With the census done and dusted, citizens of Maori descent may now choose whether to vote on either the Maori or general roll.
Heavy promotion by the Maori Party in 2013, the last time Maori Electoral Option was open, resulted in 55 percent of the Maori voting age population opting for the Maori roll, with the remainder on the general roll.
The separate Maori seats have had a fraught history since they were set up in 1867, when extending the franchise to all Maori males aged 21 and over was a radical departure from the norm of linking political rights with property ownership.
From 1893 until 1975, those with more than half Maori descent were not allowed to vote in a European electorate, and those of less than half Maori descent did not qualify to vote in a Maori electorate and had to vote in a European electorate.
In 1993, the Maori electoral option was revised to base the number of Maori seats on the numbers registering on the Maori roll.
Subsequently, the proportion of all Maori on the Maori roll increased from 40 percent to 58 percent between 1991 (the last option before the Mixed Member Proportional Representation voting system took effect) and 2006.
The general election in 2017 resulted in 29 of the 120 seats in Parliament being occupied by MPs of Maori descent. With just seven Maori seats, 22 of these Maori-descent MPs are on the general roll.
Hobson’s Pledge believes political rights should be based on citizenship, not ethnicity, and wants a binding referendum on scrapping separate Maori electorates. See https://www.hobsonspledge.nz/maori_seats_long_past_their_use_by_date
The Maori Electoral Option began on April 3 and will continue to August 2.
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