It is unclear how much Māori think about electoral rolls, whether they are informed on the differences between the two rolls, and what the impacts are of voting on either one. Which Roll? Is a short survey that seeks to find out why people choose the roll on which they vote on. Which Roll?—Ko Tēhea Rārangi Pōti? aims to ask people about themselves, their experiences, and their understandings of the Māori roll. Using this information, the researchers will be able to write reports for government, academics, and the general public. The end goal being to create resources that help people make informed choices about which roll they would like to vote on. Craccum talked with research assistant Tommy de Silva (Ngāti Te Ata, Ngāti Apakura, Pākehā) to understand more about the survey.
What sparked the will to do this research?
The spark to start this research was our team’s shared thought-provoking experiences with the electoral rolls. Some of our team had trouble changing between the rolls, and others of us didn’t understand the importance of our roll choice. A few of us made informed electoral roll choices with the support of whānau, but many of us were outrightly confused as to which roll to pick.
These experiences caused a desire within us to understand why others made the electoral roll choices they did. We saw that there was a gap in information about why people choose either roll, so we wanted to fill that void. From our lives, we know that there are diverse experiences surrounding roll choice, and we believe that all of these experiences are valid and worth researching.
What is the goal of this survey?
Our survey goal is to discover why people of Māori descent chose to enrol on either the Māori or general electoral rolls. Some people have straightforward answers like, I didn’t feel Māori enough to join the Māori roll, or conversely I’m Māori, so I joined the Māori roll. Other people have more complex answers like, the party I wanted to vote for doesn’t run candidates in the Māori electorates, or I strategically enrolled on the general roll to ensure that the non-Māori candidates prioritise Māori issues. Our team truly believes that any reason for roll choice is a valid reason.
We want to hear from people on both rolls from across the motu and the political spectrum. Those eligible for our survey are people who are 16 or older and of Māori descent, a.k.a. have Māori ancestors. From the staunchly tangata whenua auntie who proudly wears moko kauae to the person who is eligible for the Māori roll but has never given it any thought, we want to hear from diverse perspectives.
Do you think that the general population know the difference between the Māori roll and the General Roll?
Many people, especially adults, understand that enrolling on the Māori roll means voting in the Māori electorates, like Tāmaki Makaurau, and that enrolling on the general roll means voting in the other electorates, like Auckland Central. But research has shown that roughly one-quarter of rangatahi don’t know the difference between the rolls, which is a big percentage.
Although a decent amount of us understand the difference between rolls, not nearly as many people understand the importance of the Māori roll. The Māori roll, in part, decides the loudness of the Māori voice within a political system built to exclude it. If more Māori signed up to the Māori roll the number of Māori seats in Parliament would grow. The Māori seats are far from a perfect manifestation of te tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake, but they’re better than an even more limited Māori perspective in politics.
Do you think there is currently enough accessible information for Māori to make an informed electoral roll choice?
Definitely not! Unfortunately, a lot of the available information is disjointed. You’d have to read multiple websites, government publications and news articles to access enough information to make an informed electoral roll choice. But even then, the information can be confusing. I did a quick google search about the Māori roll, and different sources gave me different dates as to when Māori can next change rolls. I’m confused, and it’s literally my job to know this stuff. The available information that should help people make an informed roll choice is also confusing to some because of its political terminology.
Even for people who think they understand politics, the information can be confusing. In high school, I participated in civics education extracurriculars and volunteered for Jacinda, so I was better versed in politics than most teens. Yet, in Year 13, when I read a letter from the Electoral Commission about changing rolls, I honestly was perplexed.
There is no one-stop shop of information to enable people of Māori descent to make an informed roll choice—but we think there ought to be one.
Is there a desire to create an online resource that Māori voters can consult when making the choice for themselves using information gathered in this survey?
Yes, that is one of the intended outcomes of our mahi. The survey is our way to learn why people of Māori descent chose either roll. Once we understand people’s choices, we will turn our findings into an online resource to help people of Māori descent make an informed electoral roll decision. We want to create the resource that would have empowered our younger selves to make informed choices.
What uses will the survey and the information gather allow for?
Aside from the online resource to help the public make their roll choice, there are a couple of other things we want to do. We want to share our findings with the government and with academics.
Sharing our mahi with the government is important so that they can better understand their people’s views about electoral roll choice. It is also vital that the government understands people’s difficulties in switching rolls because parliament is currently considering changing the laws around when and how Māori can change rolls.
Academics can use our findings within their mahi. Hopefully, our research findings will inspire others to ask deeper questions about the Māori roll, the general roll, the Māori seats, political participation in these motu and New Zealand politics at large.
To take our survey in Te Reo or English or to find out more about the Which Roll? Ko Tēhea Rārangi Pōti? project see our website www.whichroll.co.nz. All survey participants can enter in a draw for a prize pool of $5,000 in vouchers.
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