorant of the basic make-up of our electoral system in an election year when they are responsible for assisting electors is unthinkable, and that complaints made to the Electoral Commission by many people, including myself, to rectify the situation are being outright ignored is just outrageous.

This is absolutely unacceptable, and should be instantly investigated and rectified. The Electoral Commission, of all entities, should not be disenfranchising Māori voters. At least this issue has been raised a week before the actual ‘election day’.

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