Story: Voting rights

Māori and general electoral systems, 1853–2009

As this chart shows, there were many differences between the voting systems used by Māori and Pākehā. Voting by a show of hands and by declaration, for example, was not used for elections in general seats after 1870 (when the secret ballot was introduced). In Māori seats it continued to be used for decades longer. (To cast a declaration vote an elector told the returning officer which candidate he supported. The returning officer noted this in the poll book, and the entry was then signed by the elector.)

The right to vote in a general electorate was at first open to Māori who met the property qualification. Few did, added to which Māori were actively discouraged from enrolling. An estimated 100 voted in the 1853 election. By 1867, when the Māori seats were set up, several thousand Māori were on the general electoral roll. In 1893 the right to vote or stand in a general electorate was closed to Māori (except to those with a European parent). In 1975 this was reversed, and all Māori could choose whether to vote in a general electorate or a Māori electorate.

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How to cite this page:

Neill Atkinson, 'Voting rights - Miners and Māori', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/interactive/36427/maori-and-general-electoral-systems-1853-2009 (accessed 20 June 2019)

Story by Neill Atkinson, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2015