'Your choice has mana': Changes to the Māori Electoral Option come into effect

By James Perry

Māori voters who would like to switch electoral rolls before this year’s general election will be able to make the change from this Friday, March 31 until July 13. 

A recent law change means that Māori can now change between the Māori and general rolls at any time except in the three months before an election.

Previously, once enrolled, Māori could only change rolls during the Māori electoral option period held every five or six years.

"This is a significant change for Māori voters who will be able to change the roll they are on more easily," chief electoral officer Karl Le Quesne says.

Previous estimations by the Electoral Commission showed around 6,000 Māori requested to change rolls each year, with over 19,000 applying in 2017 alone. 

The Māori electoral option in 2018 saw the first net increase of Māori changing to the general roll since 1996. 

Māori voters who want to change rolls before the October 14 general election need to make the change before midnight on 13 July. 

"We’re sending information packs to 512,000 enrolled voters who have told us they are of Māori descent to let them know about the choice," Le Quesne says.

There will also be advertising and community engagement to reach people who are not enrolled or have changed address.

"Anyone affected by Cyclone Gabrielle who has had to move can call 0800 36 76 56 for more information or go to vote.nz to update their address or change rolls."

The commission’s chief Māori advisor, Hone Matthews, says it is an important choice for Māori.

"Māori choose between the Māori electoral roll and the general electoral roll when they enrol to vote," Matthews says.

"If you’re on the Māori roll, you’ll vote for a candidate in the Māori electorate you live in and, if you’re on the general roll, you’ll vote for a candidate in the general electorate you live in. Whichever roll you’re on, you’ll choose from the same list of parties for your party vote.

"Look out for your information pack in the mail and think about which roll you want to be on. He mana tō te kōwhiri. Your choice has mana."