Voter laments lack of absentee vote

A Samoan eligible voter currently residing in Sydney has lamented the non-existence of the absentee vote that would have enabled citizens like her to cast their ballot.

Lealiaitagomoa Tuialalago Fiaalii Anae Chan Sau told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that she was born in Samoa and is eligible to vote but the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for her to return home to register.

She said she is a supporter of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party as she believes in the party’s vision and the values it stands for.

"I support them because, one, I am connected to members of the party, and two, because I believe in their visions and values moving forward," she told the ABC in an interview. "They are a party for the people and that's why there's a large group of supporters here in Australia for their party."

There were calls last year for citizens who are residents in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. to be allowed to vote through the absentee vote. 

F.A.S.T. party leader La’auli Leuatea Schmidt has been one of the Government’s biggest critics, saying the Human Rights Protection Party-led Administration continues to make life difficult for Samoans living abroad through electoral law amendments that now make it difficult for them to vote.

Lealiaitagomoa confirmed the difficulties she faced as an eligible Samoan voter in her interview with the ABC.

"We don't have the opportunities we have here in Australia that if you're overseas you can cast an absentee vote," she said.

"We don't have that in Samoa, you actually have to be in the country to physically cast your vote."

However, a record 21 women who are contesting April’s general election was not lost on Lealiaitagomoa, who said she is excited at the prospects of Samoan women have more voice in the Legislative Assembly.

"It's very important for women in parliament and just women in general," she told the ABC.

"Samoan politics for the past 20 years has been mainly dominated by men and we are seeing a change unfold with women.

"It's just been amazing, I'm so excited and I'm looking forward to the elections in April."

According to Christina Laalaai-Tausa, who is a political scientist from Massey University in New Zealand, Samoans living abroad are already having a big impact on the April 9 election. 

"The diaspora is doing a lot of fundraising and campaigning — more so than any other year — and with that comes people overseas trying to influence how their families and relatives are voting back home in Samoa," Dr Laalaai-Tausa told the ABC.

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