In 2005, the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, was introduced, which would have replaced secret ballot elections as the method for determining whether or not employees want union representation with “card check.” This means employees would not vote secretly for or against unionization but would instead be required to sign union authorization cards in front of coworkers and union organizers, exposing them to intimidation and harassment if they do not support unionization. Secret ballot elections have been a key right of workers and an integral part of labor relations since the earliest days of the NLRA. The involvement of the indigenous MA?ori people in New Zealand's electoral system is one of the most remarkable stories of New Zealand's political history. European colonists generally welcomed this state of affairs, because they did not think MA?ori were yet 'civilised' enough to exercise such an important responsibility. In any case, in the 1850s and 1860s few MA?ori were interested in the 'Pakeha Parliament' - they preferred to deal directly with the Governor (and the Queen) or, like the Kingitanga movement, create their own political structures. During the wars of the early 1860s, however, some European politicians argued that it was vital to assimilate MA?ori into the political mainstream to ensure lasting peace between the two races. In 1853 about 100 MA?ori (mostly tribal leaders) were enrolled to vote - out of a total electorate of 5,849. After much debate, in 1867 Parliament agreed to set up four electorates specifically for MA?ori. To avoid difficulties with property ownership, all MA?ori men over 21 were eligible to vote (and stand for Parliament). The small number of MA?ori who owned individual freehold land were still allowed to vote in the European electorates. On the other hand, four seats was a fairly modest concession: on a per capita basis at that time, MA?ori deserved 14 to 16 members (Europeans then had 72). However, it soon became clear that this process - the 'individualisation' of MA?ori land ownership - would take much longer. By that time some of the MA?ori members of Parliament were pressing for an increase in the number of seats, not only to better represent their population but also to reduce the size of their huge electorates. Very few MA?ori took part in the first elections, held in 1868, but interest began to grow in the 1870s and 1880s. Law changes in 1893 and 1896 completed the almost total separation of the MA?ori and European electoral systems.
Although the secret ballot was introduced in European seats in 1870, it was not considered suitable for MA?ori elections. Electoral officials had always argued that it would be too difficult to register MA?ori voters (supposedly because of difficulties with language, literacy and proof of identity).
In the 1950s and 1960s the National government occasionally talked of abolishing the MA?ori seats.


From 1896 up until 1967 MA?ori (except 'half-castes') were not allowed to stand as candidates in European seats. In 1975 the Labour government introduced a 'MA?ori electoral option', to be held alongside (or following) each census. This allowed electors of MA?ori descent to choose whether they enrolled in general or MA?ori seats. In 1890 the government decided to set up a polling station at Maungapohatu, deep in the Urewera ranges, an area largely inaccessible to Europeans.
Those that remained told him that he would 'get no votes except those of the trees standing round', but he eventually persuaded some men to cast votes. The Royal Commission on the Electoral System in 1985-6 gave considerable thought to the future of the MA?ori seats.
It concluded that the seats had not helped MA?ori and that they would achieve better representation through a proportional party-list system. As the prospect of electoral reform became more real in 1992-3, some MA?ori began to rally to the defence of the seats. Before the first MMP election in 1996 the number of MA?ori seats was increased, for the first time in their 129-year history, to five.
The MA?ori electoral system 'stumbled into being' in the 1860s as a solution to a supposedly temporary 'problem'.
In August 2011, the Board issued its decision in Lamons Gasket, in which the NLRB abolished the employee’s right to demand an election within 45 days of their employer agreeing to recognize a union based solely on card check.
But in reality very few MA?ori could qualify under the property requirement because they possessed their lands communally (as iwi, hapu or whanau groups) and not under individual freehold or leasehold title like Europeans. They were also worried that if large numbers of MA?ori were enrolled, they could 'swamp' the votes of settlers in many North Island electorates. This solution was similar to the 'special representation' introduced for gold miners earlier that decade. The experiment was extended in 1872 and in 1876 the MA?ori seats were established on a permanent basis.
The government tried to bring all tribes into the system by establishing polling booths in areas like the King Country and Urewera.
From then until 1975 only so-called 'half-castes' were allowed to choose which seats they wished to vote in.
As a result of the 1867 legislation, MA?ori men achieved universal suffrage 12 years before European men.


MA?ori continued to vote under the old verbal system - in which electors told the polling official who they wanted to vote for - until the 1938 election. Despite frequent allegations of electoral irregularities in the MA?ori seats, rolls were not introduced until 1948-9. Some politicians described special representation as a form of 'apartheid', like in South Africa. The law was changed that year, but it was not until 1975, when National's Ben Couch (for Wairarapa) and Rex Austin (for Awarua) were elected, that MA?ori were successful in 'general' electorates (as 'European' seats were now known). In 1976, however, the newly elected National government decided that the number of MA?ori seats was to remain fixed at four - whatever the outcome of the subsequent options. Despite getting lost and injuring his foot, Large declared his 14-day round trip had achieved its aim of 'maintaining friendly relations' with 'this isolated tribe'. The Commission therefore recommended that if the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system was adopted, the MA?ori seats should be abolished.
Eventually, following strong representations from MA?ori organisations, the seats were retained under the new MMP system. Without this right, employees could be barred from challenging a union recognized through card check for up to a year, and far longer if the employer and union sign a contract. In 1859 the British Crown Law office confirmed that MA?ori could not vote unless they had individual title granted by the Crown.
Most politicians expected that in due course MA?ori would own or rent land as individuals and the seats could be done away with. But as most MA?ori continued to support their existence, no serious attempts were made to eliminate the seats. Their number was allowed to increase or decrease according to the results of the regular MA?ori electoral option. Nevertheless, the MA?ori seats have survived to become one of the most distinctive features of New Zealand's electoral system.



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