“URGING THE FONO TO RETHINK OUR GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS”
During the past few weeks the Democratic Party of American Samoa has sent letters to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House asking that the Legislature of American Samoa take a closer look at the way we elect our Governor and Lt. Governor.
Copies of our letter were sent to several members of the Fono and the Governor and Lt. Governor. We believe that because this issue affects all the voters of American Samoa, it would be in the public interest for us to share our concerns with our entire community.
Aliimau JR Scanlan - Chairman
American Samoa Democratic Party
(Copy of the letter has been reprinted below in its entirety, with an editor’s note pertaining to the issue.)
July 9, 2013
Honorable Gaoteote P. Tofau
Legislature of American Samoa
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799
Honorable President Gaoteote,
The Democratic Party of American Samoa recently made public its platform, which included several measures we consider important to improve the way we conduct public policy on the local level. It is the feeling of our party that the Fono needs to initiate hearings to review and debate the way we conduct our local gubernatorial elections.
Today, candidates for the Office of Governor and Lt. Governor (Secretary of the Territory) must win fifty-one percent of the votes cast during our November 6th election in order to win the election outright. The top two vote getters then hold another election approximately two to three weeks later. The candidate who wins that election is then declared the winner.
The problem with this system is that it disenfranchises the thousands of absentee voters who are not given enough time to vote again and send their ballots in, to meet the run-off election deadline. This includes thousands of students and those in the military, who, under the current system, are not given an opportunity to participate in the election of the highest officials of their own government.
We feel that the only way to conduct an election where every vote is counted, is to have all of the candidates running for the office of Governor and Lt. Governor, participate in a primary election several months before the November 6th General Election. Only the names of the final two winners of the primaries would be placed on the final ballot. We then hold a winner take all election where the candidate who wins the majority of votes in that election is declared the victor, whether they win fifty one percent of the votes or not.
This way, our students and soldiers are given the time they need to participate in these elections, which have an important bearing on their future and the future of their families living in American Samoa.
To conclude, the Fono needs to hold hearings, debate and hopefully pass a bill, which calls for this new method of gubernatorial election. Because this is a constitutional issue, the measure, if passed, is then placed on the next election ballot, ultimately, leaving this important decision to the voters.
Aliimau H Scanlan Jr., Chairman
Honorable Lolo Matalasi Moliga, Governor of American Samoa
Honorable Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Lt. Governor of American Samoa
Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, Member of Congress
[Editor’s note: The primary election issue raised by the Democratic Party is not new. The issue has been raised over the years by Congressman Faleomavaega Eni who cited the same reasons, such as disenfranchisement of overseas absentee voters during a run-off election.
There were at least four separate bills over the years introduced in the Fono calling for primary elections, but none ever made it out of committee and therefore were automatically defeated. ra]