Stay away: candidate committee members warned
Officials and members of the public at several pre-polling booths have condemned candidates' election committee members for being present while voters are casting their ballots.
Police Officers and volunteers who spoke with the Samoa Observer confirmed incidents occurring earlier this week where committee members had wandered around voting booths in violation of electoral law.
The officials said that there was a chance that the committee members’ presence outside the booths was designed to influence voters preparing to cast their votes.
“Some members were warned [by Police Officers] to leave the premises if they are not there to vote,” said one of the officials.
A Police Officer, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said that there were complaints from members of the public about candidates turning up at polling booths.
However, he said that some of the candidates had applied for pre-polling and were at the booths to cast their votes.
“But they have to leave after that to avoid [having] any undue influence [on voters],” he said.
The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio in a media briefing on Tuesday night said there were reports from officials about committee members at voting venues.
He urged the committee members to vacate the venue once they had cast their votes.
“If you are not there to vote then you have to leave, rather than crowding around the venue,” he said.
A total of 8,576 voters have been approved to pre-poll from Monday to Thursday this week.
In previous elections, candidates’ campaign committee members were heavily involved on polling days: by transporting voters and even offering them food and monetary gifts.
These practices have since been deemed as corrupt practices under changed laws, despite being seen as a usual occurrence in previous elections.
The Office of the Electoral Commission said that committees are banned from transporting voters to vote or register.
This week's national election is also the first in which new laws making it compulsory for eligible voters to not only register but to vote take effect.
The Office of the Electoral Commission has also made it compulsory for voters to cast their ballots in their areas of residence, to avoid the possibility of treating or bribery in exchange for their votes.
But should committees assist an election candidate in performing approved campaigning methods they were within the rules.