Election candidates and their committees take note. By 6pm this Thursday, all election advertising, billboards – or anything to do with election campaigns – should be removed.
Failure to do so could result in charges against a candidate.
That’s the warning from the Acting Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, as the country gears up for the General Elections on Friday.
He added that it is not the responsibility of the Office of the Electoral Commission to remove the billboards.
During an interview with the Samoa Observer yesterday, Faimalo also confirmed that the majority of polling booths would be set up at pastors’ houses for the convenience of the voters.
He said the majority of Samoans attend church on Sundays despite the distance and Friday should be no exception for voters in terms of finding their way there to cast their votes.
“There is that mindset from our people that they should be picked up by candidates to go to the booth to vote,” said Faimalo.
He said the law does not allow this.
He emphasised the need for voters to take responsibility in terms of casting their votes.
“That is the reason why we have most booths at pastors houses,” he said. “Not only that it’s a neutral space, everyone goes to church on Sundays and therefore they are easily accessible.”
Faimalo explained that in the past elections, most of the Court petitions are based on what happens during the day of the elections, where candidates and their committees influence voters.
“We are trying to eliminate and minimise that,” said Faimalo.
“We are trying to have a system that is not only fair but clean.
“Last year, we had candidates complaining about the election being expensive because they have to pick up voters.
“But now that more booths have been set up in the villages, they are still complaining saying they need to pick up voters. That is the mindset that we are trying to change with more booths in villages. We want to make it easy for people to access a place where they can cast their votes.”
The Acting Electoral Commissioner also emphasised the need for people to exercise their rights.
“The General Elections only come around once every five years to allow you to have your say on who should be the leaders of the country,” he said.
“Some people may not fully appreciate the importance of this but we want to remind to make their voices heard by voting.
“It is the voters obligation to cast their votes and not the candidates obligation to pick them up.”
There were 290 polling booths in the 2011 General Elections.
This time, the number has increased to more than 350.
Faimalo also made it clear that although four M.Ps have already secured their spots, the booths will remain in the constituencies for the convenience of others.