Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has announced that the Māori Electoral Option will be changed to allow Māori voters to switch electoral rolls at any time. The bill is expected to be introduced to the House in the coming weeks.
“This work follows through on our 2020 election commitment to protect the integrity of New Zealand elections and is part of our ongoing work to modernise the Electoral Act so they remain fit for purpose and meet the needs of the next generation of voters,” Kris Faafoi said.
“By allowing Māori to change rolls at any time, up to and including on polling day, it provides Māori with flexibility and promotes participation in New Zealand’s democracy.
“By removing the restrictions that currently lock Māori voters in their roll choice for two general elections, this change represents a significant improvement to a status quo that prevents Māori voters from fully exercising their electoral rights.” Kris Faafoi said.
The Māori Electoral Option is a four-month period held every 5-6 years within which Māori voters choose to move between the general or Māori electoral rolls. It last took place in 2018, and under the current rules Māori will not have the opportunity to change rolls until after the 2023 General Election.
The Ministry of Justice undertook targeted engagement on the Māori Electoral Option in mid-2021 where they met with academics and interested groups and had in-depth discussions that drew on their professional expertise and research as well as their own experiences.
Issues with the timing and frequency of the Māori Electoral Option have also been repeatedly raised in reports by the Justice Select Committee and the Electoral Commission.
“The feedback from the engagement overwhelmingly supported a shift to a continuous model to remove the restrictions on Māori voters’ electoral rights. The current restrictions on timing and frequency of the Option are unjustified, unfair, and often difficult to understand”, Kris Faafoi said.
While the law change will allow Māori voters to change rolls at any time, there will be an exception preventing voters from switching rolls to vote in by-elections.
“During the consultation period we reached out to all political parties during the policy and engagement process for their views on the timing and frequency of the Māori Electoral Option. We thank them for their engagement so far, and look forward to engaging with them further throughout the parliamentary process,” Kris Faafoi said.
The Bill is expected to come into force in March 2023 in time for the 2023 General Election.