Voters have until end of January to transfer
Samoans who are eligible to transfer their votes to their village of residence, or where they hold a matai title, have been given until the end of January to do so.
The change is one of several amendments in the Electoral Act implemented by the Office of the Electoral Commissioner in preparation for the 2021 General Election.
Unlike the previous Parliamentary terms where a voter could transfer their vote after five years, the period has been extended to ten years before a person is eligible to transfer again.
Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, the change is important.
"The logic is to ensure that the electoral rolls are as accurate as possible,” he said.
He confirmed that to date, close to 1,300 voters have transferred their votes under the amendment.
He also explained the change is to strengthen weaknesses in the electoral processes.
“Going into the 2016 General Elections, around 30,000 voters transfer their votes to a different constituency, namely at the very last two months of registration,” he said in response to queries from Samoa Observer.
“More than 80 per cent of that number have transferred two or three times in between elections.
“The majority claimed change of residency yet [according to the] Census, their place of residence points to a different village/constituency.”
The Commissioner added the residency is the paramount requirement for voters registration.
In relation to people who are banished from their villages and might live in another constituency, Faimalo said such extreme cases need solid proof for such circumstances.
He said people are not banished forever from their villages, or for the most part.
“In between elections, they will eventually return back to their villages,” he said.
“In case they are banished forever, then proof must be provided.”
As for the hundreds of seasonal workers overseas who intend to transfer their votes, the Commissioner said the temporary workers had time to do this when the roll was opened after 2016 general election.
“This group was also considered when the pre-polling requirements were incorporated into the Law.”
The Commissioner clarified that the expiry date for transfer on 31 January does not mean people can no longer register after that.
He said the roll is closed six months before the general election, which means by September this year everyone should have done so.
“Again, as we have done since 2016, we urge those who haven’t registered to please do so and be part of the process that elects leaders who decide the future for our country.”