Electoral Commission Undermining of Māori Rights

Written By: - Date published: 5:21 pm, September 17th, 2017 - 40 comments
Categories: electoral commission, Maori Issues - Tags: , , ,

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Press release at scoop.co.nz:

Electoral Commission Undermining of Maori Rights
Saturday, 16 September 2017, 8:13 pm Press Release: Veronica Tawhai

MEDIA RELEASE Saturday 16th September 2017
For immediate release

Electoral Commission Undermining of Maori Rights – Complaints Nationwide

Only a week into early voting, complaints have been laid with the Electoral Commission about misinformation being provided to Maori electors, causing confusion and non-voting amongst Maori electors and refreshing previous claims of deliberate sabotage by polling booth staff of Maori votes. Veronica Tawhai, a Maori politics lecturer and citizenship educator at Massey University, has received numerous complaints from Maori electors across the country regarding the Electoral Commission. However, her requests that a memo be sent immediately to all staff to ensure accurate information is being provided to electors appears to have been ignored, calling into question the commitment of the Commission to ‘democracy for all’.

“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” states Ms Tawhai, “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”.

2017 marks the 150 year anniversary of the Maori electorate seats, when four seats were initially introduced to New Zealand’s electoral system with the Maori Representation Act 1867. This occurred early in New Zealand electoral system history, only fourteen years after the first Settler Parliament elections held in 1853 and the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852. Yet, despite this 150 year history and the seats being the focus of much debate and change over this time, including the introduction of the Maori Electoral Option in 1993 and the ability of the number of seats to increase or decrease according to the Maori Electoral Roll, there is little knowledge of the Maori electoral seats, their history or significance amongst wider New Zealand.

“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” states Ms Tawhai, “and that complaints made to the Electoral Commission by many people, including myself, to rectify the situation are being outright ignored is just outrageous”.

Some of the complaints received about Electoral Commission staff, including those manning polling booths and phone lines, includes:
• Staff being unaware of the Maori roll and insisting electors are unregistered when their names don’t appear on the General roll;
• Staff having difficulty locating Maori names on the Maori roll, even when given identification by Maori electors;
• Staff giving incorrect information about the Maori electorates, electorate areas and where electors can be enrolled;
• Maori enrolled in Maori electorates being given the wrong voting form and having to argue with staff to find and be provided with the correct form;
• Electors on the General roll being told they are unable to vote for a ‘Maori party’ if they are not on the Maori roll;
• Complaints from Maori electors being ignored by those responsible for hearing complaints, such as managers of polling booths.

“In the absolute minimum, anyone with responsibilities within the Electoral Commission should have an understanding of our electoral system in order to ensure they are able to fulfil their roles in assisting all New Zealanders, including Maori, to exercise our vote as is our basic democratic right whether we be on the General or Maori roll. I demand 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”

concludes Ms Tawhai.

ENDS

40 comments on “Electoral Commission Undermining of Māori Rights ”

  1. Bill 1

    Some of those examples of complaints are merely jaw dropping. Others are completely beyond my current abilities to capture situations in words.

    • weka 1.1

      Mindblowing, especially as there were similar issues last election. How can this still be going on?

    • adam 1.2

      I think a term you can use here bill is racism, of the institutional kind.

      Talking to young Maori to get them to switch to from the general roll to the Maori roll before the last election, the most common reason for not doing it – was the hassles on election day that their whanau have faced. Another one, was the fear of the government.

      • marty mars 1.2.1

        We need all people to vote especially those who aren’t engaged. Getting them on the Māori roll is challenging – good on you for that mahi.

      • alwyn 1.2.2

        “Talking to young Maori to get them to switch to from the general roll to the Maori roll before the last election”

        It must have been a very long time before the last election.
        When you first enrol you can choose whether you wish to be on the General Roll or the Maori Roll.
        After that however you can only choose to change when the Maori Electoral Option is available. The last time was in 2013, from 25 March to 24 July. The dates of the option are, I think, about the time of the Census so that Census data is available to set electorate boundaries.
        If you were after that period then the people would not have been able to change rolls.
        What date were you trying to get people to alter their roll?
        http://www.elections.org.nz/events/past-events/maori-electoral-option-2013

        • Molly 1.2.2.1

          I’m assuming he is talking about when voters are enrolling for the first time, and making the choice to go onto the Māori roll instead of the General.

          (An option discussed with the four new voters in the household for this election).

          • alwyn 1.2.2.1.1

            It seems a slightly forced assumption given that he explicitly states
            “Talking to young Maori to get them to switch to from the general roll to the Maori roll before the last election”
            He seems fairly clear that he wanted them to SWITCH.

            • adam 1.2.2.1.1.1

              It was before the last election, I’m confused by the point you are trying to make alwyn. If it is to prove you have little or no concept of the meaning of the word “before”, then yes, you have aptly demonstrated that.

              As for first time enrollments, I talk to them too. But the biggest group was before the last election, and they were the ones who pointed out the problems with the electoral commission, prior to the 2014 election.

