Entrench The Maori Seats

Original discussion here.

Currently, there is a yawning inequality in our electoral system: general electorate seats are constitutionally entrenched, while the Maori seats which guarantee Maori representation are not. This means that they can be abolished or altered with a simple majority vote, rather than the 75% supermajority required for general electorates.

Simple equality suggests we should entrench, if only to prevent political parties whipping up racism over the issue for political gain.

Relevant legislation
Entrenchment is governed by section 268 (1) of the Electoral Act 1993.

The Maori seats are governed by three parts of the Act:

  • Sections 76 - 79, covering the "Maori option". Section 76 says that Maori may enrol on either the general or Maori roll, and that they can choose when they register or from time to time under s77. Section 77 specifies when the option must be held (after each census, unless its an election year, in which case there is a one-year delay) and requires the Registrar of Electors to publish the results. Section 78 deals with the administrivia, while section 79 bars transfers between the rolls except by exercise of the option (this is necessary to keep electorates within quota).
  • Section 45, which requires the Representation Commission to divide the country into Maori electorates, using the same rules used for general electorates in the North Island (except that unlike general electorates, Maori electorates can span the islands).
  • The definition of "Maori electoral population" in section 3 (1).

Potential changes

Entrenchment should parallel the scheme for general seats, which suggests entrenching sections 45, 76 and 77, and the associated definition of Maori electoral population in section 3(1)

Problems

  • Under Standing order 262, any proposal for entrenchment must be carried in the committee of the whole house by the majority required to amend or repeal it - in this case 75%. This means that entrenchment would require the support of both major parties.
  • This move may produce a racist backlash.

Electoral (Entrenchment of Maori Seats) Amendment Bill

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