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Voter Turnout in Maori Electorates of Huge Concern

Voter Turnout in the Maori Electorate Seats of Huge Concern
Hon Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leaders 12 November 2008

Preliminary electorate results indicating a 55% voter turnout in the Maori seats should concern every New Zealander says the Maori Party.

“Voter turnout rates indicate the confidence citizens have with the political process and political institutions,” said Dr Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party. “There are clearly challenges ahead for Parliament, to increase the confidence of Maori that participation in the democratic process is worthwhile.”

“While we realise there may be some changes to the overall numbers once the special votes are in on 22 November, the low turnout in the Maori electorates on Saturday should worry us all,” said Dr Sharples.

“In 2005, the turnout across the seven Maori electorates varied from 62.05% (Tamaki Makaurau) to 69.79% (Tai Tokerau)” said Dr Sharples. “This year, there was a significant drop right across the range, with the lowest turnout being in Tamaki Makaurau (50.27%) and even the highest in Waiariki (56.14%) was still well below the national average turnout of 78%.”

“The fact that only half of Maori voters exercise the right to vote is an indication that something is terribly wrong with our democracy,” said Mrs Turia. “As a nation, we must address the huge issues around Maori electoral participation.”

“Our party, worked solidly to spread the word about enrolling and voting, to ‘rock the vote’ through door-knocking, phone-calling, viral texting, flag-flying, pamphlet-drops, bebo, you-tube and website advertising,” said Mrs Turia.

“We tried our best to encourage voting to become a whanau habit, to build interest in politics, and to arrest the downwards trend,” said Mrs Turia.

“And yet, when we came face to face with some of the poverty-stricken communities across our electorate, we saw how seriously alienated and disenfranchised many whanau have become. It is an enormous task to bring hope to communities, that casting a vote will make a difference in their lives.”

“We are also aware that we are only five out of 122 Members of Parliament. We will certainly be encouraging our 117 colleagues to consider what they can do to bring confidence to tangata whenua that politics is of value to them”.

“We are keen to encourage this debate across all parties, and have already raised our concerns with the Prime Minister Elect,” said Mrs Turia. “We believe the new inclusive approach that Mr Key is speaking of, must address the low turnout of Maori voters, as a matter of national concern”.


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