Chief Election Officer responds to candidate Faoa’s allegations

Concludes with his hope the Election season will continue to remain fair and successful
fili@samoanews.com

Chief election officer Uiagalelei Dr. Lealofi Uiagalelei has responded to the “urgent matters” cited in a Sept. 1 letter from candidate for governor, Faoa Aitofele Sunia. The letter alleged voter ID fraud, petition fraud and a possible conflict of interest by Uiagalelei in his position as chief election officer.

VOTER ID

Regarding the allegation that an election officer staffer distributed voter identification cards out of election procedures, Uiagalelei wrote in his Sept. 13 reply that this issue would be “thoroughly investigated and acted upon accordingly.”

In addition, in response to the more general election issue related to the distribution of voter IDs, Uiagalelei says office staff “has been strongly reminded regarding election procedures on the distribution of voter IDs and any staff found deliberately circumventing such procedures will be dealt with accordingly.”

He wrote, “This important area of our work has been an on-going and continuous training effort to fully prepare our office for the upcoming 2016 general election.”

COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES

The concern that “directors and supervisors of departments have collected, inside government offices, the signatures of the petition of... [your] opponents”, Uiagalelei said this matter shall be referred to the Attorney General’s Office “for appropriate action.”

POSSIBLE CONFLICT

On Faoa’s concern regarding Uiagalelei’s “personal relationship with your political opponents and the current administration,” the chief election officer tells Faoa, “please rest assured that I take my responsibility to the Election Office and the voters of American Samoa very seriously.”

“I think of myself as a professional teacher on government and will do everything possible to safeguard its political institutions and our democratic way of life,” Uiagalelei wrote to Faoa.

In his letter, Faoa said that he has been told that the Uiagalelei provided refreshments “at a campaign meeting of my opponents.”  Uiagalelei responded, “It is unfortunate that the source of this information was not properly vetted since the accusation is not true and one which I categorically deny.”

“I have not been and will not be involved in any political campaign for the upcoming election,” Uiagalelei said. “As for the last month’s cabinet meeting [held at the Election Office], as an educator by professional, my intention had been purely educational. However, in hindsight, I understand how the same may have been misconstrued and am sorry if this was the case.”

(The cabinet meeting at the Election Office involved the explanation and presentation by Uiagalelei and his staff to cabinet directors on the election process and how the election office is preparing for the Nov. 8th general election.)

Faoa had mentioned in his letter that he and Uiagalelei “have known each other since grade school and I have high regard for your achievements and accomplishments.”

Uiagalelei responded that he remembers “the good old days of our youth and of course, I respect and cherish our present relationship for we have worked together in previous administrations. In fact, I was fortunate enough to work under your leadership and guidance during the last two previous administrations.”

Uiagalelei informed Faoa to “rest assured... that irrespective of any personal relationship I might have with any candidate, I will not allow any such relationship to impede my responsibility to maintain an impartial and fair election process.”

In conclusion, Uiagalelei thanked Faoa for “bringing these matters to light and it is our hope that the Election season will continue to remain a fair and successful one.”

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