Abrupt electoral staff exit a challenge: Lefau

The abrupt withdrawal of electoral officials on the eve of the recently concluded four-day pre-polling was a major challenge for the Office of the Electoral Commission. 

O.E.C. Assistant Electoral Commissioner Lefau Francis Ainu'u told the Samoa Observer in an interview that one of the hurdles they faced as they made preparations to roll out pre-polling was the “last minute withdrawal” of electoral officials.

He said there were instances where the O.E.C. had to make decisions after a staff left overnight and they struggled to find replacements.

“We had those cases where the electoral officials decided overnight to withdraw and it is a struggle to find replacements,” said Lefau.

“However we do have a reserve pool of polling officials and these people have already gone through the training.

“The problem is the tracking down (of) people nearby to fill the slot.”

The local voting population’s lack of familiarity with the newly introduced pre-polling format was also another challenge for the O.E.C. to manage, according to Lefau.

“However as you know [pre-polling] is a new thing and so we continue to advise the electoral officials when we see there are any issues,” he added.

“And they are told that after the pre-polling they need to count the results for day one then seal the results with O.E.C. and the Police seal in the presence of the scruitineers. 

“Then the ballot boxes are then taken to the custody of the Police.”

Members of the public who applied for pre-polling were identified by the O.E.C. as belonging to the essential services workforce, persons with disabilities, were travelling before the 9 April 2021 polling or are aged 65 years and above.

A total of 7,414 people cast their votes in the four days of pre-polling which ended on Thursday 8 April before the general election proper on Friday 9 April.

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