              • alwyn

                I thought it was a very simple question.
                You say it was “before” the last election.
                Approximately how much before?
                The election was on 20 September 2014.
                Approximately how long before that date were you doing your campaigning to persuade people to change from the General to the Maori role?

                • DSpare

                  alwyn
                  The last Māori Electoral Option ran from 25 March until 24 July 2013, do the maths yourself.

                  • alwyn

                    I know that. If you had read these comments you would have seen that I gave the dates a couple of comments above here.
                    https://thestandard.org.nz/electoral-commission-undermining-of-maori-rights/#comment-1385922
                    I didn’t ask for that though. I asked when he was trying to persuade young Maori to switch rolls.
                    Please keep up.

                    • adam

                      So your a racist alwyn, becasue all I’m seeing is a racist trying to twist an argument. Simply ‘before’ is a time prior to an event in history. I was pointing out that whilst weka had said their were issue in the last election, for Maori those issues existed before the last election. And so back to you twisting and turning racist little deflection, why are you such a bigot you thought it was OK to deflect like this? And if you don’t like Maori, then maybe you should leave this country, no?

                    • alwyn

                      Come on Adam.
                      All you have to do is tell me when you were doing this.
                      Is it really that hard.
                      Accusing me of racism isn’t really going to cut it, is it?
                      An accusation of someone being a “racist” is simply an admission that you can’t answer a simple question.

                    • DSpare

                      alwyn
                      I saw the link and was drawing your attention towards the relevant portion (which you also paraphrased). Probably should have used blockquotes, or at least quotemarks, in retrospect.

                      The point was that you can do your own calculations if you are not simply trying to waste our time (and space). It is not up to adam to comply with your spurious demands. “Before” does not imply; “immediately before”, no matter how much one insists it does.

        • left_forward 1.2.2.2

          The 5 year Maori Electoral option to change rolls is part of the problem as it is entirely arbitrary. Just another hurdle placed in the process, why? – ‘just because we can’. This is an arcane dimension of the electoral system that only Maori have to understand and navigate – and in my opinion, it is indeed institutional racism.
          The census process is another stacked against Maori, but that’s another topic.

    • Yep I saw this in fbook. Amazing that some didn’t even know about the seats. Mind boggling really and definately not good enough.

  2. Eco maori 2

    Typical national useing the confuse the voter national must have put there staff at the ballet boxes WTF some one needs to be sued over this sham that is happening at our ballet boxes Some one needs to sort this out immediately

    • eco maori 2.1

      My view is most people are looking down on Maori so we are already nervous when we go out in public now this looking down it is others attitude and there body language that tells us intelligent Maori that they are looking down on us.
      So our nervous young go to vote early and that kind of behavior is happening at the voting booths It is not on so to OUR YOUNG MAORI don’t let these idiots put you off You are voting for a better brighter future because it is your future we are voting for.

      • tracey 2.1.1

        You only need one bad experience to abstain forever. So the system only has to stuff up once to do a lifetime of damage

  3. AsleepWhileWalking 3

    How hard can it be?

    A five minute explanation to staff at the most.

    I’m on the Maori roll but forgot I was. Electoral official whipped out a iPad and typed in my name when she didn’t find it in either of the general e’s.

  4. James Thrace 4

    The electoral commission is rather rigid and most unhelpful. I got a phone call to attend an interview to work on Election Day. However, the interview was in the electorate I said I could work in, and I commute from it, to work in the city. Absolutely no flexibility to attend interview either. It had to be at 2.30pm which would have required a minimum 4 hours off work to travel there and back.

    That’s the attitude they take toward people who want to work on election day. I’m not at all surprised by the attitude taken by those they hire, towards voters.

  5. RedBaronCV 5

    That would be right . At the bare minimum it takes a couple of goes to find the Maori electorate voting papers ( if they are not on the verge of running out) and the attitude change from many (but not all) when they discover you are not on the general role…

    • lprent 5.1

      Not enough party observers?

      I’ve done party observer in Dunedin North and Mt Albert about 3 times. You aren’t allowed to interfere, but you can usually convey meaning and pass messages to the runners.

      • adam 5.1.1

        Did you sit at the desk and ware a party rosette?

        That was the case at the Onehunga library, bold as brass a national party observer right at the desk and wearing the biggest rosette I’ve ever seen.

        My understand was that party observers were to be at the back and not at the table, they should also wear a identifier they are observing, and that rosette if worn were to be discrete. Am I right in that?

