In a “rare occasion” the National Party has pledged to support a Government bill, to make it easier for Māori to switch electoral rolls, provided a key change is made.
The Māori Electoral Options bill as introduced would have allowed Māori to change rolls at any time, up to and including on polling day.
Amendments were made at select committee to include an exclusion to switching roles near a byelection, to prevent any “tactical” roll switching to boost support for a specific candidate.
However, to National’s disappointment, it did not also include provisions for general elections. Their concern was where the outcome of a person’s Māori electorate might be a foregone conclusion, the General electorate in which they live might be highly marginal, or vice versa.
As the bill requires changes to the Electoral Act it also requires a 75 per cent majority or a referendum, meaning it would need the support of National to pass.
At the bill’s second reading today, National Party justice spokesman Paul Goldsmith said they had reached an agreement with Justice Minister Kiri Allan for her to introduce a supplementary order paper at the next stage to include an exclusion around general elections and local body elections.
Provided that occurred, Goldsmith said National would support the bill.
“I think the Government has been more willing than usual to listen to our concerns.
“Our understanding is at the next committee of the whole the Government intends to bring a SOP allowing for that exclusion around general elections also.
“If indeed that is the case we will on this side support the bill.
“It would be a rare occasion where the Government is willing to listen to our concerns. In spirit of good faith and bipartisanship we will support it at this stage as well.
“We all want to ensure New Zealanders engage in the electoral process, but we also want to ensure people support the process and are treated in the same way.”
Currently, Māori can only switch between the Māori and general electoral rolls once every five to six years during a four-month slot after the census, despite elections occurring every three years.
The last Māori Electoral Option was in 2018 and the next is due in 2024.
Proponents have labelled the process “racist” and contributing to low voter turnout, as if Māori are on the wrong roll it can take years to correct.
Act justice spokeswoman Nicole McKee said the party supported changing rolls once every three years and would not support the bill in its current form.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi had a similar Members’ Bill drawn earlier this year from the ballot and said his party would support the bill.
On a timeframe exclusion around a general election Waititi said that was “reasonable” request from National, but he also wanted to see the laws tightened for people who owned multiple homes from changing their electorate.