Proposed Senate bills address campaign activities and trespassing
Campaign activities will be prohibited from being conducted at least 600 feet from a polling station on election day, under a Senate bill introduced yesterday and sponsored by Sens. Magalei Logovi’i, Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga, and Paepae I. Faiai.
The same three senators are sponsoring another bill, also introduced yesterday, that empowers the government to charge those who trespass on public and private school grounds after hours.
“In an effort to protect the territory’s compelling interest in ensuring fair elections, it is necessary to amend the election law to clarify the specific area in which campaigning activities are prohibited on Election Day,” says the bill's sponsors.
The bill provides notice to the public of activities that are prohibited within a certain area of the polling stations.
Provisions of current election law states that: no person - other than the district officials, candidates or one representative appointed by each candidate, and the qualified elector going to and from the polling station to cast a vote - may be permitted within the poling place and “that area” surrounding the polling place, reasonably calculated to preserve a neutral, peaceful and quiet atmosphere for the balloting process.
The Senate bill seeks to clarify “that area” as “200 yards or 600 feet”.
Due to the urgency and need to provide for the upcoming 2018 general election, the bill shall become effective upon passage by the Fono and approval of the governor, according to the language of the measure.
The Senate bill comes following the 2016 election when there were public complaints of alleged campaign activities that were close to the polling stations.
Several complaints claimed that in some villages, there were tents belonging to candidates located less than 100 yards from the polling stations.
This proposed measure gives the government the authority to charge a person who is present, without prior permission, on private or public school grounds from 10p.m. to 5a.m.
For being on school grounds during these hours, without permission, the person commits the crime of trespassing, and is charged with a class A misdemeanor, according to the language of the bill.
Earlier this year, there were public concerns raised about the issue, including some from lawmakers regarding people being seen on school grounds after hours. Education Department officials have called on village leaders and matai to help in keeping an eye on public school grounds, since the schools are located in villages.