Although the secret ballot was introduced in European seats in 1870, it was not considered suitable for Māori elections. Māori 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.
There were also no electoral rolls for the Māori seats.
Electoral officials had always argued that it would be too difficult to register Māori voters (supposedly because of difficulties with language, literacy and proof of identity). Despite frequent allegations of electoral irregularities in the Māori seats, rolls were not introduced until 1948-9.
In the 1950s and 1960s the National government occasionally talked of abolishing the Māori seats. Some politicians described special representation as a form of 'apartheid', like in South Africa. But as most Māori continued to support their existence, no serious attempts were made to eliminate the seats.
Did you know?
From 1896 up until 1967 Māori (except 'half-castes') were not allowed to stand as candidates in European seats. 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 Māori were successful in 'general' electorates (as 'European' seats were now known).