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Local absentee votes cast for all except gov's race

You can’t vote from off island, if you don’t qualify as an overseas voter
fili@samoanews.com

Chief Election Officer Soliai T. Fuimaono reminds all eligible voters who have not yet registered that the deadline is looming early next month while the local absentee voting is ongoing for residents who will be off island on election day Nov. 6.

LOCAL ABSENTEE VOTING

Soliai has offered his sincere apologies to qualified absentee voters who are unable to cast ballots in the gubernatorial race  for the election of the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, because this matter is currently before the Appellate Division of the High Court.

Soliai says local absentee voting for electors who reside on island but will be absent on election day, Nov. 6 is proceeding well, but the only issued faced with the Election Office staff are some absentee voters complaining about not being able to cast their ballot for the gubernatorial race.

“I offer my sincerely apologies to our absentee voters on this matter, but candidates for the gubernatorial race cannot be certified and ballots cannot be printed until the matter before the court is concluded,” Soliai said.

Local absentee voting is entering into its second week and the Election Office will only accept local absentee voting from those who reside permanently in the territory but will be traveling off island on military orders, for medical check ups, conferences or meetings and won’t be on island on election day, Nov. 6.

Henry Kappel, the legal counsel to the Election Office told the court last Friday afternoon that some 25 absentee ballots have been cast for other races and the referendum except the gubernatorial race because ballots cannot be printed until candidates are certified.

One of the issues that voters, who have already cast their absentee ballots, have raised with the Election Office, is if they are able to vote for the gubernatorial race, while off island.

Soliai said the territory’s election laws are clear as to who are considered overseas voters, and these are individuals serving in the military, American Samoa students attending school of higher education and ASG employees working in the United States.

More information on eligibility to vote overseas absentee and other election information is on: www.americansamoaelectionoffice.org

VOTER REGISTRATION

“This is a very important election year for American Samoa and we continue to alert, urge, and remind all eligible voters, not yet registered to do so, no later than 4 p.m. on Oct. 9th,” Soliai said in a brief phone interview last Friday morning with less than a month left to register.

He also reminds those voters whose names were purged last year for failure to vote in two consecutive elections to also come in to re-register. Letters were sent out several months ago to electors, whose names were purged to re-register.

“I also humbly request that all new and re-registered voters please dress appropriately because your photo that will be taken for the voter ID, which is required to be presented to your polling station,” said Soliai, who added that the voter ID — with photo — is a legal form of government ID, which are all digitized.

Another issue that Soliai emphasized to the public is in regard to those voters who want to change their voting district. He says this is always a problem every election year and electors must provide the necessary proof of residency in the new voting district.

Soliai suggested the person wanting to transfer their voting district contact the Election Office in advance to ensure that all documents are on hand when the person arrives at the Election Office to submit the transfer request.

“As I pointed out in the past and recently, the Election Office is following election regulations. We’re not just coming up with these regulations for voters to follow,” said Soliai. “These laws and regulations governing elections have been on the books for many years and every election year, the Election Office is always faced with these types of issues or complaints of why certain documents are needed.”

REFERENDUM BALLOT

Soliai confirmed that another issued being raised with the Election Office is an explanation about the referendum in this year’s election that seeks to give the Fono the authority to over ride a veto by the governor instead of the U.S. Secretary of Interior.

“While I understand public concerns that they don’t have much information on this referendum, the Election Office has no authority to educate the community on this matter,” said Soliai.

“The Election Office cannot participate in any type of educational process when it comes to issues on the ballot. We have produced outreach and education programs on the importance of registering to vote and to vote on election day in our democratic society and that’s all we can do under our law. That is all we can do,” he said and noted that any education program or public awareness of the referendum has to come from the Fono.

It's unclear as to when the Fono will launch their public awareness program, although it has been discussed in the House.

Another issue that may come to fore is the governor’s proposal to place a referendum on this November’s ballot to ask voters if they want senators to be elected or not. On his radio program on Saturday, he said he will be sending such a proposal bill to the Fono this week. (Read front page story)



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