By the 2021 General Election it will be mandatory for every registered voter to vote.
The move by the Election Commission is strongly supported by the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi who also took the opportunity to express his frustrations over steps that had already been taken to ensure universal voting.
Last week the Election Commission held a four-day forum where discussions were focused on issues pertaining to the past election, the current challenges and proposed changes.
The Prime Minister during his weekly conference with the media pointed to current laws which allow for compulsory registration but not compulsory voting.
“This allows for the qualified voters to register but by election time they don’t show up to vote. So to correct this practice, it should be compulsory to register as a voter and it should also be compulsory to vote. If people don't vote, we take them to the law. This is one way for people to exercise their right to vote,” said Tuilaepa.
Another challenge he spoke about was the dishonesty of the candidates.
“In 1982 one of the candidates was charged and lost his seat after it was uncovered the list of voters had names of dead people who were found to have been voting in that general election.
“We then decided to require voters identification cards (ID’s) with photos.
“We were adamant this was going to change everything for the better, but we were wrong.
“The voters still did not show up to vote,” said Tuilaepa.
“Then the candidates started to pick up the constituents and take them to register and also give them money.”
He referred to a case, where if there are four candidates in the county, one voter would have four voters registration IDs.
“We never anticipated this would happen with the identification system. Even with the candidates, they were not helping at all.
“We fix one problem, yet another problem arises,” said Tuilaepa.
Another one of the changes the Election Office is looking at is Electoral boundaries.
Tuilaepa said there is a need to implement new boundaries.
“The majority of people leave their villages and move into the town areas due to employment and other obligations. And government developments are usually focused on where the population is high, that is why Electoral boundaries are extremely important.”
He also pointed to voting constituencies from villages with 2,000+ voters and only one Member of Parliament, yet there are two MP’s for a population less than this.
“This concern has been raised over the years and the government cannot move on and not consider the impact of the reality behind the issues raised.”
He said the challenges regarding the Electoral boundaries is Samoa’s chiefly system and this does not happen in other countries as they don’t have chiefs.
“There are anomalies that need to be looked at and that’s why there should be amendments to the election laws regarding boundaries.”