25 Mar 2013

Commission launches 2013 Maori electoral option

7:30 am on 25 March 2013

The Electoral Commission is launching the 2013 Maori Electoral Option on Monday and wants Maori voters to choose which roll they will be on by late July

Voters who declared on their enrolment form that they descend from or are a New Zealand Maori can expect to find an electoral pack in their letterbox over the next few days.

An electoral roll official, who is the country's first-ever Maori returning officer, can remember when Maori experienced racism rather than encouragement when it came to voting.

Mabel Wharekawa-Burt, of Katikati, says voting was a big event for her whole whanau, who used to go together to the polling station. But growing up, she says, she realised the election process did not support Maori.

Mrs Wharekawa-Burt recalls that in 1992 when she became the first Maori returning officer, there was a lot of resistance and ignorance towards her and the new ethnic groups that she hired.

She says Pakeha would refuse to go to someone who was not the same as themselves to cast their vote, but now there are many Maori returning officers and the electoral system is a lot fairer.