Te Pāti Māori slams government, opposition MPs for not backing voting reform bill

By Will Trafford

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / NZME

Te Pāti Māori has hit out at Labour and opposition MPs for not supporting legislation it says would "advance Māori rights and move us toward a more Te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa".

Māori could change electoral rolls at any time, and be automatically placed on the Māori roll when first enrolling to vote under a member's bill from co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

The bill would fix "Aotearoa’s racist electoral system," Waititi said.

“Passing my member’s bill is the bare minimum the government could have done to uphold voting rights and honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi in this country," Waititi said on Thursday.

Waititi’s Bill, the Electoral (Right to Switch Rolls Freely) Amendment Bill, was voted down 107 – 12 with only Te Pāti Māori and the Green Party voting in support.

Currently, Māori have the option of joining the general or Māori roll when enrolling to vote but then only have the option to switch rolls every five years, within a four-month interval.

Labour version

The Labour government concedes things need to change but is offering its own legislative tweaks, which differ from that of Te Pāti Māori.

The government bill automatically enrols Māori on the general roll, if they don't select which roll they would like. As with the Māori Party bill it removes the restriction to only change rolls every five years.

The government bill restricts changes to rolls within periods of by-elections.

“While Labour has followed our lead by introducing its own electoral bill, which I am happy to support, its is like a Christmas tree without the decorations while our bill is a Christmas tree with all the decorations and presents for our whānau,” Waititi said.

"They chose to vote against [our bill] simply so they can provide their own watered-down solutions to problems created by their system” Rawiri Waititi added.

'Racist'

Waititi argues enrolling Māori on the general roll, if they don't select a roll when registering to vote, doesn't make sense.

“We’ve inherited an electoral system that was purposely designed to prevent Māori from participating in our democracy and remains one of the most racist areas of law this country has,” Waititi said.

“If someone identifies as Māori when enrolling but doesn’t choose an electoral roll, they should be placed on the Māori roll."

All parties, except ACT, have voted in favour of the government bill on its second reading. Leader of the House Chris Hipkins says it will have its final reading and pass into law next week.

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