One Question Quiz
Design: Tina Tiller.
Design: Tina Tiller.

ĀteaJune 30, 2023

Attention those with Māori whakapapa: you might have missed an important law change

Design: Tina Tiller.
Design: Tina Tiller.

Māori have two more weeks to change rolls before the election – so which one should you choose? Here are some of the reasons why others made the choice they did.

On March 31, the Māori electoral option changed. Since then, Māori have been able to freely switch between the general and Māori rolls at any time up until three months before polling day of the general or local elections, or after a by-election is formally announced. The deadline to change rolls before the upcoming election is midnight Thursday July 13.

This law change was welcomed by many, who were previously frustrated at having to wait five or six years to change rolls. The change had (rare) agreement from all of the parties currently in parliament.

Making the roll option fairer and more accessible has been advocated for by Māori for decades. Māori have been subject to different rules for engagement in the political process – which has created barriers to exercising even the most basic voting rights.  

Last year our survey ‘Which Roll? Ko Tēhea Rārangi Pōti?’ asked 2,000 Māori for their thoughts on why they make electoral roll choices, in their own words. We present their answers below. 

(Note we don’t report how many people said which response as this survey was recruited online. Our later work will ask a nationally representative sample. Our intention here is to provide a broad snapshot of the reasons to help you to start thinking about your own choices.)

A banner for the Māori electoral option
Image: Electoral Commission

52% of Māori choose to vote on the Māori roll. Here are some of the reasons why:

To increase Māori representation. Many felt the Māori roll was a voice for Māori, desired greater Māori representation, or felt their Māori roll representative better represented their own values, Māori interests, kaupapa Māori politics, a Māori worldview or mana motuhake.

‘He Māori ahau’: To express their identity as Māori. Some discussed a relationship between their roll choice and their identity as Māori. Many simply said they are on the Māori roll because they are Māori. Some reflected on their pride in being Māori, their connection to their Māori whakapapa, or simply “feeling Māori politically”. 

To tautoko the Māori electorates. If more Māori enrol on the Māori roll the number of seats increase – these participants stated this fact or that they chose the Māori roll to support the roll, to protect the seats, or simply because they have the right to choose.

‘Because I wanted to vote for…’: To exercise preferences or maximise the impact of their vote. This included those who chose the Māori roll because they felt their local general electorate was all but guaranteed to a certain candidate (a “safe seat”), or because they liked the Māori roll candidates or parties in their region more. However, our results show that proportionately more Māori chose the general roll than the Māori roll for strategic reasons.

‘My Nan told me to’: Influential relationships. Finally, some chose the Māori roll because they were influenced directly or indirectly by whānau, friends, or trusted others.

A map of New Zealand's Māori electorates by party which party won each contest.
A map of New Zealand’s Māori electorates that shows what party won each seat in 2020. (Image: Wikimedia)

48% of Māori choose to vote on the general roll. Here are some of the reasons why:

‘I don’t see why Māori need separate representation’. Some people choose the general roll because they don’t believe in the Māori roll, they don’t feel Māori need dedicated electorates anymore, or they feel the roll excludes non-Māori. Analyses of the NZ Election Study show that around a third of Māori on the general roll want to have fewer Māori electorates or get rid of them. 

‘It was the default option’: Greater exposure, information, and familiarity. Many chose the general roll because it was more familiar to them, there is more media coverage, or they had been told the Māori roll has less influence. Some participants even expressed that they didn’t know there was a Māori roll. 

‘Māori seats are safe seats’: Greater voting power. Akin to people’s reasoning for the Māori roll, some also thought their vote was worth more on the general roll, that their local Māori electorate was a safe seat, or wanted to vote for a specific candidate or candidate from a party who wasn’t standing on the Māori roll. Some felt the Māori roll dilutes the power of Māori votes.

‘No access’: Access, representation, and connection. These voters expressed reservations around the Māori roll given each electorate’s large geographic size (for example, Te Tai Tonga covers the entire South Island, plus some of Wellington). Some also felt more connected (culturally) to the general electorate representatives, or thought they may better represent them. 

‘Because I’m more Pākehā than Māori’. Some participants were more connected with their non-Māori whakapapa or expressed that they didn’t feel Māori enough to enrol on the Māori electoral roll. 

A map of the New Zealand general electorates, including which party won each contest in 2020.
A map of New Zealand’s general electorates that shows what party won each seat in 2020. (Image: Wikimedia)

We also heard that roll choice can be due to knowing more or less about one roll, to not being mana whenua in an electorate, through accidental choices or enrolment/administrative errors, and because some have simply been on the Māori roll since before there was a choice. 

One thing we heard from a lot of people was feeling hōhā about being stuck on a certain roll, which the law change now fixes. We hope that perspectives from this study can help spark thoughts or conversation when you exercise your choice from now and into the future. 

New Zealand voters with Māori whakapapa can follow the “Māori electoral option” prompts on to swap electoral rolls online. Otherwise filled out paper forms can be returned to the Electoral Commission. The deadline to change rolls is midnight Thursday July 13. 

Keep going!