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Bill allowing stranded overseas electors to vote is signed into law

 Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has signed into law the bill that allows eligible electors to vote overseas through absentee ballots for the Nov. 3rd general election.

In particular, the legislation amends current election laws allowing to vote American Samoa active electors stranded off island due to border closures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the territory, which continues to remain free of the deadly pandemic.

“During this unprecedented time, measures like this are necessary to ensure that our people are not disenfranchised by circumstance,” Lolo wrote in an Oct. 15th letter to Fono leaders about the approval of the bill.

“I am satisfied that this legislation allows those registered voters stranded off island the opportunity to participate in our democratic process during their unique absence,” the governor said and expressed appreciation to the Fono for their work on this “important legislation.”

The legislation became effective immediately upon passage by the Fono and approval of the governor, according to the bill’s language.

Preamble of the bill points out that the government has a responsibility to protect the voting rights of residents and shall not act to limit access to this inalienable right when alternatives exists.

Additionally, the bill grants the authority to voting officials and the government to provide ballots to those who have become qualified to vote absentee because government action prevents their ability to vote in person.

More than two-months ago, Chief Election Officer, Dr. Lealofi Uiagalelei implemented a new policy allowing American Samoa active voters stranded off-island to vote absentee, under the COVID-19 absentee ballot category.

This category adds on to the existing regular overseas absentee for military personnel, local students attending colleges off island, and ASG employees working in the US.

The deadline for overseas absentee voters in all categories to request an absentee ballot was at the close of business yesterday.  

The Election Office will provide later this week, the latest update on the overseas absentee vote — as to the number of absentee ballots requested, and how many have been mailed out.