Early voting for Gagaifomauga No.3 underway

Early voting for the Gagaifomauga No.3 constituency began on Monday ahead of Friday’s by-election for the newly-vacant seat.

Only 11 voters across Upolu and Savai’i took advantage of the pre-polling option. They represent a majority of the 16 voters who have registered for pre-polling -  a tiny fraction of the total 1400-plus eligible voters on the seat’s roll. 

Pre-polling is being held at Level 3 of the Development Bank of Samoa (D.B.S.) building.

The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, in an interview with the Samoa Observer on Monday said that while pre-poll applicants were low he understood why the majority of voters in the seat wanted to wait until polling day. 

"We're expecting that the majority of people are looking forward to turning up on Friday to cast their votes." 

Faimalo says that pre-polling had been designed to provide a less crowded alternative for special groups of voters who needed it. 

"The pre-polling was designed to provide an opportunity, prior to election day so [older people] do not have to stand in line come the day of election, and also for people with special needs and those who are working as essential workers can vote before election day,” the Commissioner said. 

"But you have to apply (to pre-poll). The reason why you need to apply, because we need to have some kind of control. 

"For example, as I mentioned, only 16 people applied to pre-poll. Therefore, when we do the official count, the number of those who casted their votes prior to election day should not be more than 16. 

"As of now, eleven people have already casted their votes."

The pre-polling ballot box is now under police custody until Saturday, when the Office of the Electoral Commissioner will perform the final by-election count on location in Savai’i. 

But preliminary results for the by-election are expected to be announced on Friday before the release of the final tally on Saturday.

There will be four polling booths and two mobile booths set up for the by-election on Friday. 

Voters in Fagae’e, Letui and Aopo will be able to cast votes at each of the villages’ Congregational Christian Church of Samoa residences. Sasina constituents will be able to cast their votes at the village’s Methodist Church.

Mobile booths will also be set up at the Tuasivi Hospital and the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital, Moto’otua for the 28 August polling date.

A confirmed two candidates are vying for the vacant seat in the Legislative Assembly after the last day for the withdrawal of candidates’ nominations was sealed on 14 August. 

Those standing for election are: Fa'aulusau Simi Laulua and the seat’s former and recently vacated Member of Parliament, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt.

As of last week, a total of 1445 voters have registered to participate in the by-election. The eligible voters include 762 men and 683 women.

The seat was declared vacant last month by the Speaker of the Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Apulu, who issued a warrant for the by-election. That declaration was met with opposition from the seat's incumbent M.P., La'auli, who said he never submitted a formal resignation from the Parliament. 

But he has since formed a new political party, Fa'atuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi [F.A.S.T.], and says he expects to be re-elected handily. 

Faimalo also confirmed that the by-election will cost up to an estimated $100,000.

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