Changes to electoral laws proposed

The Office of the Electoral Commissioner has responded to queries concerning several proposed changes to the Electoral Act review.

These recommended changes include new seats for Faleata, Vaimauga, Leauvaa stand alone, Salamumu to Safata.

In an email to the Samoa Observer, Faimalo Mathew Lemisio said the matters were before Cabinet for deliberation.

“I wish to inform your good self that all amendments being proposed to the Electoral Act 1963, the Constitutional Act 1963 and the Constitution of Samoa, are all in draft form and are now being deliberated by Cabinet as we put together this response," Faimalo said.

He was also asked about the online registration introduced to cater for seasonal workers, expats, scholarship students, elderly above 65 years of age and people living with disabilities.

“We are not introducing online voting nor are we introducing online registration,” he adds.

“What we are looking at as a possibility for registration, is how you submit your registration application. 

“Rather than physically coming to the office to fill in a form, we are looking at avenues where a new voter can just download an application form, fill in the necessary information, attach a photo then email it to us, or send it through mail. 

“That application will not be completed until that voter comes to our Office before the closure of roll to take his or her biometric information. 

“But at least, the bulk of the process had been attended to.

“This will be ideal for our scholarship students and seasonal workers etc.

“In saying all that, we can confirm that our project for electronic voting and counting is now part of the process going into the 2021 General Elections. 

“This project, worth around $5 million tala is part of O.E.C.’s strategic goals, in our Strategic Plan 2016-2021, ensuring the progressive evolution of our electoral systems and processes. 

“This new system will include registration and scanning equipment, electronic ballot boxes which include counting equipment and human resource capacity building for a period of three years, culminating in the 2021 General Elections.”

According to Faimalo, O.E.C. will have an aggressive public awareness programme on how this new system works.

“This includes mock elections every six months in selected constituencies, administering of elections for local organisations, so far we have administered elections for the Chamber of Commerce, National University of Samoa’s Student Body and Red Cross.

He was also asked on whether O’o were to be removed and momoli and transfer 10 years with exception and also, if it was true that there would no longer be any special booths set up across certain places in the country for Savai’i people residing in Upolu  to cast their votes.

Faimalo replied “these cannot be confirmed until Cabinet makes a final decision on the set up of electoral boundaries because there were six different options submitted to Cabinet for their consideration”.

However, a government official, who wished to remain anonymous, said “the Electoral Act amendments on the review of electoral boundaries will have three seats Faleata, three seats Vaimauga, Leauvaa stand alone, Salamumu to Safata”.

And also “online registration introduced to cater for seasonal workers, expats, scholarship students, elderly above 65 and people with disabilities.

“O’o are to be removed and momoli and transfer 10 years with exception and there will be no more special booths, if you are to register in Savaii, you go to Savaii and cast your vote and no more urban seats.”

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