23 Mar 2018

Māori voters get to choose between Māori and general rolls

1:31 pm on 23 March 2018

The Electoral Commission is stressing Māori can vote for whatever party they want regardless of whether they shift between the general and Māori rolls.

From 3 April to 2 August, Māori voters will have the chance to choose which roll they're on for the next two national elections.

Their choice will determine whether they vote for a local MP in a Māori seat (such as Te Tai Tonga) or a general seat (such as Wellington central).

"The next opportunity to change won't be till 2024," the commission's spokesperson Mandy Bohte said.

"So it's a really important decision that people are making ... over the next four months."

Media personality Mike Hosking was reprimanded last year after falsely suggesting those on the general roll could not vote for the Māori Party.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority said his comments were inaccurate and misleading and ordered TVNZ to broadcast the findings.

"That's why that's one of our key messages in this campaign," Ms Bohte said.

"Regardless of what roll you're on ... you still get to vote for [any] party on the party list. It makes no difference."

However the commission's focus was not a direct result of Mr Hosking's statements, she said.

"It's always an important message."

The response to the option, alongside the 2018 Census, will also decide the number of Māori seats in Parliament. The last Option was in 2013.

There are currently seven Māori electorates - Hauraki-Waikato, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, Tāmaki Makaurau, Te Tai Hauāuru, Te Tai Tokerau, Te Tai Tonga and Waiariki.

Statistics New Zealand estimates that number could increase to eight if roughly 27,000 Māori moved from the general roll to the Māori roll.

It might also increase if about 64,000 unenrolled people signed up to the Māori roll.

On the other hand, the number of seats could drop to six if roughly 10,800 Māori shifted from the Māori roll to the general roll.

Information packs will be sent out in early April to enrolled voters who've identified themselves as Māori.

"If they're happy with the roll they're on, they don't need to do anything. It's as simple as that," Ms Bohte said.

People will also be able to download an enrolment form directly from a [https://maorioption.org.nz/

dedicated website].

They can either return the form by post or - for the first time - by taking a photo of the form and emailing it or uploading it online.

The commission will officially launch the Option at the Tai Tokerau Kapa Haka festival in Whangārei on Saturday.

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