Election & Maori Still Experiencing Second Class Citizenship

Press Release – Veronica Tawhai

Whatever the results of the election this weekend, all New Zealanders should be concerned at the withholding of democracy for Maori electors and what the longer-term implications of this might be for Aotearoa New Zealand, argues a Maori politics and policy lecturer …Democracy Withheld: Election 2017 And Maori Still Experiencing ‘Second Class Citizenship’

Whatever the results of the election this weekend, all New Zealanders should be concerned at the withholding of democracy for Maori electors and what the longer-term implications of this might be for Aotearoa New Zealand, argues a Maori politics and policy lecturer from Massey University. Despite claims that misinformation and mistreatment of Maori voters has been isolated to a few polling booths and polling booth staff, Veronica Tawhai insists ongoing reports from a range of electorates across the country confirms the issue is endemic.

“I understand that a memo was issued to all polling booth staff about these problems, and that there is an impression that these have been addressed and resolved, however complaints from Maori experiencing difficulties in the polling booths with polling booth staff are continuing to come in daily” says Ms Tawhai.

“Maori are being prevented from the full and proper exercise of our rights to vote as Maori, which is not only undermining our rights to express ourselves as indigenous peoples, but is an affront to the basic notion of equality and equal citizenship that we supposedly all hold so dear in this country. Once again Maori find ourselves being treated as second-class citizens, something all New Zealanders should be ashamed of and that we will be demanding the government – whoever forms the next government after Saturday – address immediately, particularly in terms of how that translates into other inequalities that Maori continue to experience”.

Problems highlighted last week included ignorance amongst polling booth staff as to the existence of a Maori roll, Maori electorates, the ability of electors to vote for a ‘Maori party’ whether or not they are on the Maori or General roll, and polling booth staff having difficulty correctly locating te reo Maori names. Since then, further complaints have been received about:

• Maori enrolling for the first time being told they must enrol on the General roll as opposed to the Maori roll, and needing to wait until the next Maori Electoral Option if they wish to switch to being a member of a Maori electorate;

• Maori who thought they were enrolled on the Maori roll being told they are not enrolled, are then being enrolled on the General roll and made to vote in a General electorate, only to go and check their details later and discover they were on the Maori roll;

• Maori voting outside of their electorate being refused a special vote form, and instead being made to vote in the electorate of that particular polling booth, in effect casting what will be an invalid vote;

• Polling booth staff confirming that Maori electors, especially on the Maori roll, are being treated disrespectfully and with contempt for their political choices by other polling booth staff.

Ms Tawhai, who is also a member of the Te Ata Kura community group dedicated to political and citizenship education on issues such as Te Tiriti o Waitangi, indigenous rights and constitutional transformation, confirms that Te Ata Kura is considering what further action needs to be taken to ensure this is the last election where Maori and others experience these types of problems.

“This issue is not going away. We are currently considering the different avenues available to us to ensure an investigation into Maori electors rights and what needs to occur in this country to ensure ‘democracy’ is indeed experienced by all. But for now, whatever the results of this weekend’s election, it has been a travesty for Maori voters and considering the pressing issues we are facing in this election in which Maori are overrepresented, such as poverty, homelessness and the mental health crisis, it should be considered a travesty for all of New Zealand and something that cannot be tolerated into the future” concludes Ms Tawhai.
ENDS

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