Electoral Office moves in to penalise over 1000 voters
More than a thousand voters from the Fa’asaleleaga no.2 constitution who did not vote during the recent by-election have been slapped with a $100 tala fine each.
And those voters who fail to pay their fines will be dealt with by the Court.
According to the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, a total of 1011 eligible voters did not cast their vote in the recent by-election.
That number could change once the Electoral Office, under the new Act, removes the names of the deceased and those who have migrated overseas, he added.
Fa’asaleleaga no.2 is the first constituency in Samoa to implement new changes to the Electoral Act, which made it compulsory for qualified voters to cast their votes. Under the Electoral Act 2019 Section 63, it states that it is the duty of every voter qualifying under this Act registered as a voter to vote at each election. The Act also makes it compulsory for citizens to register.
For those who did not register, Faimalo said based on the 2016 Census, the number of eligible voters residing in the Fa’asaleleaga no.2 constituency is 1,213.
“However, that didn’t capture those who reside outside of the constituency including matai of the constituency that are residing also outside of the constituency,” he said.
“Also under the old Act, there was a 'matai connection' requirement, which allow people who don’t reside in the constituency to register there.
“That requirement is no longer part of the voters eligibility. Current eligibility for voters are only residence (register where you reside) and if you’re a matai, you have the option to register where your matai title is from or where you reside.”
As for the process of charging those that did not abide by the law, Faimalo said for unregistered citizens, who have attained the age of 21, they are referred directly to Court.
“And we have had cases that the Court have already dealt with,” he explained.
“That work is work in progress. But we urge voters who have attained 21 years and above to come in and register.
“We will also be doing another round or registration work around the country throughout this year.”
The Electoral Commissioner stressed that the fine for not registering is $2,000 and that amount is doubled if they fail to do so on the second time.
For those who did not, the Electoral Office issues them with two penalty notices before getting referred to the Court if they fail to pay $100 tala.
Faimalo said charging the voters is the last resort, especially for those who failed to register.
He made it clear they will continue to work with the Police on the process and urge those who are 21 years old to register and have a say in the process of electing the leaders of the country.
Asked if the office has any exception for those who did not abide by the law, the Electoral Commissioner said for obvious reasons such as migrating and a letter confirming the person was ill, there will be an exception.
“The logic behind this change in our law is to counter this electoral culture where voters are expected to get paid for voting,” he said.
“If they don’t get paid they wont turn out to vote. That is the culture when it comes to elections and we know it is happening.
“Also it removes that sense of responsibility on the candidates that they are responsible to pay for voters to vote for them.
“With this rule if voters don’t turn up to vote on their own then they will have to pay $100 in fine.”
When asked if it means that voters charged under the electoral offence will be convicted, Faimalo said yes.
He said if someone went in and registered despite not doing so for over 20 years, the office will not proceed with legal action against that person.
“But if they fail to turn up to register and we find their names from the birth, death and marriages database, then we will proceed with legal action.
“Again we urge those who have turned 21 to make an effort to come in and register.”