Low Maori voter turnout shows lack of trust - Sharples

Something is wrong with our democracy when little more than half of Maori registered to vote, turned out on election day, says the Maori Party.

Co-leader Pita Sharples said all New Zealanders should be concerned that preliminary electorate results show only 55 per cent of Maori voted on Saturday.

"Voter turnout rates indicate the confidence citizens have with the political process and political institutions," said Dr Sharples.

He said the figures could change once special votes are included.

According to figures from the Maori Party, in 2005, turnout varied from 62.05 per cent in Tamaki Makaurau to 69.79 per cent in Tai Tokerau.

But last Saturday, the percentage rate plunged by nearly 12 points in Tamaki Makaurau to 50.27 per cent.

The national average for voter turn-out was 74.7 per cent this year, down from 77.1 per cent in 2005.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said the low turn-out reflects something is "terribly wrong with our democracy".

"We tried our best to encourage voting to become a whanau habit, to build interest in politics, and to arrest the downwards trend.

And yet, when we came face to face with some of the poverty-stricken communities across our electorate, we saw how seriously alienated and disenfranchised many whanau have become. It is an enormous task to bring hope to communities, that casting a vote will make a difference in their lives," Mrs Turia said.

She said the Maori Party have already raised the issue with prime minister elect John Key.

"We believe the new inclusive approach that Mr Key is speaking of, must address the low turnout of Maori voters, as a matter of national concern," Mrs Turia said.

- NZ HERALD STAFF

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