An agreement between Labour and National misses an historic opportunity to make our democracy more accessible for Māori voters.
“Māori voters should be able to switch rolls at any time, whether it's a general election, by-election, or local government election. We know that unnecessary, technical barriers to voting are harmful.” says the Green Party’s spokesperson for electoral reform, Golriz Ghahraman.
Changes to the Māori Electoral Option Bill agreed in Parliament tonight between Labour and National means Māori will be prevented from switching rolls in the three months before an election.
“Labour Ministers have said an agreement with National was necessary in order to get the Bill passed. This is because the Bill amends part of the Electoral Act, which requires the support of three quarters of Parliament.
“However, the Green Party doesn’t agree.
“Had Labour changed the law to allow for roll switching during the three months before an election, the time most voters in fact engage with enrollment, our democracy would be stronger and more accessible.
“Evidence shows that most people try to change electoral rolls in the run up to an election, when they are more engaged.
“This makes perfect sense, as it’s the run up to an election that most people start to think about how they want to cast their vote. In 2020, for example, 24,000 Māori wanted to change their electoral roll, but because of existing rules, were prevented from doing so.
“We are extremely disappointed that the National Party’s politicking has won the day, instead of a fairer approach that better meets the needs of Māori voters.
“Instead of accepting National and ACT’s opposition to a more accessible democracy, Labour could have explored alternatives that didn’t require a three quarters majority - for example, allowing roll switching in the period immediately before an election, and working with the Green Party on my Strengthening Democracy Bill.
“We’d like to see reassurance from the Labour Government that today’s changes will be properly publicised, so that people are aware of both the opportunity to change rolls, and the cut-off,” says Golriz Ghahraman.