Hone’s antics have highlighted the way his people are given more choices than the rest of us

But one stands to the left and one to the right.

Alf is delighted to see Maori are blessed with so much choice.

Their options have been illustrated by Hone Harawira’s decision to set up the Mana Party. This means Maori can vote for a Maori Party candidate in the Maori electorates, if they want to support an outfit that unabashedly pitches its policies to promote Maori interests, or they can vote for the Mana Party, which unabashedly pitches its policies to promote Maori interests.

It looks like Tweedledum and Tweedldee, but if you look real hard one of them stands to the left and the other to the right.

Then comes a choice that is denied the rest of us.

Maori can sign up on the general roll or the Maori roll.

If Hone gets around to forcing a by-election in his Tai Tokerau electorate, it will be a Maori-only affair, unlike – let’s say – the recent Mana by-election. In Mana, all voters on the general roll could vote for candidates from a range of ethnic backgrounds championing a range of party philosophies and policies. The line-up included the admirable Hekia Parata.

Mind you, if Hone is as bright as he is infuriatingly irritating, he will take note that maybe he won’t get too many brownie points for forcing a costly by-election on his people – and the costs of it on all of us.

A new Horizon survey shows almost half those polled believe the $500,000 Te Tai Tokerau by-election caused after Harawira quit the Maori Party is a waste of money.

Maori are split by the formation of the party, with 31.2% for it, 30.7% against, and 38.2% neutral.

Only 18.9% think Harawira has done the right thing by forcing a by-election, while 31.8% think he should have waited until the November 26 general election.

They don’t seem to be too chuffed about the National Party, much to Alf’s chagrin.

He says this because –

A huge number of Maori voters – almost 70% – believe the Maori Party and Labour should both stand candidates at any by-election in Te Tai Tokerau.

But not National? What’s going on?

Stuff tells us that Horizon Research polled 517 Maori voters nationally last week.

Despite the apparent concerns over the formation of Harawira’s Mana Party,

… he and Labour look set to be the big winners in the Maori seats come election time, while Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples’ Maori Party stands to be the loser.

In the poll, more than 15% said they would give their party vote to the Mana Party, and 12.6% their electorate votes. But of those who voted for the Maori Party in Maori seats in 2008, only 37.7% remain loyal in electorate voting, and only 33% in party voting.

That would see Labour win 21.2% of votes cast by Maori in all Maori and general electorates, compared with 20.7% for the Maori Party. However, there was still a large undecided group at 28.1%.

There’s more in the Stuff report about the Mana Party’s impact on Maori Party membership.

But who is given the choice of lining up to case a vote for – or against – Hone?

Only a few of us.

The Government outfit charged with running elections says –

As a New Zealand Māori, or a descendant of a New Zealand Māori, you have the choice of enrolling to vote at parliamentary elections on a Māori roll or a General roll.

Why is my choice important?

Your choice is important as it determines the type of electorate member of parliament who represents you and for which you get to vote. It also helps decide, at the time of a Māori Electoral Option exercise, the number of Māori electorates there will be in parliament.

The more Māori enrolled on the Māori roll can mean more Māori electorates. Conversely, the more Māori enrolled on the general roll can mean fewer Māori electorates.

This, of course, is a race-based gerrymander.

When a Maori seat is added, under our MMP system, a general seat is scrapped.

Maori enrolling for the first time can choose which type of roll to go on by signing the appropriate panel on the enrolment form.

But there’s a small catch: once they have made their choice they cannot change until the next Māori Electoral Option exercise.

That exercise happens every five years.

Mind you, the rest of us can only make changes when we move to live in another electorate.

The Māori Electoral Option exercise form is sent only to everyone on the electoral rolls who have said they are of New Zealand Māori descent.

This form is used to choose whether you want to be on the Māori roll or the General roll.

Maori are advised that taking part in the Option means they have a direct say about which electoral roll they want to vote on – the Māori roll or the general roll.

And that they will be helping to set the number of Māori and general electorates.

Fair to say, we might all be able to take part in the Māori Electoral Option exercise, because nobody seems to be interested in seeking your birth certificate or evidence of your whakapapa.

If you say you are a New Zealand Māori or a descendant of a New Zealand Māori when you first enrol, a Māori Electoral Option form will be sent to you in the mail. This form allows you to change the type of roll you are on (either from Māori to General or General to Māori).

Your choice of roll – by the way – decides whether you will vote in a Māori electorate or a general electorate for your electorate vote at a general election or by-election, but –

Your choice does not affect your party vote, because all New Zealanders choose between the same parties for their party vote, whether they are on the Māori roll or the general roll.

Even so, it’s more choice than the rest of us are given.

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