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September 25, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Electoral Commission Misinforms Māori Voters

The Electoral Commission has been criticised for undermining the rights of Māori voters, following nationwide complaints about the conduct of electoral staff.

Some of the complaints received by the Electoral Commission included staff being unaware of the Māori roll and insisting those enrolled on the Māori roll are unregistered; staff being unable to locate Māori names on the Māori roll; staff giving incorrect information about Māori electorates, areas, and where voters can be enrolled; and electors being told by staff that they are unable to vote for a “Māori party” if they are not on the Māori roll.

This lead to confusion and instances of non-voting.

Veronica Tawhai, a Māori Politics lecturer at Massey University, publically condemned the Electoral Commission in a press statement released on September 16, which made several demands of the Commission, after she received numerous complaints from Māori voters.

She stated that the “ignorance of the officials is completely unacceptable and something the Electoral Commission needs to rectify immediately.”

Tawhai demanded that an expert in Māori electorates be instated at each polling booth, alongside a review of the background knowledge and training practices for electoral staff. She also noted that an earlier request to the Electoral Commission to send an immediate memo to all staff to ensure accurate information was being provided was ignored.

Tawhai told Salient that the Electoral Commission had since responded to her statement, saying that they were “devastated by their conduct” and they acknowledged that staff have been giving misinformation.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Alicia Wright, told Salient they “are taking this matter very seriously” and, following the reports of the misconduct, have “since sent a reminder of the processes to our voting place staff.” Wright claimed that “all of the 15,000 electoral staff receive training, including on the Māori and general roll.”

Wright noted that they have been in touch with Tawhai to “assure [her that] the matters she has raised will be followed up.”

Clare Pasley, also from the Electoral Commission, told Salient that the Commission “is always looking to improve services for voters, and every effort is made to ensure voting place staff are drawn from and reflect the local community.”

However, the Electoral Commission appeared yet to have met all of Tawhai’s demands in time for the close of polling on September 23.

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