NZ a world leader in vot­ing rights

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - CAB COL­UMN:

Can­di­date meet­ings, po­lit­i­cal de­bates, party man­i­festos, let­ter­box fly­ers, road­side hoard­ings, can­di­date scan­dals, ed­i­to­rial opin­ion pieces, let­ters to the edi­tor, TV ad­ver­tise­ments, Face­book, Twit­ter and cha­t­rooms all re­mind us there’s a Gen­eral Elec­tion in Septem­ber. Since Ki­wis’ first elec­tion of 37 MPs in 1853, New Zealand has been a world-leader in vot­ing rights.

Af­ter the Treaty of Wai­tangi was signed and NZ was es­tab­lished as a Bri­tish sovereignty in the1840s, Ki­wis were ruled by a Gover­nor ap­pointed by the Bri­tish Crown.

Set­tlers soon wanted to con­trol their own af­fairs by elect­ing their own rep­re­sen­ta­tives, so de­manded self-gov­ern­ment. Fol­low­ing Bri­tish law, they de­cided only male Bri­tish sub­jects aged 21 or more, who owned prop­erty, could vote.

At the time, labour­ers in NZ could earn 40-60 pounds per year, en­abling many who pre­vi­ously had no chance of ow­ing prop­erty, to fit into the five or ten pound ‘house­holder’ qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

By 1860 the first amend­ment was be­ing made. It ex­tended vot­ing rights to males over the age of 21 who had a miner’s li­cence. Gold min­ers had pre­vi­ously been ex­cluded be­cause the min­ers lived in tents, shacks or board­ing houses, which weren’t con­sid­ered prop­erty. Over 20,000 gold min­ers be­came en­ti­tled to vote by 1869/70, com­pared with a total of 41,500 regis­tered elec­tors.

Since Maori tra­di­tion­ally owned land com­mu­nally, they couldn’t ful­fil the prop­erty own­er­ship re­quire­ment for vot­ing rights. An­other law change in 1867 gave all Maori men the right to vote for can­di­dates vy­ing for the four newly es­tab­lished Maori seats. All Euro­pean men gained vot­ing rights in 1879.

New Zealand was the first coun­try in the world to give votes to women in 1893. The suf­fragettes pro­mot­ing votes for women only had ten weeks to get New Zealand women to reg­is­ter be­fore polling day.

In WWI and WWII, spe­cial laws were passed en­abling all New Zealand military per­son­nel to vote, re­gard­less of age. At the time of the Viet­nam War, young peo­ple in sev­eral coun­tries ar­gued that if 18-year-olds were ma­ture enough to fight, surely they were ma­ture enough to have a say in elect­ing their gov­ern­ment. In NZ, the vot­ing ages were re­duced in two stages - to 20 in 1969, and to 18 1974. By 1975, per­ma­nent res­i­dents could vote, but only NZ cit­i­zens could be­come MPs.

Our cur­rent sys­tem of MMP (cast­ing two votes - one for a can­di­date, the other for a party) was the re­sult of a ref­er­en­dum held in 1993, and re­viewed in 2012.

The 2014 gen­eral elec­tion saw over 3 mil­lion Ki­wis, or 78 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, ex­er­cise their demo­cratic right to vote.

If you want to know how to change to, or from, the Maori roll, what to do if you’ll be away from home or over­seas on polling day, how to stop your de­tails be­ing pub­lished on the pub­lic elec­toral roll, or anything else to do with vot­ing, con­tact the CAB Nelson Tas­man. We’re here to help.

CAB Nelson Tas­man ph 03 54 82117 9 Paru Paru Rd. www.cab.org.co.nz

SCOTT HAMMOND/ STUFF

New Zealan­ders are gear­ing up to go to the polls next month.

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