        • DSpare 5.1.1.1

          adam
          Vote observers should be; behind, not at, the desk. Rosettes are a bit more open to interpretation:

          You must sit behind the Issuing Officers, not at the Issuing Officer’s table. Follow the Voting Place Manager’s directions about where you can sit. Prolonged debate from and between scrutineers about their seating is not helpful.
          Scrutineers from other political parties may also be sitting behind the Issuing Officer…

          It is important that you wear the label provided so that members of the public understand your role and can see the distinction between officials and candidate-appointed scrutineers.
          You are asked to wear the label in addition to any party lapel badge or rosette that you wear…

          You may wear a party lapel badge in public and in the voting place. A party lapel badge is a badge or rosette designed to be worn on the lapel and bearing the party’s name, emblem, slogan or logo, but not a candidate’s name.

          http://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/bulk-upload/documents/scrutineers_handbook_-_feb_2015.pdf

          When I voted, I didn’t see any scrutineers. But if half the votes are going to be cast before the main election day, that is something parties are going to have to address. Most volunteers are still out doorknocking at this point though.

  6. DSpare 6

    These are not new problems, and they were not adequately addressed by the electoral commission after 2014, so it is hardly surprising that they are recurring this election. Harawira’s recount was largely to draw attention to this (easiest example to find with google – the details will be somewhere in the thousands of results that came up to the search terms):

    Mr Harawira told Morning Report he was not trying to overturn the result, but that Maori people were being denied their vote.

    “Opening polling booths without Maori roll voting papers, I’m talking about people not being offered assistance to vote, Maori people getting sent from Whangarei to Wellsford to vote, Maori people getting turned away because they didn’t have their EasyVote card, Maori people having their identity questioned because of their different name, Maori people being treated like they just don’t deserve to be in the polling booth.”

    Mr Harawira says he has raised the problem at previous elections and it is still happening, so he is considering a legal review through the Waitangi Tribunal.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/256413/recount-to-ensure-fairness-harawira

  7. Don't worry. Be happy 7

    Really do not like being asked by polling staff for my voting card and the exasperated little put down patronising eye rolling etc when I explain (in four words) why I am not presenting it. There should be no obstacle at all to voting, including thinking/being encouraged to think that you need a card to vote.

    • weka 7.1

      totally not going to use ID or a card now.

    • Tracey 7.2

      Mine hadnt arrived when I voted last Monday. Mind you it still hasnt arrived a week later

    • Carolyn_nth 7.3

      But how can they check people voting under someone else’s name and/or voting multiple times? Surely there needs to be some prove of ID?

      I wouldn’t be happy if I arrived to vote and someone else had voted using my name, or if my vote wasn’t correctly recorded.

      • Andre 7.3.1

        Easy one first – if you turn up to vote and someone else has voted using your name, then it’s straight to the cops and the media. All hell will break loose. Guaranteed.

        The returning officers are required to check for multiple voting after the election.

        “218. The post election day processes are prescribed by legislation. Returning Officers must:
         Scrutinise the rolls for their electorate and records of special voting and investigate
        cases of apparent dual voting. The parliamentary ballot papers of dual voters must be
        found and excluded from the official count – a time-consuming process;
         Check the qualification of special voters, where necessary with the assistance of
        Registrars of Electors, and the validity of their declarations;
         Allow party vote only and referendum votes where the voter has used the wrong
        ballot paper;
         Check the decisions on the formality of ordinary and advance parliamentary and
        referendum votes;
         Recount the ordinary and advance parliamentary and referendum votes; and
         Count the special votes for the election and referendum.”

        http://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/bulk-upload/documents/Report_of_the_EC_on_the_2011General_Election_1_November_2012.pdf

        I’m a little surprised they haven’t gone to some kind of live online system of tracking who has actually turned up to vote. No doubt local electoral experts have good reasons why not, which may be as simple as it’s just not a big enough problem to worry about.

        Voting on behalf of someone else – that’s a tricky one. At most elections there’s allegations of misconduct around assisted voting at places like rest homes. Personally I’m comfortable that NZ has enough electoral integrity that any such allegations get adequately investigated and dealt with, but others may not share that confidence.

  8. Darth smith 8

    Every has the right to vote it total unexceptable for electoral staff to denied anybody access to democracy they are not the gate keepers

  9. james 9

    Has there been any actual evidence of this?

    Im always suspect when ‘numerous’ people choose to complain to a “Maori politics lecturer and citizenship educator at Massey University” as opposed to the Electoral commission.

  10. Richard@Downsouth 10

    I’m a white male, my Maori is terrible, but I’m sure I could find a name listed Alphabetically on a list (I’m assuming they are listed in this way)

    Sounds like some old fogy people have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude

  11. left_forward 11

    Why are you being so blatantly superior and ignorant Mr white male?
    Learning a bit of Te Reo and tikanga may help you develop some empathy and understanding towards tangata whenua. This has nothing to do with reading through a list and please don’t lecture multi-linguists on how to use an alphabet.
    (sorry meant to Reply to 10)

    • Richard@Downsouth 11.1

      I know a little, can count to 20 and know a few greetings and the like… And no I’m not superior, far from it…

      I’m just saying it seems that some polling people may be a bit ‘holier than thou’… If a name is is Abcd or Vxyz the names are alphabetical…

  12. left_forward 12

    Oh apologies, I misunderstood what you were saying.

    • Richard@Downsouth 12.1

      All good, had been a tiring, long week when I was typing it up… sometimes I dont get my message out clearly…

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