Just to prove they are not all members of the borg, or vast left-wing conspiracy, two Public Address bloggers have been debating the Maori seats.
Keith Ng advocated they are a bad thing, with his main points being:
* overhang meant voters who had enough votes for four MPs ended up electing six
* Maori seats encouraged distortionary tactical voting
* Maori electorates are not really electorates, and the interests that these MPs represent are not geographical, but ethnic. They are list seats by another name, a kind of proto-proportional representation
* Maori are 15% of voters and do not need minority protection as this can be a significant voting bloc. However they do not vote as a bloc, so why have seats on the basis they do.
* Finally that the Maori seats assume that Maori have more politically in common with other Maori than with any Pakeha – that a rich, conservative, provincial Maori man has more in common with a poor, anarchist, urban Maori woman than he has with a rich, conservative, provincial Pakaha man and hence assumes that, fundamentally, our political interests stem from race.
I thought the most interesting observation from Keith is that the seats are not really geographic seats but in effect a different form of list seat.
Then Che Tibby (he’s a guy by the way!) responds to Keith. He however makes a number of mistakes in his points.
Firstly he says the South Island is an gerrymander as it always get 16 seats. This is not a gerrymander as it does not give South Islanders more MPs per capita, it merely uses the SI population as a starting point to decide the total no of MPs.
Then he says that the electoral population used to determine seat sizes is based on the number of people registered on the roll. This is incorrect. It is based on the total population, including children under 18. This is very significant.
Thirdly he says as the population of the North Island grows, the number of Electorate seats, both Māori and General, increases. Again not quite correct. It is not if the NI population grows, it is whether it grows faster than the SI population.
Che says Māori electorates have essentially the same number of voters as general seats. No they do not. Because it is based on total population, they have far far less voters, because Maori have a much higher proportion of under 18 year olds. I think it is a real issue that seats are based on the total population, not the adult population. So the fewer number of voters per Maori seat is not just based on low turnout, but on the way the electoral populations is defined.
Bizarrely Che argues the seats are not a racial gerrymander because Keith Ng could enrol in them if he wanted to. Well yes he could, and one can enrol a dog as a voter also, but that doesn’t mean that by law he is not meant to be enrolled in a Maori seats as he doesn’t have a Maori great great great grandparent. They are by law reserved to New Zealanders who have some Maori ancestry.
Keith Ng has responded. He quotes Graeme Edgeler as saying Maori are 18% not 15% of the population. Well Stats NZ estimates as at 31 December 2004 Maori population was 622,400 out of 4,062,500 which is 15.3% so not sure where 18% comes from. However amongst adults 18 and older there are only 360,300 Maori out of 2,995,640 adult NZers which is 12.0%.
So worth noting there are 21/122 MPs who are Maori, or 17.2% of Parliament, and this is off a voting base of only 12.0%. Now personally I have absolutely no issues with Maori being over-represented in Parliament, as I don’t believe in quotas. I’m far more worried about over-representation from professional unionists! But it does underscore the point that any notion of needing the Maori seats because Maori are under-represented is not borne out by the facts.
Keith responds to claims that his problem is with overhang, not with the Maori seats. He points out that having voluntary opt-in seats – such as the Maori seats – *encourages* overhangs and almost amounts to DIY-gerrymandering. Follow the links to see his reasoning, as it is too eloquent to summarise here 🙂
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