GOVERNMENT – PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
Qualifications of Electors
Although the details of the qualifications of persons entitled to vote vary with the different bodies, certain broad principles may be discerned. As a minimum, persons who are subject to the direct financial exactions of the body concerned, are, by reason of that very fact, normally authorised to participate in elections of the officers for that body: thus persons liable for rates to a local authority are normally entitled to vote at its elections, as are financial members in respect of private associations, and shareholders in respect of companies. The elections for House of Representatives does tend towards an exception in some respects to this general principle, in that whilst it levies taxes upon all persons earning income over a certain figure regardless of residence, nationality, age, and criminal record, the franchise for its elections is more restricted in all four respects.
Although the criterion of direct financial liability does provide a minimum basis of qualification for electors, it is not exclusive, because some elective bodies do not levy financial exactions, and even if they do, frequently their powers are so wide as to affect vitally many persons otherwise than by taxation. It is therefore considered that such persons should be able to protect their interests by participating in the election of officers.
With some few bodies Parliament has felt that this effect has been achieved by means of appointments to the body concerned by the Government as representing the general public interest (e.g., New Zealand Dairy Board, New Zealand Meat Producers Board), or of appointments by institutions which are themselves elected by the persons concerned (e.g., Auckland Metropolitan Drainage Board, milk authorities). For most public bodies, however, this effect is attained by a widening of the franchise to include all adult persons directly affected by powers of the body concerned. Thus for the governing bodies of secondary schools and education boards, all parents of children attending the school(s) concerned are entitled to vote; for the House of Representatives, licensing committees, and most agencies of local government, adult residents within the area of jurisdiction are entitled to vote equally with ratepayers or taxpayers. It is in respect of river boards, water-supply boards, land-drainage boards, rabbit boards, and local railway boards, that a property or financial qualifications is exclusive nowadays in the plane of local government; as regards bodies of a private nature, however, it is normal to restrict the right to vote to those who have a direct financial interest in its activities, e.g., shareholders of companies, financial members of associations.
In respect of many bodies where the persons entitled to vote are numerous and likely to have varying interests, provision is made for them to be grouped accordingly to ensure an adequate representation of their interests. Thus the voters for the House of Representatives are divided into electoral districts on a geographical and racial basis; voters for licensing committees, some borough councils, county councils, education boards, the governing bodies of universities, and of some occupations, are also grouped on a geographical basis. Similarly, the voters for trade unions and companies are frequently grouped to ensure an adequate representation of varying occupational and shareholding interests.