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Soliai urges all registered voters to participate in runoff

fili@samoanews.com

Chief Election Officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono is pleading with all registered voters in American Samoa to go to the polls tomorrow, when electors will make the final decision to elect a new governor and lieutenant governor to lead the the territory over the next four years.

Although the 2012 voter rolls have close to 18,000 registered voters, official results of the Nov. 6 general election show that just over 13,000 ballots were counted in the gubernatorial race. (See last Friday’s edition, with the election spreadsheet for full breakdown of gubernatorial race results.)

The top two gubernatorial teams to face off in tomorrow’s run off election are Lolo Matalasi Moliga, running with Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga, and Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia running with Taufete’e John Faumuina.

Soliai said in a telephone interview over the weekend that the Election Office “is so very hopeful” for a much bigger turnout of voters for the run off race, and reiterated to all registered voters that this is a very important election, in which electors will decide the top two individuals to lead the government and American Samoa in the next four years.

He said a successful government is when all voices are heard in the election of its leaders by casting ballots at the polls. “And this is very important in our democratic form of government where voters have a voice in deciding leaders,” he said, and again urged voters to go to the polls, which will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow.

Because there is just one race in the run off, Soliai expects unofficial final results to be out by 9 p.m. tomorrow and results from each polling station will be aired on KVZK-TV.  Soliai also expects several polling stations — especially those in the outlying villages, and the Manu’a islands — to close early, once all registered voters have cast their ballots.

BALLOTS

Depending on the weather, Soliai is hoping that the ASG plane Segaula carrying the ballot box accompanied by election officials will depart after 7 a.m. today for the Manu’a island group, with the first task to cast local absentee ballots of electors who are homebound or ill and unable to go to the polls tomorrow.

He said it will be up to the plane’s pilot on whether to head to Ta’u or Ofu island first — it all depends on the weather.

Also sometime this morning, ballots accompanied by election officials will head via boat for Aunu’u island and the first task there, as well, will be to cast ballots for those who are ill or homebound. Soliai said the morning sea is usually calm for a better ocean passage to Aunu’u.

Election officials for the Manu’a Island group and the Aunu’u polling station are expected to return back to Tutuila sometime tomorrow afternoon, long before the polling stations on Tutuila are closed.

For Tutuila,  Soliai said the plan at this point is similar to that during the general election, with election officials getting a last minute briefing, followed by a prayer, before they start leaving around 4 a.m. for villages under escort from the Department of Public Safety.

“Everyone on Tutuila should be at the polling stations before 6 a.m. tomorrow,” said Soliai, who added that casting of local absentee ballots — for those who are ill or homebound — will be completed at the close of business today, which is also the final day for absentee voters heading off-island to cast their vote.

Local election law states in part that an elector is allowed to remain in the voting booth for 5 minutes to cast his/her ballot. Once the elector has completed voting and emerges from the booth, that person shall not be permitted to reenter.

OTHER ELECTION ISSUES

Soliai is calling on the assistance of village leaders, pulenu’u and campaign officials of the gubernatorial teams to abide with local laws in making sure that the right of way for voters heading to the polling stations are not blocked.

“There shall be no interference from anyone when an elector heads to the poll,” said Soliai.

He also said that any of the candidates food booths should be 150 feet away from the polls, and no loud music or any active campaigning is allowed closer to the polling stations. He said village mayors have already been briefed on this issue.

Soliai also said that candidates have  submitted their lists of poll watchers. However, he reminds candidates that only the names of these individuals on the list are allowed inside the polling stations. He said the list can be amended to add additional poll watchers prior to tomorrow’s election.

ALCOHOL SALE  BAN AND POLICE

The sale or dispensing of alcoholic beverages is banned during the time polls are open, according to local law. Police are also expected to enforce this law in cooperation with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

At the same time, police will continue their patrol and enforcement up to the day after the run off election.



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