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Chief Election Officer issues stern warning to temp election officials

Chief Election Officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono is issuing a stern warning to those who will be hired as election officials in the upcoming elections.

Soliai said he will not hesitate to fire an election official who is found out later to have been actively campaigning for any candidate.

To the potential temporary Election Office employees, he warns, “your service will be terminated immediately” if evidence is found that as an election official, you were or are involved “in any type or form of campaign activity.”

The November 6th general election is the most expensive election to date with a historically high number of candidates vying for the governor and lieutenant governor posts.

Soliai wants to make sure that the integrity of election process is not tainted by any politics. “This is a very important election for American Samoa and it’s the sworn duty of the chief election officer and the Election Office to ensure that the election process is independent of any outside influence - political or otherwise,” said Soliai in a phone interview last week.

Every election year, the Election Office hires temporary staff to work on election day at the polling stations or perform other assigned duties. Soliai said potential workers have been contacted about the upcoming training classes for the East, West, Central and Manu’a districts but he didn’t have immediately the actual number of temporary hirees.

During the training, everyone will be briefed about their duties and the important role they will play in running a smooth election day. They will also be warned that they are not to actively campaign for any candidate prior to being a part of the election staff and even after being hired as election staff.

“Anyone found to be actively campaigning prior or after being hired as a election official will be terminated,” said Soliai repeatedly. “In other words, if you’ve already being hired and we receive reports that you have been or are still actively campaigning for a certain candidate, you’re terminated. There is nothing else. Integrity of the election process must and will be protected at all cause.”

He says any potential election official who thinks he/she will get away with it should think twice. The election commissioner said he will not hesitate to fire an election official who wants to taint the “democratic process.”

Some of the individuals that the Election Office works with every election day are the village pulenu’u and the village police to keep the polling stations free of disruption.

Samoa News has learned that some village mayors and village police officers have been actively involved in campaigning. To them he says, “I caution you in advance that whoever that person is will not be allowed to work at the polling stations. It’s a well known fact that Election Office works with pulenu’u and village police from the Office of Samoan Affairs and if anyone is found to be actively campaigning I will make sure that these individuals will be in no way working or policing polling stations.”

Soliai acknowledged that he too has received similar reports and he will be drilling home the point of the importance of having a clean election during training with pulenu’u and village police later this month.