Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says the Government must remove barriers to Māori voting, such as preventing Māori from switching electoral rolls when they want to.
Māori voters can switch between the general and Māori electoral rolls once every five to six years, after each census. The Government is considering making the option available every three years, aligning with the electoral cycle, while the Electoral Commission has recommended that Māori voters should be able to change rolls at any time.
"We need to stop making it so difficult for us to participate," Ngarewa-Packer said. "Let's remove all the barriers that limit our whānau from participating, and participating as tangata whenua."
Ngarewa-Packer says it should be as easy for Māori to vote on a Māori roll as it is for Pākehā to vote on a general roll. Automatically enrolling Māori on the Māori roll would be a good start.
"The biggest thing for us as Māori is that we should be automatically enrolled on the tangata whenua roll. Pākehā have that afforded to them on the general roll.
"For tangata whenua, there is a down period where you actually can't swap between the general and the Māori roll, and that is cumbersome when you are trying to ensure better participation in political processes.
"Ultimately, the aim is that we all have access and a say in our kawanatanga."
The Ministry of Justice is inviting Māori views online before Friday, August 6, on the timing and frequency of the Māori Electoral Option and is organising a small number of focus groups to gather feedback around the country in early August.
But Te Pāti Māori says the review and its timing has taken Māori by surprise.
"No one knew that this was coming up so the timeline allocated to it is quite surprising. Heoi anō, it's important that we encourage our whānau to participate and to put in submissions," Ngarewa-Packer said.
Māori participation needs to be supported by civics education focused on tino rangatiratanga to achieve the aim of ensuring that everyone is able to have a say in political processes, she said.
"It's timely that we address political participation through civics education that is attached to our history and Te Tiriti.
"What we need to be seeing is an encouragement of our tino rangatiratanga. For now, this is how politics and voting looks. Te Tiriti said that we would be governing ourselves and that is our position as Te Pāti Māori.
"These are really healthy conversations that have been going on for a while," Ngarewa-Packer said.